Late 17th/early18th centuries, set in England/France/Scotland
Based on real people and true events, this is the story of Lady Winifred Herbert. Her parents, the Earl and Countess of Powis, are forced to leave England after supporting the Catholic King James II, being accused of treason and imprisoned in the Tower. Winifred joins them at the court of the exiles at Saint-Germain in France where she meets her future husband, William Maxwell, Earl of Nithsdale. All are fervent Jacobites except Winifred, who is less so. The marriage is a happy one, and when they return to Scotland, Winifred cherishes dreams of settling down to a comfortable life and raising a family. William has other dreams that centre around the Jacobite movement.
I found Winifred to be a contradictory character. At times I wanted to root for her, and just as often I wanted to slap her. For example, she criticises William for his involvement in Scotland’s affairs instead of staying home and looking after his estate, and yet goes proudly with him to a gathering of the clans where the purpose is to organise a rebellion. Again, learning that her husband, an irresponsible but charming wastrel, is heavily in debt, she tells him to cut down on his spending, but when he buys a cute little pony and trap for them to tool around the estate in, she forgives him at once. For the first half of the book, she comes across as self-centered and self-absorbed, as when her mother dies, “How could she leave me?’ and the same when her sister enters a convent. However, without giving anything away, she redeems herself in the end.
The relationship between Winifred and Grace, her maid/companion/friend, is heartwarming and one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book.
The story is well written, with natural dialogue but few descriptions. Although it’s a slow starter, I never lost interest. I recommend it for those interested in Scotland’s independence movement and Jacobite period.