Goodreads: The Freemason’s Daughter
Source: City Book Review
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Jenna MacDuff and her family have always been willing to die for their king—the exiled James Stuart whom they hope one day to put back on the English throne. Yet Jenna never imagined she would need to make the sacrifice of leaving her home in Scotland. When Jenna’s clan goes undercover in England to build a garrison on the Duke of Keswick’s estate, she is shocked to discover her family’s treason goes beyond sending money to fund James’s ascension claims. Suddenly she finds herself torn between supporting her clan’s role in the Jacobian rebellion and protecting her unexpected new friends, including the Duke’s charming son, Lord Pembroke.
The Freemason’s Daughter has an excellent premise: early eighteenth century Scottish political intrigue. Count me in for all kinds of adventure and romance, headed by a spunky fiery-haired protagonist! Unfortunately, I felt the book’s execution was overall simply okay, and if I had to pick one word to describe the novel, it would be “light.”
I know some things, but not a lot of things, about this period in British history, and I didn’t feel that the book really clued me in. Sackier fills in the basic outline of the situation for readers. There’s a king on the throne who isn’t really English and doesn’t even speak English, and some people want to get rid of him and put James Stuart on the throne instead, despite the fact he’s Catholic. Jenna’s family is involved in this underground rebellion. That’s…basically it. I didn’t get a strong feel of the political situation or even the setting. This could have been taking in some generic pseudo-medieval fantasy land for all I knew (despite the fact the 1770s are not even medieval). I do appreciate historical fiction authors who avoid history info dumps, but The Freemason’s Daughter might actually have benefited from one.
The characterization is similarly lackluster. Jenna’s spirited and determined and smart. She is not a “typical” female of her time. She’s pretty modern in terms of education and opinions, which I understand many readers demand in order to “relate” to historical fiction. However, she often felt like a template than a character to me. Her romance with Lord Pembroke is unconvincing and needs more page time. Lord Pembroke himself is nice, but he seems to shine mostly by comparison. A lot of the nobles in this novel are spoiled jerks, so being just generally civil puts any other character a step ahead.
Plot-wise, I was interested but often confused. Part of this is because readers follow Jenna’s point of view, and often Jenna herself has no idea what’s happening. Furthermore, the pacing is decent until the end, where everything is rushed and several things not tied up. I liked the concept of the novel, but so often I just wanted more. I was hoping I could recommend this to a lot of friends whom I thought love it based on the summary, but now I’m really on the fence.