Scotland, 1692. To escape a brutal winter storm, King William’s regiments descend on the small village of Glencoe. Caitriona Cameron, the tacksman’s daughter, cannot forget her unpleasant encounter the last time English troops appeared. She senses the army’s arrival might not be as innocent as it seems, but her warnings go unheeded. Not even MacIain, the MacDonald clan chief, listens. After twelve days of billeting in the villagers’ homes, the soldiers attack, committing one of the greatest atrocities in Highland history.
Cait escapes the assault with the help of Sergeant Edward Gage who is accused of being a traitor for not taking up arms against the MacDonalds. Edward is hunted by his debauched half-brother, Alexander, who stands to lose everything if King William attaints their father for his treasonous past deeds. With bad blood between them, Alexander sets out to capture Edward to prove his loyalty and save himself from ruin.
Cait and Edward travel to Edinburgh to confront the men they suspect are behind the attack, unaware that Alexander is headed there as well. Although Cait is convinced the chief of Clan Campbell is responsible, Edward suspects something much more sinister—that the orders came from higher up, possibly even from the king himself.
As accusations of betrayal, deceit, and treason abound, they are all trapped in a web of intrigue and danger, but not everyone will escape.
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Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband.
All of her novels have won at least one award for excellence in historical fiction including a First Place Chaucer Award, a First Place Goethe Award, a Reader's Choice Award, a CIBA Best Book Award, and a Discovering Diamond Award.
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"The Tacksman's Daughter" by Donna Scott is an enthralling historical novel set against the backdrop of the hauntingly beautiful Glencoe, Scotland, during the winter of 1692. From the very beginning, the author skillfully paints a vivid picture of the village's idyllic existence, only to shatter it with the arrival of soldiers, both Redcoats, and clansmen. The palpable concern among the villagers, including a young lass named Caitriona, is expertly portrayed, creating an immediate sense of foreboding.
Caitriona's worry intensifies as she becomes entangled in a web of emotions, struggling to decipher the meaning behind unsettling dreams, and dread as she is faced with a basket of broken bannocks which is surely a sign of the greatest misfortune. Her interactions with her family, especially her dismissive father, provide insight into the challenges of maintaining relationships in times of uncertainty.
MacIain, the chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, proves to be a particularly compelling character. As the patriarch of the village, he exudes an air of stoic determination and pride in his clan's heritage. MacIain's dismissive response to Caitriona's concerns about the soldiers' arrival hints at his reluctance to acknowledge the impending change that threatens their way of life. However, beneath his stern exterior lies a man grappling with the weight of responsibility and the need to protect his family and people. As the story unfolds, MacIain's character evolves, revealing vulnerabilities and complexities that add complexity to his role in the narrative. His interactions with Caitriona and his internal conflict provide a poignant exploration of the sacrifices a laird must make for the well-being of his clan and the struggles he faces in a time of uncertainty.
Furthermore, in Caitriona's conversations with Davina, a single mother with her own share of hardships, Davina becomes a source of wisdom and comfort for Caitriona during these tumultuous times. Their bond grows through heartfelt conversations, where Davina imparts valuable advice about love, relationships, and the strength to endure. The two women share a unique connection, as both have experienced loss and heartache, and they find solace in each other's company. Davina's presence not only adds depth to the story but also provides Caitriona with a trusted friend and confidante, making their relationship an essential and touching aspect of the narrative.
The story gains momentum with the arrival of two English soldiers, Edward and his half-brother Alexander, seeking shelter from the harsh weather. The tension between the soldiers, coupled with hints of Caitriona's developing connection with them, sets the stage for an intricate web of relationships and conflicts. Her connection with Edward starts as a cautious curiosity but quickly deepens into a genuine bond. Edward's sensitivity and kindness toward Caitriona, coupled with his vulnerability and regrets about the massacre, make him an endearing and sympathetic character. As they navigate the aftermath of the tragedy together, their relationship evolves into a powerful love that transcends boundaries.
