As the beekeeper and apothecary on the Scottish Isle of Kerrera, Lark MacDougall is responsible for giving the laird’s wife comfort after her many miscarriages and finding some herbs that will help her keep a baby to term. But when the querulous invalid dies, Lark is blamed for it and sent to prison. Indentured servitude in the Americas beckons, and Lark must do her best to survive aboard ship and in a strange land of slaves, masters, and rare botanical beauty.
Magnus MacLeish, laird of Kerrera, was raised side by side with Lark, but at his father’s behest he took a noble wife from the town of Edinburgh instead of an island girl. With his Jacobite heritage, Magnus has few friends on the judges’ bench, and when he springs to his friend Lark’s defense over the unjust accusation, he finds his castle, lands, and position stripped away. Now, bound for the fever-filled fields of Jamaica, he must see if he can survive the rigors of the plantations and find his way to colonial Williamsburg to retrieve his faithful Lark.
In this book, Laura Frantz departs from her standard setting on the American frontier and ventures to bonny Scotland where things are…not so bonny. Suffering the same unjust taxation that afflicts the American colonies, many Scots engage in smuggling–or “free-trading”–to put food on their tables. Compelled by her Presbyterian honesty, Lark tries to avoid participation in the smugglers’ trade. Magnus attempts to uphold the king’s law as well, but his offense of wearing the outlawed Scottish tartan ends up costing him dearly. The difficulty of the Atlantic voyage is displayed in grim detail as Lark must protect herself from both the ship’s officers and the elements of nature. The subject of indentured servitude is not one usually explored, and it was interesting to see the terms of the contracts that bind both Magnus and Lark.
Both Magnus and Lark are extremely sympathetic characters. Magnus is honorable, honest, devout, and godfearing, and looks like a Norse Viking. Lark is diligent, devoted, perseverant, and faithful, and if the cover of this book is anything to judge by, a great beauty with her Scottish coloring. Although they are bound by their indentures, they are also bound to each other, and neither pestilential fever, cruel overseers, backbreaking sugar cane, nor fear of the unknown can keep them apart in the end.
My one complaint about this book is that I wish it were longer. Yes, the ending was satisfying (no cliff-hangers here!), but there were so many fascinating details about Magnus’ new life in Jamaica that I wished Laura Frantz had extended the plot line farther into the protagonists’ lives as she did in Courting Morrow Little. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.