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Highlander and his Books - Love and Honor


By Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA
jurascot@earthlink.net

A Book Review
 

LOVE AND HONOR

By Randall Wallace

Randall Wallace is back! The author of Braveheart has given us another Scottish hero. First, there was William Wallace played by Mel Gibson. Now we have Kieran Selkirk, described as “a brilliant soldier and a passionate patriot”. Kieran Selkirk is just as real as Gibson is in Braveheart and destined, I believe, to become a big part of Scottish lore. A movie is currently in the making.

The story begins in 1774 London with a secret meeting between the young Virginian patriot, a peerless horseman, and a bespectacled Benjamin Franklin, who convinces the young cavalry man to make his way to Russia, win an audience with the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, and convenience her not to send 20,000 Russian soldiers to fight on behalf of the British while a young America is struggling for independence. As Franklin describes the situation, “…the fate of America rests in her hands.” Actually, the fate of America rests in the hands of the young military man from the great state of Virginia, Kieran Selkirk.

I’ve told you of the meeting between the old Franklin and the young Selkirk, but I will not tell you how it ends nor the story in between. I will not rob you of that personal pleasure. I will tell you that the opening chapter is as Zhivagoian, if not more so, as Doctor Zhivago itself. In Doctor Zhivago, you heard the wolves and saw them in the moonlight at the winter house in the Russian countryside…and they scattered with a thrown stick or two, and a shout. In Love and Honor, it takes swords, a gun, and the sacrificing of one big fat merchant to drive the wolves from the sleigh before the hairs on your neck resume their rightful places!

You will cheer some of the characters like the old chariot driver, Pyotr; the young chamber boy, Tikhon; Gorlov, Selkirk’s Russian friend and mentor; and Beatrice, our hero’s love and attendant to Princess Mitski. You will hiss the Princess Mitski, as you will the evil Montrose and the scheming British envoy, Shettlefield. There are others to hiss as well as cheer, and you will do so joyfully.

You will enjoy some inspiring moments like the Russian proverb told by General Gorlov to his out-numbered troops as they faced the feared and hated Cossacks: “When a man is born he will walk one of three roads; there are no others. On the path to the left, the wolves will eat him. On the path to the right, he will eat the wolves. On the path down the middle, he will eat himself.” The mighty warrior then raised his saber into the air and said: “I say to you, ‘Eat the wolves!’ ” His men then charged!

One other moment I’d like to share with you is on Christmas Day when Col. Selkirk says to his buddy Gorlov, speaking of the Christmas miracle, “I ceased long ago to believe it, but wouldn’t it be a miracle…a wonder beyond words…if it were really true that God Almighty, God Himself, would on this night become such a creature as man, if for no other reason than to touch his world? And…and maybe that is the meaning of Christmas - that a Christian is someone who would find that thought beautiful, and could believe it because of its very beauty, and because it moved him?”

“Gorlov looked at me and smiled.”

I’ve read a lot of books in my life, mostly history, many historical novels, and those described as “a novel” like this one. I cannot recall reading a novel that held my attention any better than Love and Honor. Hats off to Randall Wallace! I usually read myself to sleep around one o’clock in the morning, and I found myself going to bed a wee earlier last week to read a bit more of the book. One afternoon I did the unthinkable for me and picked it up for a couple of hours of enjoyment. One night I turned the television off to read for an hour in the late evening quietness as the wood fire crackled and spread its warmth, with a hot toddy near at hand. These are things I do not normally do when reading a book, but I did them to finish Love and Honor. It is that good! And, when I finally finished it last night, I wished there was another chapter or two to read and hoped that Randall Wallace would write a sequel concerning the brave young soldier form William and Mary College.

Did I tell you I’ve read it twice? Last spring, I received the book from Jill Rytie in manuscript form prior to its publishing. Jill is Coordinator of Production and Development of The Wheelhouse, the author’s company that tracks his books, screenplays and movies. Jill is the one who, in the author’s own words, was “stalwart in managing the mechanics of this manuscript and the madness of life.”

Because of previous commitments to other authors, I had to delay reviewing this book until now. Last week I picked up a copy at my favorite Barnes and Noble. This week I’m forwarding the review to The Family Tree’s site on www.electricscotland.com. It’s a great story, and the review has been too long in the making!

Of the nearly 4,000 Scottish books in my library, I will proudly put this book on the top shelf and recommend it to my reading friends, both men and women. It has enough spectacular fighting and adventure to hold the attention of any Scotsman worth a dram, and it is romantically inclined for any woman to enjoy. Ask your bookseller for it - ISBN 0-7432-6519-X. It will be a book you will recommend to your friends. I told Susan, my wife, just yesterday when she picked it up from my desk “You will enjoy that book, and so will your friends!” I normally know better than to do that with her! (FRS: 3-8-05)

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