In The Cottage, Book 2 (of 3) in the Secrets of the Shetland Series by Michael Phillips, American Loni Ford arrives in the Shetland Islands to learn about her inheritance of the island Whale’s Reef. It’s a small island, some three by four miles, but most of it comes to her as a descendent of Ernest Tulloch. The island includes a wool factory, a village of small shops and homes, and “The Cottage,” the home of the “laird” of the island that is less of a cottage ad far more of a rather large mansion.
Loni’s first thought is to sign away her rights and give her inheritance to one of two potential heirs, fisherman and bully Hardy Tulloch or the island’s “chief,” David Tulloch, an author, naturalist, and devout Christian. Loni works for an investment firm in Washington, D.C., and living on a remote island some 5,000 miles away isn’t on her to-do list.
Much of the story of The Cottage centers on these three characters, who they are, where they come from, their families and their histories. While it is clearly becomes a love story, it also is the story of family, ancestry, and the importance of recognizing and accepting one’s duty.
The Secrets of the Shetlands series is published as a trilogy, but it is more of one novel published in three installments. Using a small island, Phillips writes a sweeping story of love, history, and faith. The “canvas” of three parts allows him to include side stories, sub-plots (including a scheme by a fake Texan to take control of the island), and a rather rich selection of minor characters.
Phillips is the author of 23 works of non-fiction. He’s edited 27 works of the Scottish writer George MacDonald, whose books had such an impact on C.S. Lewis. He’s edited five woks of Harold Bell Wright and Ralph Connor. He’s also co-authored 13 novels with his wife Judith Pella, and written more than 40 original novels on his own.
I was resistant to the idea of a three-installment novel, but the story in The Inheritance (Book 1) hooked me. Book 3, The Legacy, was published this month, so all three parts are now available. I should point out that I didn’t actually read the first two in the series. I inhaled them – the story and characters were that compelling.
Related: My review of The Inheritance.
Top photograph: Winter gale at Door Holm in the Shetland Islands, via Shetland.org.