Dawn on a Distant Shore (Wilderness Series #2)

( 121 )


In an icy, untamed world of pristine beauty, a husband and wife are torn apart by fate but reunited forever by a love that can't be broken....

An unforgettable love comes alive in this masterful epic of passion, treachery, and adventure....

Award-winning author Sara Donati's debut novel, Into the Wilderness, was hailed as "one of those rare stories that let you breathe the air of another time" (Diana Gabaldon). Now, in an eloquent blend of fact...

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In an icy, untamed world of pristine beauty, a husband and wife are torn apart by fate but reunited forever by a love that can't be broken....

An unforgettable love comes alive in this masterful epic of passion, treachery, and adventure....

Award-winning author Sara Donati's debut novel, Into the Wilderness, was hailed as "one of those rare stories that let you breathe the air of another time" (Diana Gabaldon). Now, in an eloquent blend of fact and fiction, Donati re-creates her beloved characters from Into the Wilderness in an enthralling new tale of romance and adventure.

Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner have settled into their life together at the edge of the New-York wilderness in the winter of 1794. But soon after Elizabeth gives birth to healthy twins, Nathaniel learns that his father has been arrested in British Canada. Forced to leave Hidden Wolf Mountain to help his father in Montreal, Nathaniel himself is imprisoned and in danger of being hanged as a spy.

In a desperate bid to save her husband, Elizabeth bundles her infants and sets out through the snowy wilderness and across treacherous waterways on the dangerous trek to Canada. But she soon discovers that freeing her husband will take every ounce of her courage and inventiveness — and will threaten her with the loss of what she loves most: her children.

Torn apart, the Bonners must embark on yet another perilous voyage, this time all the way across the ocean to the heart of Scotland, where a destiny they could never have imagined awaits them....

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Sara Donati's extraordinary debut novel, The Pioneers, James Fenimore Cooper's sequel to The Last of the Mohicans) now has its own sequel. In the first book in the Wilderness series, set in the wilds of the New York frontier in 1792, Englishwoman Elizabeth Middleton met and married Nathaniel Bonner, a white man adopted into the Mohawk tribe. As Dawn on a Distant Shore opens, Elizabeth and Nathaniel's marriage is about to be blessed with twins, but their happy family is soon divided by the news that Nathaniel's father has been imprisoned in Montreal. When Nathaniel attempts a rescue, he, too, is arrested and sentenced to be hanged as an American spy. Elizabeth risks everything to free both men — and, eventually, her efforts bring them to distant Scotland, where a wealthy and titled kinsman offers them a new future in a world they never imagined.
From the Publisher
"Will keep readers up into the wee hours."—Orlando Sentinel

"A story of epic proportions, akin to those wonderful wilderness classics by James Fenimore Cooper, but with the modern twist of a Diana Gabaldon."—Romantic Times

"Masterfully weaves the evocative history of the founding of America with the powerful challenges faced by those, like the Bonners, who settled this new world."—BookPage

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her second foray into the genre, Donati's sequel to Into the Wilderness continues the saga of hunter and trapper Nathaniel Bonner and his wife, Elizabeth, a couple living in upper New York State, America's eastern frontier at the end of the 18th century. As established in the first book, Nathaniel is the son of Scottish-born Daniel "Hawkeye" Bonner, who was raised by Mohawks. The drama is as intriguing as a TV miniseries, and in the conventions of the genre, the dialogue can be stilted and heavy-handed: "`I want you, yes,' she hissed. Because she could not lie to him, or herself. `But I can't, I can't.'" After celebrating the birth of twins, Nathaniel travels to Canada, where his father has been arrested by the British, to aid his escape. They are discovered, however, and Nathaniel, too, is imprisoned as a spy. Concerned that Nathaniel and Hawkeye will hang if convicted, a worried, brave Elizabeth treks through the wilderness to find her husband, taking along their babies and Nathaniel's 10-year-old daughter from his first marriage. Through a series of intrigues and deceptions, the twins are kidnapped and, to retrieve them, the Bonners are forced to sail to Scotland, where the Earl of Carryck, a distant relative, is determined that these long-lost American kin claim the castle that is their birthright. His motives for taking desperate measures to draw the Bonners to Scotland are political as well as personal, as the book's conclusion reveals. But before the pieces fall together, the adventurous couple encounter much adversity (redcoats, privateers and small-minded society types, to name a few) and many interesting people, like poet Robert Burns in a cameo appearance. In fact, there are so many folks passing through the story that Donati (a pseudonym for PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Rosina Lippi-Green) thoughtfully provides a list of major characters. The likable protagonists, a multitude of amusing secondary characters and exciting escapades make this a compelling read despite the often overblown language and melodramatic plotting. Agent, Jill Grinberg. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Elizabeth Bonner, fresh from childbirth, learns that her husband, Nathaniel, and his father are imprisoned in Montreal, she embarks on a voyage to save them with her infant twins, her stepdaughter, freed slave Curiosity Freeman, and Mohawk Indian Runs-from-Bears. Before returning home, she loses and regains her children; sees her husband shot; witnesses piracy, kidnapping, and murder; and sails to Scotland as part of a scheme to save the land of a laird. That all the events occur within only a few months seems incredible. As in the prequel Into the Wilderness (Bantam, 1998), Donati freely borrows elements from other authors, including James Fenimore Cooper. Her complicated plot contains numerous subplots and side issues that eventually tie together. Readers who enjoy a dollop of American history in a "bodice-ripper" will enjoy this book. It's not great literature, but it's fun.--Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553578553
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/2001
  • Series: Wilderness Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 75,452
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Sara Donati is the pen name of Rosina Lippi. She lives with her husband, daughter, and various pets in an area between the Cascade Mountains and the Puget Sound.
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Read an Excerpt

