Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

Published March 29, 2021-Reviewed for Historical Novels Society Magazine, November 2021 Issue

The book was inspired by the 600 children who were kidnapped in Aberdeen, Scotland, during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies.

“Ailish Sinclair spent the earlier parts of her life  dancing around and encouraging others to do the same. She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and eats cake.”

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Historical Novels Review Magazine editors send pages and pages of new historical fiction novels from which the reviewers choose. I typically have a long, detailed process for making my list. This was not the case last August when I spotted the title Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair. I saw the setting was Aberdeen, Scotland and I was hooked! My husband and I were “stationed” in Montrose, Scotland, just south of Aberdeen, in 1975, when he was an engineer for Halliburton on a drilling rig in the North Sea. During the week he was on the drilling rig and I was at the Links Hotel or exploring the lovely town of Montrose and visiting friends in Inverbervie and Stonehaven. We lived in Montrose for several months so on the weekends we toured the countryside, locks and castles. My review of Fireflies and Chocolate is below, followed by a few “pictures of pictures” from our ancient photo album. (We were VERY young -just babies-and both had dark brown hair!)


In 1743, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Manteif was in Aberdeen, Scotland to choose a new horse. Instead, she finds herself “a kidnapped prisoner aboard a slave ship” headed to America. Elizabeth’s goal now is to get back home. Readers “survive” the difficult Atlantic crossing with Elizabeth and her protector, Peter, only to be thrust into the heartbreaking scene of children and adults being sold as slaves in Philadelphia. Ailish Sinclair captures readers’ hearts with Elizabeth’s Scottish brogue and “wee” glimpses into her childhood and even conveys hope when she escapes from her new owner into the woods to find two “quines,” one Native American and one a Negro. These girls become a link to Elizabeth’s emotional and physical survival. Ailish Sinclair weaves the plight of plantation owner, Michael, and his personal dependencies with Elizabeth’s search for Peter, writing of letters home, and passionate but dangerous quest to right the wrongs of slavery.  Through heart-stopping twists of fate Elizabeth’s journey intersects the plight of slaves on a tobacco plantation with her own passage through stages of grief and coming of age in a new country.

Ailish Sinclair spins this Scottish tale filled with excitement and suspense as encouraging news of the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charles reaches America; only to get the crushing reports of Culloden Moor. Scottish phrases become familiar as history and mysteries unfold; right there with Elizabeth on the gang plank of the ship heading back to her beloved Scotland. Like Elizabeth wrapped in a “plaid,” savor the pages of Fireflies and Chocolate and wait for that ‘bonny” feeling, “I’ve come home.”

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