Looking for delightful books set in Scotland
March 21, 2015 4:53 AM   Subscribe

In preparation for our upcoming trip, I want to immerse myself in delicious fiction set in Scotland.

I'm looking for books with a strong element of romance above all else. I like historical fiction, gothics, mysteries, and paranormal stories. Detectives/police/military books not so much. I don't necessarily need it to be historical. Well-written characters matter the most to me, and I can forgive some level of not-great writing if the story really moves along (like, I unabashedly enjoyed Twilight). Most of the books I like have women protagonists.

Authors I love: Deanna Raybourn, Lauren Willig, Diana Gabaldon (well, books 1-3 and 6), Maggie Stiefvater.

Tried but didn't like: Dorothy Dunnet, Susanna Kearsley, Nora Roberts, most mass-market romances

Since this may be too specific an itch to scratch, I would also take settings in Wales, Cornwall, northern England, and Ireland.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Crow Road by Iain Banks.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. This is a real hoot.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:09 AM on March 21, 2015

Sorry, my bad--I read your wants backwards. Neither of those will do! Though justified sinner is still a hoot--historical paranormal novel itself written in 1824.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:11 AM on March 21, 2015

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is a great book, female protagonist. Easy to read historical fiction.
Also I really love Alasdair Gray, but it's maybe an acquired taste - Lanark is his best is the general consensus. Worth looking at anyway though I suspect it might not be what you're looking for exactly.
posted by stevedawg at 5:27 AM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not romance and it's set in Ireland but Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van) is delightful.
posted by h00py at 5:53 AM on March 21, 2015

Best answer: Legend in Green Velvet by Elizabeth Peters is probably exactly what you are looking for. Caper set on a chase through Scotland, romance, archaeological history, and just great fun.

I know you said you don't like a lot of mass market romance, but historical romances set in Scotland is pretty much a sub genre unto itself. You might want to check romance review sites like Smart Bitches Trashy Books, All About Romance, etc. A lot of them let you search reviews by time period and setting, so that might be a good way to winnow what might catch your fancy.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 6:05 AM on March 21, 2015

Oh God, there is so much Scottish Gothic romance out there. Victorians loved the idea of Scotland.

The Bride of Lammermoor


In fact just browse this list and see what appeals to you.
posted by tinkletown at 6:12 AM on March 21, 2015

Cornwall wise you have Du Maurier of course, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek are probably the best known and all fit with your historical/gothic romance wants and are centred on female characters.
posted by biffa at 6:29 AM on March 21, 2015

Set in Cornwall, there's the Poldark series from Winston Graham, set in the 18th and early 19th century.

There've been two TV adaptations, the latest one currently on BBC (trailer).
posted by needled at 6:52 AM on March 21, 2015

Response by poster: Elizabeth Peters! Yes, that is totally on the track of what I'm looking for! I loved her books written under her Barbara Michaels name, and I thought she only wrote Egypt-based books as Peters.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:22 AM on March 21, 2015

Rumer Godden's old-fashioned and beautiful book China Court is like a pocket-sized Downton Abbey set in Cornwall. It's a well-written family saga (1860-1960) with delightful characters.
posted by puddledork at 7:35 AM on March 21, 2015

Best answer: You'd probably enjoy Circle of Time by Lynn Hanna. It's part of her Starry Child series, all of which take place in Scotland and have a mystical twist. Enjoy!
posted by chatelaine at 7:41 AM on March 21, 2015

Take a look at Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series featuring Isabel Dalhousie. Set in present-day Edinburgh, they are low-key, have flavorings of both mystery and romance, and are very definitely delightful.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:57 AM on March 21, 2015

You could ask this question for the "Help a Bitch Out" feature at Smart Bitches.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:46 AM on March 21, 2015

Peter May - The Lewis Trilogy (and maybe others). Yes, it's detective fiction, but very evocative of the location.