1 February, 1794

On the edge of the New-York wilderness

In the middle of a blizzard in the second half of the hardest, snowiest winter anyone in Paradise could remember, Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, sweat soaked, naked, and adrift in burning pain, wondered if she might just die of the heat.

Once again she grabbed the leather straps tied to the bed frame to haul herself forward, and bore down with all her considerable strength.

"Come, little one," sang the girl who crouched, waiting, at the foot of the bed. Her ten-year-old face was alight with excitement and fierce concentration, her bloodied hands outstretched, beckoning.

From a basket before the warmth of the hearth came the high, keen wail of Elizabeth's firstborn: a daughter, just twenty minutes old.

"Come, child," crooned Hannah. "We are waiting for you."

We are all waiting for you.

In the grip of a contraction that threatened to set her on fire, Elizabeth bore down again and was rewarded with the blessed sight of a crowning head. With shaking fingers she touched the slick, wet curls and her own flesh, stretched drumtight: her body on the brink of splitting itself in two.

One last time, one last time, one last time. She strained, feeling the child flex and turn, feeling its will, as strong as her own. Elizabeth blinked the sweat from her eyes and looked up to find Hannah's gaze fixed on her.

"Let him come," the girl said in Kahnyen'keh^ka. "It is his time."

Elizabeth pushed. In a rush of fluid her son, blue-white and already howling, slid out into her stepdaughter's waiting hands. With a groan of relief and thanksgiving, Elizabeth collapsed backward.

For one sweet moment, the wailing of the newborns was louder than the scream of the blizzard rampaging through the Endless Forests. Their father was out there, trying to make his way home to them. With her arms crossed over the warm, squirming bundles Hannah laid against her skin, Elizabeth muttered a prayer for Nathaniel Bonner's safe delivery from the storm.

As Elizabeth labored, the small handful of farmers and trappers with the good sense to be stranded by the blizzard in Paradise's only tavern sat huddled over cards and ale, waiting out the weather. While the winds worked the rafters like starving wolves at a carcass, they told stories in easy, slurred voices, but they watched their cards and tankards and the long, straight back of the man who stood, motionless, at the window.

"Strung as tight as my fiddle," muttered one of the card players. "Say something to him, Axel."

Axel Metzler shrugged a shoulder in frustration, but he turned toward the window. "Set down, Nathaniel, and have a drink. I broke out my best ale, here. And the storm won't be letting up for you staring at it."

"Women will have babies at the worst times," announced the youngest of the men solemnly.

"Now, what would you know about it, Charlie? You got a wife hid away somewhere?"

"A man don't need a wife of his own to see that it's damn hard luck to have run into this weather."

The storm raised its voice as if to argue. The roof groaned in response, and a fine sifting of dust settled over the room and the uncovered tankards.

Axel plucked the pipe from his mouth in disgust and pointed his tattered white beard toward the heavens, exposing a long neck much like that of a plucked turkey. "Shut up, you old Teufel! Quiet!"

The winds howled once more, let out a longish whine, and fell silent. For a moment the men stared at each other and then Axel tucked his pipe back in the corner of his mouth with a satisfied grunt.

A woman appeared at the door from the living quarters just as the man at the window turned. The light of the fire threw his face into relief: half shadow, all worry, his high brow furrowed and his mouth pressed hard. In his hand was a crumpled sheet of paper, which he tucked into his shirt with one hand while he reached for his mantle with the other.

