Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: April 7, 2015
Paperback 480 pages
My source: Netgalley
For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects.
It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.
As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take…to find the road that will lead her safely home.
Another wonderful time-slip historical novel from Susanna Kearsley! I have yet to read a book by her that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. In this book we have 2 protagonist, Sara in present day France and Mary in 1732 France.
We meet Mary Dundas, Scottish on her father’s side and French on her mother’s, through her diary written in 1732. Mary is recruited by her brother she hasn’t seen in many years to aid the Jacobite’s in getting a man safely to King James in exile in Rome. Mary’s Scottish father and brother’s had gone to help the Jacobite cause. She was left with an aunt and uncle in France for safety. She doesn’t remember anything of her Scottish heritage. After all these years her brother comes to get her to live with him and his family and asks her to do to this one thing. This begins her dangerous adventure. Her traveling companions include MacPherson, a mysterious, hard, Highlander who’s job it is to protect the small entourage. Is he foe or friend to Mary? A Scottish woman who is traveling as their maid and the man Mr. Thomson they are all protecting and taking to Rome to meet with Scottish King James. There is a bounty on his head and danger is everywhere. Through these difficult weeks that turn into months Mary learns much of the Scottish people and their fierce determination to restore King James to the throne, thus learning much about herself and her ancestors. I loved Mary and her bravery.
Thomson was a real person who was thought to have aided in a major financial deception of the time. And although Ms. Kearsley took liberties with the life of Mary Dundas she too was a real person of the time. Mary’s character was an example of the displaced second generation of Jacobites, born in exile and with no homeland of their own and MacPherson represented the Highlanders who left their homes to fight for King James. We learn a lot about how the King was sustained financially while he was a King with no land or subjects to support his kingship. Also the fierce pride and devotion of the Scottish people.
Quite different in this book is our other protagonist, Sara, she has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through the story of Sara’s efforts to decipher Mary’s journal we get a look into the world of someone with this syndrome and it is very enlightening! I loved watching Sara deal with the new relationships brought into her life by this job and maybe a new love! How she goes about breaking the cipher is interesting too. We get to visit many places in France through beautiful descriptions.
Lots of intrigue, suspicion, history, and romance. At the back of the book Ms. Kearsley included a short chapter on the history behind the tale and her resources. Excellent book, read it!
You can read the first two chapters here.
Purchase the book here
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in advance!
*Although this book took place in France and is written by a Canadian, I am counting it toward Read Scotland 2015 as the story is centered on Scottish history and Scottish people.