Book of the Week

Last quarter was pretty class-heavy, which means I’m responding this summer with a lot of reading. One of the first books on my list was MacGregor’s Bargain. Here is the blurb:

For half a century, the Jacobites have rebelled against Britain in an attempt to reclaim Scotland’s throne for the exiled House of Stuart. Now, tensions are building and the Battle of Culloden looms in the future, with the fate of Great Britain at stake. It is the summer of 1744 and Scotland is about to change forever. Set amidst the mysterious, sweeping mountainsides of the Scottish Highlands and in the seductive city of Paris, MacGregor’s Bargain is a gripping story of love, loyalty and betrayal, hope and devastation, and accounts of human strength and vulnerability buried between the pages of history.

In light of the ongoing Jacobite rebellion, Niall MacGregor, a wealthy soldier of fortune, member of an outlawed clan, sees hope for a free Scotland, and a chance, by marrying Anne Drummond, disgraced heiress to a castle on Loch Laggan, to own land and start a dynasty. Anne, whose behavior has made her an unsuitable bride for any man in her own class, accepts the marriage as a way to protect her people. But she sees horrifying visions of bloodshed and destruction. Niall is determined to fight for Scottish independence, and Anne is cursed with the power to know the outcome. Torn between her loyalty to her husband and her loyalty to the clan she is destined to protect, Anne must make a choice, harder after the birth of a daughter. A close friend is thought to be an English spy, causing a rift between Anne and Niall. Anne grows to know her husband, and develop love for him. He still seems to see their marriage as a mere bargain, making their destinies unclear as ominous signs of Scotland’s fate develop.

Written by Rowena Williamson, an exciting new award winning author, MacGregor’s Bargain is based on years of extensive research. The story is one steeped in romance and rebellion, and the characters of Niall and Anne will not be soon forgotten. But what does destiny have in store for them? Can the Jacobites disprove Anne’s visions and finally defeat the British? And can Anne and Niall find love before it’s too late?

I put this book on my list because I know the author. Rowena, a good friend of Andrea Hurst’s, welcomed me with wide open arms when I was on Whidbey Island. She gave me countless rides, squirrelled me away to bookstores, made sure I was well fed, and introduced me to Janet Evanovich and Jane Smiley. I heard a lot about Scotland, about Scottish deerhounds (which play a prominent role in both her life and her books), and this title, but I never got to actually see her writing. When MacGregor’s Bargain finally came out this spring, then, I was super excited to actually read it.

There is always the fear that just because you like a person you’re not going to like their writing, but that is so very much not the case here. MacGregor’s Bargain is rich with history, with romance, and with intrigue. Its characters are complex, relatable, and very fun to read. The book has made me want to read even more about Scotland—about what happened before and after the revolution described in this plot—and it turns out there is almost a whole subgenre of romance devoted to Scottish historicals.

MacGregor’s Bargain is a great book written by a great person.  If you like strong, cunning female characters, dastardly male leads, and a well-researched narrative that provokes a thoughtful conversation about independence, bloodlines, loyalty, and the necessity of war, then this is a book for you.

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