"Curiosity?" he asked, his voice hoarse with disuse.

"I'm right here, Nathaniel." Long and wiry, straight backed in spite of her near sixty years, Curiosity Freeman moved briskly through the room, her skirts snapping and swirling. The hands adjusting the turban that towered above her head were deep brown against the sprigged fabric. She turned to a boy who sat near the fire, big boned, ginger haired, and pale with sleeplessness. "You there, Liam Kirby. Look lively, now. You fetch me my snowshoes, will you?"

He sprang up, rubbing his eyes. "Yes'm."

Axel stood and stretched. "Good luck, Nathaniel! Give Miz Elizabeth our best!"

Nathaniel raised a hand in acknowledgment. "Thank you, Axel. Jed, I was supposed to send Martha Southern word, would you take care of that for me?"

"I will. Tomorrow we'll wet the child's head, proper like."

"We'll do that, God willing." Liam had gone out onto the porch, but the older woman hung back to put a hand on Nathaniel's arm. "Elizabeth's strong, and Hannah's with her. That girl of yours has got the touch, you know that."

She's only ten years old.

Nathaniel could see that thought sitting there in the troubled lines that bracketed Curiosity's mouth. "Elizabeth asked for you. She wanted you." And me. I should be there.

Curiosity squinted at him. Never the kind to offer false comfort, she nodded, and followed him outside.

Strung out in single file with Nathaniel leading and Liam bringing up the rear, they left the village on snowshoes. They carried tin lanterns that cast dancing pinpricks of light over the new snow: a scattering of golden stars to match the fiery ones overhead. The night sky had been scrubbed clean; the moon was knife edged and cold, as cold as the air that stung the throat and nose.

Nathaniel glanced over his shoulder now and then to gauge Curiosity's pace. Thus far she showed no signs of tiring, in spite of the late hour and interrupted sleep. Frontier women, his father often said. When one of their own is in need, they can set creation on its ear.

He had set out to fetch her almost twenty-four hours ago. She was his father-in-law's housekeeper, but Curiosity Freeman was more than that: Elizabeth's friend, and his own, the clearest head in the village and the closest thing Paradise had to a doctor since Richard Todd had decided to spend the winter in Johnstown; she had always been a better midwife, anyway. With a midwife's sense of timing, she had been ready for him, her basket packed. She wiped the flour from her hands and arms and passed the kneading over to her daughter, calling out to her husband, Galileo, that she was on her way. Judge Middleton was still abed, and they left without disturbing him.

"Let him sleep," she had said, strapping on her snowshoes. "Ain't nothing a man can do to ease a daughter in labor anyways, and my Polly will see to his breakfast. Did you send Anna word? I'd be glad of her help, with the rest of your womenfolk away."

"Liam's gone to fetch her."

"Let's get moving, then. First children ain't usually in a hurry, but you never know."

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. Land ownership and bloodline both in New York and Europe was of utmost importance at the time of the Wilderness Series. What impact did this have on the Bonner family when they went to Scotland?

2. How does Elizabeth react to the knowledge that Nathaniel and their children are heirs to an earldom in Scotland? How is this comforting or not?

3. How is Hannah’s medical education enhanced by her association with the Hakim? How does she reconcile what she learns with what knows from her Mohawk-Scots ancestors who were healers?

Questions for readers of any of Sara Donati's Wilderness novels:

1. The northern and northwestern part of New York State was the nation’s untamed frontier in the late 18th and early 19th Century, the era of the Wilderness series. How does this frontier experience differ from that of the traditional western or “wagons west” description of America’s wilder places? How is it the same? Why was the settlement of upper New York State significant to people in Canada? To England? To France? To Holland?

2. Why is settlement by Europeans significant to the Native Peoples–and how do settlers like the Bonner family and others in the town of Paradise both complement and conflict with them? What roles do the slaves and the freed slaves, serve?

3. Discuss the Freeman family’s activities in aiding runaway slaves’ flight to freedom. Do you think they helped these people, or contributed to setting the stage for continuing and future conflict for them? What role did the African Free School, and Manny Freeman’s association with it, play in the abolition of slavery? Do you think the Gradual Manumission Act was devised in a fair manner?

