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December 9, 2018

The Jacobite's Wife by Morag Edwards ~ a Review

by MK French

Lady Winifred's childhood was marred by both of her parents imprisoned for treason for supporting the Catholic king of England, then their exile in France after they were released. When she was ultimately summoned to join them, her brother was imprisoned as well. She eventually meets a young Scottish man at court, and it's a love match as well as one of politics. The shine eventually wears off when finances are strained, and her husband supports the Jacobite movement, trying to put a Catholic king back on the throne of England. She isn't as staunch a supporter because of her prior losses, but she's torn between her duty to her husband and trying to keep him out of prison.

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The Jacobite's Wife
Sept 2018; Hookline Books; 978-0995623569
ebook, print (214 pages); historical
This is a historical fiction novel based on the real Lady Winifred. Little is known about her actual motivations for her actions, but this novel does a beautiful job rendering a plausible explanation. It's divided up into sections of Winifred's life, and there is significant loss and reliance on others to ensure her safety. Even places she would have thought were safe, such as joining her parents in exile in France, are fraught with dangers due to the risks of being labeled a spy.

While this is Morag Edwards' debut novel, I find it difficult to believe she hasn't written anything before. The characters really come to life in this book, and they are given a full emotional range and complexity that you don't get from a history book. It might be the "fiction" part of historical fiction, but it fits the era and gives us a good look at the day to day lives and concerns of nobility caught up in politics. For women especially, it was an emotionally and financially difficult time. Even so, Lady Winifred doesn't let that stop her from doing what she feels is right, even if it leads other women or even her family members from frowning upon her actions.

This novel really made me feel for Winifred, flaws and all. The issues she had in her marriage are very common even for modern day couples: she tries to save wherever possible as her husband spends money, the spontaneity that drives them back into each others' arms can annoy her, she forgets to take others' needs into account out of concern for her children, and she felt isolated while her husband was off at work and she was at home. She pushes against conventions of the time, but still operates within them, and does whatever she can for her family. Though the times are different and how she does that is fit for the late 1600s and early 1700s, the feelings she has are universal and I enjoyed going through the journey with her.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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