And, I have to mention Five Red Herrings (Dorothy L. Sayers), just because it's a Peter Whimsey mystery. All about painters, and trains.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2015

Best answer: Most anything by Rosamunde Pilcher (Cornwall) or Maeve Binchy (Ireland.)
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 9:45 AM on March 21, 2015

Best answer: Seconding Rosamunde Pilcher, particularly September and The Shell Seekers.
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2015

I know you say you don't like police/detective novels, but I recommend the Hamish Macbeth series. Though it's based on a very small village copper, the atmosphere of the books are not of that type. In fact he's a very lazy, unambitious police man who is in love with his remote highland village. He's the only copper in the village so it's much more about village life.

A lot of the books in the series are so lovely and rich in the feeling they produce. I had no idea before reading them that the highlands were supposed to be such a stunning, beautiful, alive place. There are amazing descriptions of the weather, the life and the changing of the weather, the lands. Also, the village life described is not only delightful, but also complicated and fascinating at times.

However, I have to say the series have really gone down hill in the last 10 years. So I'd start with ones pre 2005ish to see if you like them.

The author is much more famous for her Agatha Raisin series, but this one is much better (less cutesy, richer), I think.

Oh, and the descriptions of his life with his "pets", a dog and a wild cat, are often marvelous.
posted by Blitz at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Curses. Switched windows and all my typing and links disappeared. Shorter/unlinked version of a few others I remembered:

Rhys Bowen has the Her Royal Spyness series. Very light mysteries set in 1930s UK. The third in the series takes place at the family pile in Scotland and environs, including Balmoral.

Anna Lee Huber has the Lady Darby series set in Scotland. Victorian-set, Lady Julia feel, albeit a bit darker.

On the Rosamunde Pilcher front, a couple of her shorter novels are set in Scotland. Wild Mountain Thyme and Snow in April.

If you like Barbara Michaels, she has one in (I think) Scotland--The Wizard's Daughter. It could really be a musty old castle anywhere, though. Her Wait for What Will Come in Cornwall feels more evocative of the setting.

Elizabeth Peters has quite a lot of non-Egypt-set capers. The Camelot Caper jaunts around southern England with a fair chunk in Cornwall.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 3:17 PM on March 21, 2015

You might like Lillian Beckwith's "Hebridean Omnibus" series from back in the 1970s. I think "The Sea for Breakfast" is the first one.

Beyond that - here is a list of BBC profiles of various Scottish authors. There are a few women on that list - beyond the above mentioned Muriel Spark - who might be worth checking out.
posted by rongorongo at 4:36 AM on March 22, 2015

Not Scottish - but you have read "I Capture the Castle" haven't you?
posted by rongorongo at 4:38 AM on March 22, 2015

I know you're lukewarm on detectives, but Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels are (mostly) set in and around contemporary Edinburgh and are wonderful.
posted by thivaia at 9:30 PM on March 22, 2015

Also, it's a bit stodgy from time to time, but Margaret George's Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles might also work in a pinch.
posted by thivaia at 9:32 PM on March 22, 2015

I dunno Admiral Haddock - The Crow Road is both a romance and a mystery story set in Scotland. Seems like it would fit perfectly into the OPs requirements - the only place it falls down is that the protagonist is male rather than female. Besides, who could resist a book with the opening line "It was the day my grandmother exploded." ?

(Iain Banks probably doesn’t match the rest of the OP's revealed preferences upthread, but I thought the Crow Road was lovely.)
posted by pharm at 5:25 AM on March 24, 2015

Response by poster: Just in case anyone stumbles on this thread in the future- I ended up having great success using my public library's subscription to NoveList (which I probably should have thought using about from the start). Lots of fiction set in Scotland to choose from, and tons of other parameters to use to narrow down the search for very specific reading itch-scratching. Feel free to MeMail me for suggestions if you ever want some recommendations and our reading tastes align!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 11:46 AM on April 1, 2015

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