Sara Donati





Bantam Books, August 1998
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Elizabeth Middleton, an educated and intellectual Englishwoman, is newly arrived in America at her father's invitation. She is an independent thirty-year-old spinster and a devoted follower of Mrs. Wollstonecrafts' philosophy in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her father, Judge Alfred Middleton, promised to allow her to teach school in the village of Paradise, New York. However, she quickly realizes her father's real intentions - he is planning a marriage for her to Dr. Richard Todd. Upon her marriage her father plans to deed her a parcel of one thousand acres on a mountain called Hidden Wolf. After the marriage the property will pass to her husband's control and the doctor has promised to pay all debts and taxes owed by the judge. Elizabeth opposes the idea of marriage and she has the means to live independently due to a small inheritance from her late mother. But she soon discovers another option. 
Nathaniel Bonner, a white man brought up in the ways of the Mohawk people, meets Elizabeth on the day of her arrival in Paradise. At her welcome dinner, Nathaniel contracts with the judge to build the school house she has come to establish. He is attracted to the feisty, proper Englishwoman and that attraction disturbs him. Elizabeth is unlike any woman he has ever known. Nathaniel is also called Between-Two-Lives by the Mohawk, because he lives comfortably in the Indian way of life. He and his father, Hawkeye, have offered to buy Hidden Wolf from the judge, but the judge has refused their offer. The purchase of Hidden Wolf is very important to the survival of his Indian family.  If, however, the title to the land comes with the woman he desires, then there is all the more reason to pursue her, though the proud Elizabeth may not see things his way.
INTO THE WILDERNESS is a broad, epic novel with a complex plot of conflicting purposes. The romance of Elizabeth and Nathaniel is the driving force of the story and begins in the first chapter. I love these characters and their complicated relationship. The contrasts of background between these two lovers create a dramatic emotional journey for both of them. It's rich in historical details with appealing secondary characters, and filled with action and adventure. It even contains a cameo appearance of another fictional character, Claire Frazier from Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series.
According to her website, Sara Donati borrowed Hawkeye and Cora Bonner from the novel (and movie version) of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. She supposed “what if” - they had a son named Nathaniel. Then the author created Elizabeth Middleton, loosely based upon Elizabeth Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. “What if," she supposed, an Elizabeth Bennet had come to America to live and fell in love with Nathaniel. The authors “what if’s” have produced the basis for a wonderful novel and spawned a whole series. Donati is under contract for five novels in this series and has four completed, including DAWN ON A DISTANT SHORE, LAKE IN THE CLOUDS, and FIRE ALONG THE SKY. The final installment QUEEN OF SWORDS is forthcoming. 
September 2004

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