On the other hand, Davina's dynamic with Alexander is marked by tension and conflicting emotions. Initially wary of the English soldiers, Davina finds herself drawn to Alexander despite his troubled past. The complexities of their relationship are intertwined with misunderstandings, and secrets making it both intriguing and tumultuous. The rivalry and animosity between Alexander and Edward create a compelling and dramatic backdrop for their interactions, driving the plot forward as the brothers' competing loyalties and desires impact the narrative.
Cait's relationships with Edward and Alexander epitomize the delicate balance between love and duty, loyalty and betrayal, attraction and contempt. As she navigates her feelings for both men, readers are taken on an emotional journey filled with heartache, passion, and moments of tenderness. The exploration of these complex relationships adds depth to the characters and serves as a catalyst for self-discovery and growth.
One of the highlights of "The Tacksman's Daughter" is the intricacy with which Donna Scott develops her characters. Each character comes with their own baggage and past transgressions. Alexander's complex family history and loyalty add intrigue to his character. Caitriona's inner turmoil as she grapples with her feelings renders her genuine and relatable.
As the story progresses, the emotional aftermath of the Glencoe massacre becomes the central focus. The devastating consequences of the soldiers' attack on the MacDonalds leave Caitriona reeling with grief and anger. The inner conflicts faced by the characters, particularly Caitriona and Edward, are portrayed with raw emotion, making the carnage feel more visceral and poignant, and the two all the more endearing to the readers. The introduction of Taran, the seer, adds an enigmatic touch to the unfolding events, foreshadowing future twists.
As the story continues to explore the intricate relationships between the characters, Caitriona is torn between her feelings for Edward and her sense of duty towards her family and Alexander. The inclusion of the Jacobite movement makes the reader feel deeply immersed in this world and increases the sense of political intrigue, lending further complexity to the story.
As the plot advances, the stakes are raised, and the characters' destinies appear intertwined. Edward's trial is a gripping and pivotal moment in the story. Faced with charges of high treason, murder, and theft, Edward's fate hangs in the balance. The courtroom drama unfolds as witnesses present conflicting testimonies and evidence. Cait plays a crucial role in defending Edward's innocence, and her efforts lead to the dismissal of theft charges and the revelation of key information about Alexander's involvement in treasonous activities. The tension escalates as Alexander's schemes come to light, and the emotional confrontation between Cait and Alexander adds to the intensity of the trial. Ultimately, the trial becomes a turning point in the narrative, setting the stage for significant resolutions and character developments.
The emotional reunions and resolutions, especially between Caitriona and Edward, bring a sense of fulfillment to the readers, leaving them with a feeling of catharsis.
Donna Scott's skillful storytelling, coupled with her meticulous attention to historical detail, immerses the readers in the harsh realities of 17th-century Scotland. From the hauntingly beautiful landscapes of Glencoe to the gripping political intrigue of the Jacobite movement, the author captures the essence of the time period, making it come alive in the reader's imagination. Moreover, the character-driven narrative ensures that readers become deeply invested in the fates of Caitriona, Edward, Alexander, and the other characters, forging a powerful connection with the story.
This is a brilliant historical novel that seamlessly weaves together elements of romance, suspense, and political machinations. Donna Scott's mastery lies in her ability to create multidimensional characters, each with their own motivations and flaws, making them realistic and relatable. Furthermore, the interplay of historical events and the personal struggles of the characters makes the story feel authentic and deeply resonant.
"The Tacksman's Daughter" is a must-read for historical fiction enthusiasts and those seeking a compelling tale of love, betrayal, and redemption. Scott’s masterful storytelling and attention to detail transport readers to a bygone era, where the characters' fates are shaped by the harsh realities of their time. I wholeheartedly give this novel 5 stars out of 5. This story is a shining example of historical fiction at its finest, where brilliantly crafted characters breathe life into captivating 17th-century Scotland. The vivid setting and complex relationships ensure an immersive and unforgettable reading experience.
“The Tacksman's Daughter” by Donna Scott receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
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