All We Hold Dear
by Kathryn Lynn Davis
(Pocket Books, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-73604-3
*****
Although ALL WE HOLD DEAR was reviewed in Romantic Times and was nominated for a Romantic Times award, the spine of this book, a re- issue in paperback of last year's hardcover, does not refer to the book as a romance. I do not believe it to be a romance either.

True, it is romantic in style and is a very sensual read, although I use this term in a strictly non-sexual context. It is a piece of historic fiction filled with lush descriptions of people and places, and devoted to the the telling of the lives of those involved in a manner often used by authors of romantic fiction. But it is not per se a romance between two people; if that is primarily what you are looking for, this book might not be for you.

If you are looking for incredibly lyrical prose, intense emotion, the feel of the Scottish Highlands and its mysticism, ways, and people, this book is for you. If you want to feel to the depth of your soul the lives, loves, happiness and sadness of wonderful characters, this book is for you. If you want to immerse yourself in the Highlands for awhile, this book is for you. And, if you have wanted to follow the incredible journey you began with Kathryn Lynn Davis' first book in this planned trilogy (TOO DEEP FOR TEARS), this book is for you.

Fans of TOO DEEP FOR TEARS, however, should be warned that this book is not as epic in scope as was that book. While that book was an epic oil painting large enough to fill a room at a museum, this book is more a delicate watercolor, rendered with small strokes. It is not necessary to have read TOO DEEP FOR TEARS before reading ALL WE HOLD DEAR, but re- reading the first book helps to set the mood. Readers who decide to read ALL WE HOLD DEAR will probably be so enamored of it that they will decide to read TOO DEEP FOR TEARS -- and they should, it is not a book to miss and is my favorite book of any genre.

While TOO DEEP FOR TEARS told three stories about three daughters of one man raised in three distinct lands and cultures, ALL WE HOLD DEAR focuses on Scotland and the ancestors of Mairi Rose, the embodiment of the lush, wild, natural, mystical, and magical beauty of the Highlands. The story, told in flash-back form, is the discovery by Eva Crawford of her past so that she can come to terms with herself and her life.

Ailsa Rose, one of the three daughters mentioned above, is Mairi's daughter, who had forsaken the Highlands and married a very special Englishman. One of her children, Alanna, returns to the Highlands to live, to be joined later by Ailsa upon the death of her husband. It is the lives of Alanna and Ailsa that are told in this tale, a very personal and intense tale of two incredible women.

Through the discovery of her past, Eva comes to grip with her visions, her sadness, herself, and her future. There is love involved, for Ailsa even after the death of her beloved husband, for Alanna, in a love closely intertwined with her mother's past, and even for Eva. There is tragedy too, for each generation of Rose women. But there is also hope, birth, and re-birth for all as well, which, while not providing a traditional happily-ever-after ending, lends itself to the genre of romantic fiction.

This is a book I originally read last year in hardcover. I have not read it since that time, but writing this review is flooding me with such intense memories of the story that I am weeping. This is a two- hanky read of the best kind -- readers will cry many times but not feel in the least manipulated. This story comes from the author's soul; Kathryn Lynn Davis does not write lightly or by the numbers. Readers will get the sense each phrase, each action, each word on each page was written directly from the author's heart.

This book is not perfect, however. Those who do not read TOO DEEP FOR TEARS first may not understand some of the actions taken by Ailsa; some may not forgive some of these same actions. But for the most part, this book stands alone and on its own. Eva and her experiences are not as well developed as those of her ancestors. Indeed, some readers may be annoyed that the story is told in flashback form altogether. But the inclusion of Eva is necessary because her fragility, in comparison with the robustness of her ancestor Mairi, poignantly and eloquently illustrate the strength of the Highlands.

If this book is to be considered a romance, then, it is a romance with a quite unusual heroic figure, for that heroic figure is the Highlands itself. Not a man, but a place, but more than a place, an ideal. For this reviewer, Kathryn Lynn Davis' writing was the start of a love affair with Scotland, the Highlands, and romances set in the Highlands.

ALL WE HOLD DEAR will haunt and evoke emotions in even the most cynical reader. You might need to buy two of this book because you are sure to lend it out, and, if you do, it is likely to return to you tear-stained and ragged. But it is definitely worth reading. . . definitely.

--Laurie Likes Books


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