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Novel set on the Hebrides (“…wonderful sensual imagery”)

23rd April 2018

Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti, novel set on the Hebrides, on the fictional island of Seal.

Anna, a newly qualified nurse, is devastated when her live-in partner, Toby, announces that he’s leaving her and their young daughter, Ava, and emigrating to Australia. Throughout their time together, Toby has proved himself unreliable, selfish and capable of cruelty, so you might have thought that Anna would have been relieved to be rid of him but, being a product of an extremely dysfunctional family herself, she is determined to provide a stable home with both parents present for her daughter.

Novel set on the Hebrides

Toby then makes matters worse by rather brutally telling six-year-old Ava of his decision while Anna is at work. The child is traumatized and doesn’t speak or eat for three days and, when speech returns, she seems to recall a life by the sea on an island called Seal and repeatedly refers to a mother who isn’t Anna. Understandably, Anna is very disturbed by these developments and takes Ava to see a specialist who thinks that Ava is inventing this alternative life to soothe herself following her father’s abrupt departure. When Ava’s school expresses concern about the child’s behaviour Anna decides that she needs to investigate Ava’s tales. Some internet research identifies Seal as an island in the Hebrides and the concerned mother decides to book a holiday there for the two of them.

When they arrive, Ava confuses Anna further by behaving as though she has been there before and showing understanding of island customs and language that ought to have been impossible. Enter Sorren, ruggedly handsome islander and his mother, Shuna, and Ava proceeds to behave towards the two as though she has known them all her life. From this point on the story evolves into a fairly predictable love story with supernatural elements that unfortunately stretch credibility to its limits.

Despite this, Keep Me Safe is an engaging story with skilful characterisation and the description of the island of Seal is quite beautiful. Sacerdoti evokes the Hebridean island through wonderful sensual imagery so that the reader can almost smell the soft, sweet scent of peat fires, see the beautiful, white shell-laden beaches, taste the burn of whisky on your throat and hear the sound of the haunting music and soft lilting voices. Leaving aside the supernatural element, there is a real sense of the way the islanders are subject to the vagaries of nature and the power of elemental forces.

Keep Me Safe is the first book in Sacerdoti’s new Seal island series and won’t disappoint fans of her past work, including the million selling thriller Watch Over Me. I think it’s her best so far and shows a honing of skill and tightness in prose and plotting that wasn’t quite there in earlier works.

This is a definite must-read for lovers of romance and anyone contemplating a visit to a Hebridean island in the near future.

Ellen for the TripFiction Team

You can follow the author on Facebook and via her website.

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