Review of Into the Wilderness (Wilderness #1) by Sara Donati
Sara Donati's historical fiction includes nods to Outlander and The Last of the Mohicans, considers the trials and adventures of a feminist woman in the 18th century wilderness of New York, and offers copious romance and lush description.
In this first book of Donati's Wilderness series, it's 1792 and Elizabeth Middleton has traveled with her malcontent lush of a brother from a grand English estate to a wild New York settlement to meet up with her father, who has been building business connections there for years.
She quickly realizes that her father's oblique promises that she could teach school in their new home may have been a ruse to get her to New York--and he then planned to push her into considering marriage in order to serve his business interests.
But she's determined to follow her own path--and her strong-willed decisions fly in the face of rigid society's expectations concerning women, slavery, and appropriate marriage prospects.
And Elizabeth can't fight her immediate attraction to the no-nonsense Nathaniel Bonner, a white man dressed in Mohawk gear.
I've heard this called Outlander fan fiction (Jamie and Claire Fraser are mentioned in this novel), and have also heard that the Hawkeye character in the book (Nathaniel's father) is the same character as in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.
Regardless of its true origins, Into the Wilderness did scratch the itch of reading a combination of historical fiction, romance, and rich descriptions of taming the wild.
Elizabeth is a feminist in a time in which independence and freedom are not encouraged in a woman. She finds clever ways to assert her strong will by working within and around the confines of the law and of social expectations.
The Elizabeth-Nathaniel relationship is romantic and saucy and swoony. Richard is a powerful, vindictive, greedy third wheel (who, like Nathaniel, is white and has deep Indian roots; it often felt to me as though he played an over the top Evil Nathaniel Alternative here). Elizabeth's brother Julian is weak, easily tempted, shirks responsibility, and is set upon seeing others fail.
I listened to this as an audiobook, and it ran 30 hours and 13 minutes.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Sara Donati is the pen name of Rosina Lippi. Lippi has primarily published academic works under her real name, as well as the novel Homecoming.
Donati is also the author of the wonderful book The Gilded Hour as well as Where the Light Enters and ten other historical fiction novels.