This book took me forever to read. I usually devour historical fiction, especially when it’s a sweeping family epic, but it took me twice as long to get through. I think it’s because I kept comparing it to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. There are so many similarities: the epic love story, the never ending sexual desire for one another, the tie to Scotland, the romantic hero, the courageous woman who defies social norms, etc. Ultimately, comparing the two authors is where I went wrong. Once I stopped expecting a Gabaldon story, I really enjoyed this book.
I study early American literature, so finding out that Into the Wilderness was a sequel of sorts to The Last of the Mohicans really intrigued me. What I loved was that Donati didn’t try to recreate the classic. She took elements of the classic and incorporated it into her own story. Hawkeye was only a supporting character to Elizabeth and Nathaniel.
What I didn’t like, however, was that some of the plot seemed a bit contrived. I didn’t understand Richard Todd’s motives. We never really learned about his history with the Mahican Indians and why he was so bitter. We get just enough to make the story plausible and not a bit more. What’s worse, his storyline isn’t really resolved. The end of the book left me going “Why did he do that??” I expected an epic showdown between Richard and Nathaniel. What I got was a whole lot of questions. Perhaps they’ll be answered in the next books in the series? I’m not so sure.
However, what I liked about the book far out shined what I didn’t like. Elizabeth is one of those women I always thought I would be should I have grown up in the long eighteenth century. She’s plucky, outspoken, brave, and stubborn. She’s not afraid to defy social norm, either. I love that she cites Mary Wollstonecraft’s treatise, A Vindication on the Rights of Woman. Though I think being THAT “feminist” (using that term loosely here. Wollstonecraft can be considered a part of the first wave, though) might have had more repercussions had Elizabeth actually lived during the time. I do like a plucky heroine, though, so I’m ok with suspending my disbelief for her. I also ADORED Curiosity, the free black woman who is Elizabeth’s housekeeper. That woman is sharp and defies every stereotype associated with black women in the 1790′s.
All in all, once I stopped comparing Donati to Gabaldon (although Claire Beauchamp Fraser DOES make a cameo appearance) I was able to enjoy this book. I definitely recommend it for those who are fans of epic family sagas and historical fiction in general.