On the Isle of Skye in Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano, young widow Serena MacDonald Stewart and hotel manager Malcolm Blake fall in love. Read below what author Carla Laureano wrote about her own journey to Skye and the picturesque setting of the novel.
In the spring of 2004, my husband and I took what would be his first trip to Scotland and my first return in over a decade. At the tail end of the trip, we spent three days on the Isle of Skye. Our travel agent had insisted that no Scottish tour would be complete without the small island just off the west coast from the Highlands, but we truly had no idea what was in store for us.
We’d been traveling in cities up to that point, but crossing over the Skye bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh onto the island itself was like traveling back in time. Deserted mountain views, a lowering gray sky shedding sheets of rain, and most telling . . . no cell service. For three days, we wandered the wild landscapes and returned home to a charming country-house hotel feeling as if we’d gotten a massive, unexpected reset on our lives. All the tension from the previous stressful year—and the maneuvering required to get more than two weeks off from work at the same time—melted away and we had time to just enjoy each other’s company for the first time in ages.
When, years later, I had the idea to write a book about an overworked marketing executive (ahem, art imitating life) who finds love on a business trip, the Isle of Skye was a natural choice for the setting. Where else could you so thoroughly disconnect from the world? After all, even tropical island resorts had cell phone service, and they didn’t require you to park on the verge of an overgrown shoulder on a bare quarter-mile stretch of highway to get a signal (true story). In 2012, when I wrote Five Days in Skye, things were beginning to change on the island, but it was still mostly the wild place that I remembered.
Fast forward eight years to the publication of the third and final book in the MacDonald Family Trilogy, Under Scottish Stars, and the book almost feels like a time capsule. Tour buses now crowd the roads of the tiny island, hotels require reservations a year in advance, Airbnbs are in scarce supply, and glamping cabins are popping up to accommodate the adventure tourists who flock to the island every summer. I had a moment of doubt when reediting this book for its publication this summer—should I update it to reflect the changes that happened in the mere five years since I wrote it?
In the end, I decided to leave well enough alone. There’s value and beauty in marking that moment in time—the changes already reflected in Serena’s difficulty in finding a last-minute cottage to rent for the summer—and preserving that sense of isolation and wildness both for myself and for readers who will never have a chance at that long-ago island experience, except in fiction. And while it’s still a place of beauty I look forward to visiting again (and would have visited this summer with my family if not for a certain global pandemic), that first trip to Skye with all its romance and life-changing isolation can remain etched in my memory as it was, preserved on the pages of Under Scottish Stars.