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Into the Wilderness
by Sara Donati
ISBN 0553107364 / 9780553107364 / 0-553-10736-4
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In this ambitious and vibrant sequel to The Last of the Mohicans, Elizabeth Middleton, a well-educated spinster of 29, journeys from her home in England to her father's lands in upstate New York in 1792. Her widowed father has promised Elizabeth that she can become the schoolteacher for the local children, but on her arrival at Paradise, her father's property, she learns that he has brought her to America under false pretenses. It is his intention to find her a husband, preferably the well-respected physician, Richard Todd.
Though Elizabeth has no intention to marry, she is immediately drawn, not to Richard, but to backwoodsman Nathaniel Bonner, son of Dan'l "Hawkeye" Bonner, hero of the James Fenimore Cooper classic. Nathaniel's connection to the Mohican (Mahican) people is a strong one; he considers Hawkeye's adoptive father, Chingachgook, his grandfather, and his own wife was a Mahican woman who died in childbirth several years earlier.
Elizabeth learns from her father that her inheritance is a part of his lands, a mountain known as Hidden Wolf, to be granted to her when she marries. She soon finds herself caught between Nathaniel and the Mahicans, who want to buy back the mountain from her father as part of their hunting grounds, and Richard, who wants the land for himself and sees Elizabeth as the route to it. Her father, fearful that the sale of Hidden Wolf to the Mahicans will bring more Indians back to Paradise, favors Richard.
Knowing Richard's main interest in her is her land, Elizabeth resists his attentions as she gets to know Nathaniel and his people. The backwoodsmen and their Indian friends accept her and respect her opinions, and she soon finds herself siding with their claim to Hidden Wolf. Meanwhile, the attraction between her and Nathaniel grows into a love that only adds to the conflict between the whites and the Indians.
Into the Wilderness is an intelligent and beautifully written historical novel that draws the reader into another world. Elizabeth and Nathaniel are well-rounded and intelligent characters, and the secondary characters are also strong, three-dimensional, and often entertainingly quirky. Although the book is long--nearly 700 words--tight pacing makes it an entertaining read. Fans of Diana Gabaldon will want to watch for a cameo appearance by one of the characters of Gabaldon's stunning Outlander series. --Lisa Wanttaja [via]