Harper Collins, £7.99
'Fire Along the Sky' is the fourth book in the series about the Bonner family, continuing the story that was begun in 'Into the Wilderness', 'Dawn on a Distant Shore' and 'Lake in the Clouds'. The series is loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel 'The Last of the Mohicans'.
Hannah Bonner returns to her family's home on the New York frontier with a story of loss that she can't bear to share with her family. She goes back to her work as a physician and soon finds herself drawn into the world she left behind. Meanwhile, war with the British is raging and Hannah's brother Daniel goes off to fight while her sister Lily moves to Montreal to study painting and distance herself from an impossible love affair.
Elizabeth, Hannah's stepmother, spends her time teaching at the local school, dispensing advice to her children and worrying about them. When a distant cousin, Jennet Scot, arrives from Scotland, everyone's spirits are raised, particularly when it emerges that Jennet is to marry Hannah's other brother Luke and that Lily is also in a tempestuous but happy relationship of her own. Then Daniel is captured and Hannah and Jennet sacrifice their safety in order to care for him while his family wait for news and fear the worst.
Donati's tale begins as Hannah's story, but shifts its focus to Jennet and Elizabeth with most of the spotlight ultimately on Lily. It's epic in its intricacy, but because there are so many characters and myriad plots, not enough focus is given to Hannah, Elizabeth or Jennet.
Another problem is that Donati keeps introducing plots right up until the end, obviously to give her scope to continue her series, but you do get tired of this soap opera-style plotting.
The characters of the four women are very detailed though and the minor characters stick in your memory too. Donati has a gift for story telling. If she could stream-line her tales a little there would be much more to savour.