Book Review: The Freemason's Daughter
By: Shelley Sackier
Published By: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Historical Fiction
Jenna MacDuff lost her mother at a young age and has been moving around Scotland with her father ever since. Her father works as a master mason who uses his skill with stone to further the Stuart cause. If his Jacobite beliefs are brought to life, he will find himself on the end of a hangman's rope. Jenna chooses to stay with her father and her clan in spite of the danger she faces on a daily basis. Things grow more intense when the clan is hired to build a garrison on an estate in northern England. Jenna is less than thrilled about leaving her beloved Scotland, but she has no choice when the men saddle up their horses and head south. She must follow them into enemy territory or be left behind.
Once the arrive in England, Jenna begins to realize how out of place she truly is and it's not just because of her Scottish heritage and flaming red hair. Jenna can read, write, and speak several languages. She has been educated by her clan since she was a girl and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge in a time period when women were meant to be ornaments on their husband's arm or tied to domestic duties. Women didn't get to seek an education beyond cookery, sewing, and other household chores. Jenna is a woman before her time and she breaks the mold of society's expectations. Not only is she educated, but Jenna isn't afraid to speak her mind - even when her opinions contradict the norms of her society. She also has a streak of courage that I greatly admire.
Jenna refuses to allow anyone to treat her like a servant in England which makes her first run in with Alex, Lord Pembroke, the son of the manor's owners to be foolhardy. When she realizes who she has spoken to she fears the worst will befall her family, but as time passes she soon realizes that rather than be furious, Alex is fascinated by her mind and way of life. The pair strike up an unlikely and dangerous friendship. If Alex finds out the clan's true purpose concerning the garrison, he will surely tell his father and everyone will be executed for treason. Jenna must choose between pursuing a friendship with a man who makes her heart race and protecting those she loves more than her own life.
I loved the history and setting of The Freemason's Daughter. I have long been fascinated by Scotland and hope to visit it one day, but until then I love losing myself in novels set in the land of heather. I also have to admit that I was lured into reading this one because it was called a YA version of Outlander. I am a huge fan of Jamie and Claire, but let me be clear, Jenna and Alex are a far cry from the famous Outlander couple. In fact, the romance in this one is limited and extremely chaste, which makes sense due to the time period, societal expectations, and Jenna's age. The novel focuses more on political intrigue and relationships. Alliances of both a political and heartfelt nature also play a large role in this novel. Aside from the Jacobite connection and the Scottish setting, I didn't see much of Outlander playing out in this novel, which turned out to be fine by me. I didn't want Jenna to be a recycled version of Claire.
My biggest complaint with this novel is that the ending was unsatisfying. I wanted more closure concerning Alex, Daniel, and Jenna. What happens for each of them in the future? I did read on the author's website that a second book will release in 2018, so I have faith I will get my answers. Seriously - I am ridiculously excited.
All in all, I loved this novel and recommend it to fans of historical fiction. The setting is gorgeous, the characters are memorable, and the political intrigue captured the essence of the time period beautifully. I felt transported to 1700's Scotland. I enjoyed my front row seat as I watched the Jacobites prepare for a Stuart to reclaim the throne and English citizens prepare to end the Jacobite threat. Every minute spent with Jenna was well worth it.
One Last Gripe: This novel is a bit of a slow burn. It didn't bother me as it's 1700's Scotland. There is only so much excitement happening, but some readers may find this tedious.
Favorite Thing About This Book: Jenna's relationship with her father and the clan
First Sentence: Jenna woke to the sound of toppling chairs and a dish clattering to the jagged flagstones.
Favorite Character: Jenna
Least Favorite Character: Mr. Finch
The Outlander series for the YA audience—a debut, full of romance and intrigue, set in early eighteenth-century Scotland.
Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do—until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England.
Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke—nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex.
Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for?
In Shelley Sackier’s lush, vivid historical debut, someone will pay a deadly price no matter which choice Jenna makes.