LAKE IN THE CLOUDS
Bantam Books, May 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
LAKE IN THE CLOUDS revisits the lives and adventures of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner of Paradise, New York. Elizabeth is a proper Englishwoman who immigrated to the Colonies to teach school and married Nathaniel, a frontiersman raised in the Mohawk Indian ways. This historical adventure finds them raising their twin children Daniel and Lily on their mountain called Hidden Wolf. Hannah Bonner, Nathaniel's firstborn with his late wife, Sings-from-Books, now eighteen years old, is already widely known for her medical skills. She is offered the opportunity to study medicine in New York City at the Kine-Pox Institute and learn the new developments of the vaccine for smallpox.
Curiosity Freeman, a freed slave and housekeeper for Elizabeth's late father Judge Middleton, is assisting runaway slaves through Paradise on their way to Canada. A young black woman, Selah Voyager, is found in the bush on Hidden Wolf by Elizabeth and Hannah. Selah is sick, pregnant and seeking the help of Curiosity Freeman. Hannah treats the desperate young runaway and Nathaniel and Elizabeth take on the dangerous task of guiding Selah to freedom in Canada. This simple act involves the Bonners in the activities of those who aid runaway slaves, and places them all in jeopardy.
Bounty hunter Liam Kirby returns to Paradise seeking the runaway slave. Liam has a history with the Bonners who took him in when he was orphaned as a young man. Liam and Hannah shared a troubled and tender friendship as children, until the Bonners were forced to go to Scotland. During this separation, Liam eventually ran away from Hidden Wolf and went to sea. The Bonners never knew what became of him. An emotionally charged reunion brings Hannah and Liam face to face again. Many townsfolk speculate Liam is back to claim Hannah as his bride and the runaway slave is just the excuse he needed. However, surprising revelations come from their reunion and pit Liam against the family who once sheltered him.
LAKE IN THE CLOUDS is the continuation of Sara Donati's lively historical adventure series, which follows the Bonner family through perilous times. This rousing family drama drawn against the backdrop of Colonial America features an amazing cast of characters which will stir your imagination. Readers will be swept into the political and emotional issues of this rare and special tale. The romance of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bonner, grown to a passionate maturity, gives the story depth and vitality. The confrontation between Hannah and Liam offers fresh drama to carry this epic tale to new places. In many ways this novel is Hannah's story and turns on her self-discovery and choices she makes.
There is an interesting tie with these characters to the historical novel, LAST OF THE MOHICANS by James Fennimore Cooper. Author Sara Donati is said to have borrowed Hawkeye and Cora Bonner from Cooper's works, as parents for Nathaniel Bonner. Donati says she speculated "what if" Nathaniel fell in love and married "an Elizabeth Bennet-type Englishwoman" from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and used them as inspiration in the creation of her characters.
This brilliant tapestry is the third novel in the series. The tale begins with INTO THE WILDERNESS and is followed by DAWN ON A DISTANT SHORE. I would not recommend LAKE IN THE CLOUDS as a stand alone novel. They are all lengthy tomes but don't let that discourage you from reading them; each is a treat all its own. I understand the author is under contract for two more novels in this series and I eagerly await their publication. This tale also includes a cameo appearance of historical figure, Captain Meriwether Lewis. This book is a definite keeper and the kind of story you'll be telling all your friends to read.
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