On hearing so many good things about D.E. Stevenson's books, and being keen on a certain type of vintage fiction, I felt it was past time for me to begin reading some of her books and borrowed this one from the library (but with a less romantic cover). Right away I liked her style of writing and knew 'The House of the Deer', from 1971, would be one I would enjoy reading, especially with it being set in the Highlands of Scotland, which I love.
Gerald Burleigh-Brown is coerced, by his boss and brother-in-law Sir Walter MacCallum, to take his place and spend a holiday in an old house in the wilds of Scotland with some good friends of his and participate in the deer culling in the deer forest there. There is much description of deer stalking, which I momentarily thought might put me off, but this is a very good story with elements of mystery, gentle romance, and adventure, and I believe it would appeal equally to men and women. There are some rather exciting scenes in the second half of the book involving a small gang of dangerous criminals, but I'm giving nothing away to spoil the plot.
Here is an interesting detailed description of the house itself:
"Gerald looked at the old house with interest. It was on the side of a hill near a burn and was built of rough grey stone. The windows were on different levels and were of different sizes and shapes: some were large and square, others were small and oblong. Those facing west were built into a kind of bow, like half a tower. Above that the half-tower became a whole tower with windows facing in three directions. The roof, which was made of slate, was steep and uneven; gables jutted out at all angles and twisted chimneys sprouted in unexpected places. The pepper-pot turrets, which had been added "just for fun", gave the place a rakish appearance. "I've never seen anything like it before!" Gerald exclaimed. "No, and you never will," declared Mac, smiling.
The House of the Deer was unique inside as well as outside. There was one large room which ran through the centre of the house on the ground floor and had windows facing east and west. It was used as a sitting-room at one end and as a dining-room at the other. This was the old part of the house, as could be seen from the thickness of the walls. The windows were set in deep embrasures which were filled with cushioned window-seats. Halfway down one side of the room there was a huge stone fireplace with a wrought-iron grate for burning logs. The furniture consisted of large chairs upholstered in brown leather (which probably had been new in Victorian times) and large bookcases containing books about fishing and shooting and the habits of deer. There was a work-basket, bulging with grey woolen stockings, on one chair and a pile of papers on another."The characters and their interactions seemed very real, and I look forward to reading more stories by D.E. Stevenson.