4. Most of the characters in this book have dealt with an eminent amount of loss. How have these losses shaped the characters’ weaknesses and strengths?
5. Author Donati uses wonderful place and character names drawn from the Native Language. Discuss the symbolism of the characters’ names (i.e. Walks-Ahead, Bone-in-Her-Back, Hawkeye, etc.). How do these names illuminate the characters themselves? Would you choose a descriptive name for yourself–and what would that be?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 121 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 121 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Rewarding Read

    I think Sara Donati is a wonderful author, capable of very interesting story lines; she mixes romance and love of family. I thought at the beginning this might be just a book about "fluff" but not so. I highly recommend the Wilderness Series and have enjoyed every book immensely. Want to get lost in a wonderful story? Read Sara Donati's Wilderness Series. You won't be sorry. And, yes, men might enjoy this series, too. Might give your man some well-needed ideas, ladies!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Enjoyed! Good read.

    Enjoyed Dawn on a Distant Shore. It was nice to take a break from Lake in the Clouds. But by the end I was ready to go back as I was really missing the town! Almost like I live there and had been away on a journey. Great book and I plan to continue the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Highly recommended

    I love this series. Though it is fiction, it makes the 1790s in America come alive and seems so authentic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013


    In love with Danati and her characters, still...reading this series

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    The adventure continues!

    Looking forward to the next in the series!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Great Read!

    Donati does a wonderful job weaving her story. I've read all of the Outlander Series, and this has a very similar feel. Rich characters, vivid setting, interesting story line. I loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    A must read!!

    Great book, I love this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Im enjoying the story line but I find it very slow and at times

    Im enjoying the story line but I find it very slow and at times somewhat boring. I have read a few other books inbetween this one, I usually have to finish a book but this one is taking some time. Fairly predictable.

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  • Posted June 10, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    I enjoyed this book. It is even better than tw first one.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    Great book!

    A very captivating book! I enjoyed it very much.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    This is a great series based on a time frame around the end of 1700's to beginning of 1800's-It is a great story of a family and the way they are affected by the history that is unfolding around them

    I love this series. It reminds me of the Diane Gabeldon books, except this does not have the fantasy going on with the stones.

    I hope to read all of these.

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  • Posted January 2, 2012

    Thoroughly enjoyed

    Loved the story. Could have stood better editing...it seemed that they went on and on at sea, and sure found other ships easily. But despite that I enjoyed the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2011


    Have read and enjoyed the first three books in the Wilderness Series. Historical fiction.

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  • Posted November 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wilderness Series #2

    This is a good follow up to "Into the Wilderness" The same characters are here, and new adventures begin. About halfway through the book, I knew what the outcome was going to be. I wouldn't say it's predictable, because Donati was able to weave an intricate tale to reach that outcome, and there are a few surprises along the way. If you enjoy historical fiction, with a dose of romance, adventure, intrigue and betrayel, I think you would enjoy this book (this entire series for that matter).

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    Strongly recommend

    Wonderful!! Exciting adventure, good love story, very interesting characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Great sequel

    Into the Wilderness was one of my favorite reads, so I was really looking forward to the sequel. Ms. Donati does not disappoint as Nathaniel, Elizabeth and their family are plunged headlong into a rousing new adventure overseas. All the familiar characters from the previous book are here, including my favorite Curiosity Freeman. The story begins where the last left off, with Elizabeth giving birth to twins with only her step daughter Hannah to help her. Nathaniel, his father Hawkeye and family friend Robbie MacLachlan are imprisioned in Montreal, and Elizabeth soon packs up her children and sets out to help her men folk. A series of adventures, betrayals, and double crosses soon has the Bonner clan off to Scotland to meet the mysterious Earl of Carryck, who claims kinship to Hawkeye, and has plans for the entire Bonner family.<BR/>Although I found the book a bit slow going at first, I was soon completely enthralled with all the characters again and look forward to the third book in the series. Not a disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008


    If you liked Last of the Mohicans, you will love Sara Donati's books--they are a continuation of where Last of the Mohicans stopped. Couldn't put down and can't wait for the next one in the series!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2008

    A reviewer

    I feel truly blessed to have found this series of books by Donati. I also feel lucky that they were all available for me to read one after another for I could NOT WAIT to read the next book. I cannot tell if there will be more books, but I will certainly keep looking for Donati's next... no matter what it is about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2003

    It is as if I was there with them

    I loved this book and 'Into the Wilderness' I am buying 'Lake in the Clouds' today. I hope the series never ends I could live with 'the Bonners' forever. I highly recommend this series and I can't wait for the newest one.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2000

    A real page-turner

    I loved this book as much as Into the Wilderness. I cannot wait for the next one. Sara Donati gives life to these characters. I think I may have lived as a Mohican in another life.

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