Treasures on Earth by Jessica Stirling

379 pages
Published 1985
First in a series of 3
Scottish Historical Romance

book description:
Treasures on Earth is the story of the indomitable Gaddy Patterson, a Scotswoman who struggles to raise her daughters amid the harsh realities of nineteenth-century Scottish rural life.
  Gaddy Patterson stumbles upon a dead girl and her infant daughter in a sheep hut in Balnesmoor, a staid lowland parish. Gaddy saves the baby’s life and decides to rent a tiny patch of ground – Nettleburn – on which she can scrape together a life for them both. However, the suspicion and hostility of the villagers towards Elspeth, the adopted daughter, forces Gaddy to return to her initial life as a wandering cattle dealer. Homeless and desperate, she takes up with Coll Cochran, a farmer dogged by ill-fortune, and by his disturbed wife, Etta. To Coll, Gaddy brings both luck and love in equal measure. But the mystery of Elspeth’s true identity looms larger when Gaddy gives birth to a daughter, Anna. The scandal and ensuing tragedy that haunt Gaddy and her daughters, along with the close bonds of love and family dignity that help them endure, are the mixed treasures of this richly engrossing novel.
  In Treasures on Earth Jessica Stirling captures the brooding beauty and the gallery of colorful characters that make up Scotland.

I loved this tale! Great characters making a life in a raw brutal landscape. Set between 1791 and 1811. Gaddy is 40 years old when our story starts. She is a cattle drover’s helper. Often referred to as his ‘second wife’, she travels with Donald McIvor when he is on the road droving. I found the droving lifestyle interesting, nomadic. Gaddy is a strong woman both physically and emotionally. She stands up to the pious townspeople and the church. She lets no one ‘steal’ her God-given freedom in an era when women had no freedom. She sees herself as equal and works as hard as any man. I admired Gaddy.

The church in this era was so self-righteous and the story is full of self-righteous people. Once some of the women even threw stones at Gaddy as she and her daughter, Elspeth, walked down the street. It saddens me when I read tales like this and it is so prevalent in this era in the Presbyterian church of Scotland. But Rev. Leggat was a loving and progressive minister and fought his pious elders at every turn.

The weather is never their friend and they are at its mercy earning a living off the land. Near the end of the book there is an unusually hot summer and drought ending with torrential rains coming down in one day destroying everything they’ve worked so hard for. I looked around online and found that in 1811 there was a drought and then torrential rains in one day that caused catastrophic flooding. It happened on November 1st. This one day forever changed the course of Gaddy and her daughters lives. Will James Moody, Gaddy and Coll’s worst enemy, be the only one Elspeth can turn too for help? Will he be her saviour or destroy her? You’ll only know if you read it! I’ll tell you this…after reading almost 400 pages of a great story I was left stunned with the last couple paragraphs! I laid awake thinking of the ramifications of what happened. I can’t wait to read book 2 now!

If your interested in reading about the drovers lifestyle here‘s a great article about Scottish Cattle Drovers.

Jessica Stirling is really a man! Hugh C. Rae wrote as Jessica for 32 years! He also wrote noir crime novels under his own name. You can read about him and the Jessica Stirling novels HERE and HERE.  He is still writing as Stirling and his latest series is set in WWII

Check out his crime novels @ Fantastic Fiction

Hope you are able to find this book to read! This makes number 13 for me in the Read Scotland 2014 challenge! I climbed Ben Nevis! Now onto greater heights!

Peggy Ann

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