Bound by obligations of ancestral tradition, loyalty to the memory of her dead husband, and the wildlife he had taught her to love, fifty-something Iona MacUltan struggles to single-handedly keep the show on the road at her family’s wild West-Highland estate. Having inherited it unexpectedly from a boozy uncle thirty years previously she is now landed with the duty to ‘hold the batten’.
While the place is ethereally lovely, with its vista of distant blue islands appearing and disappearing in a misty landscape, the castle’s roof is leaking and the money is running out. Selling up seems to be the realistic thing to do. And fortunately, a buyer has just presented himself, in the form of the charismatic banker Charles Gamble. Iona is torn. She is not just attracted to him as a buyer, but also as a man. Luckily she does not (usually) believe in the ancient Celtic curse that reputedly hangs over this family if they ever leave the land, although sometimes she can’t help wondering as freak weather and domestic breakages seem to hint at supernatural intervention.
In the midst of this, she hasn’t anticipated the reaction of her distracted, artistically minded, and apparently uninterested children. Finally shocked into action, penniless ceramicist and political activist Isolde and wannabe screenwriter Ossian hatch a bold plan to prevent the sale by raising enough to keep the bank at bay. They arrange for an LA film crew to arrive for a Hogmanay house party and ball. But can they turn their untested hands to this new practical challenge?
As the complications and mishaps mount, the stakes grow higher. Old family secrets emerge alongside very contemporary questions of environmental politics. A hen harrier is shot. And over it all looms Charles Gamble, whose charming facade conceals a ruthless antagonist, determined to get what he wants.
While growing up in post war Edinburgh, with holidays off-grid in rainy Argyll, Louise Ramsay’s favourite school activity was writing stories. Later, just after graduating from Cambridge in Anthropology, she decided she was really a novelist and began her first book. Her impecunious retired army father persuaded her that earning a living was a more urgent priority, and she sidelined the writing for that purpose, and later, after marrying, in order to bring up up four children in a dilapidated castle in the uplands of Perthshire. Money was tight, so with another Perthshire moth...
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