Wednesday, May 15, 2013
New Review: Francis Housden’s THE CHIEFTAIN’S CURSE – Unusual but Absorbing Tale from the 11th century Scottish Highlands
It took me a while to get used to the author’s writing style and the amount of introspection in between lines of dialog, but once I did, I found this tale from the Highlands held my interest. Housden has captured the feel of a medieval keep and has given us some wonderful characters.
Set in 1081 in Northeast Scotland, it tells of Euan, Laird of the McArthurs, and lord of Cragenlaw Castle, who desperately wants an heir but a witch’s curse has left him with three dead wives who lost their lives and his sons in childbirth. Morag Farquhar, only daughter of Baron Wolfsdale of Northumbria helped the young Scot 12 years earlier when she was 14 and he was severely wounded on the battlefield. When he was healed, she gave him her innocence only to have him leave her without a word. Now she is fleeing her brother who has succeeded her father as Baron Wolfsdale, and hoping to find a haven with her former lover.
Morag arrives at Euan’s castle on a stormy night with an 11-year-old boy in tow who she says is her brother. Euan doesn’t recognize Morag, but sees her as just the woman he needs when she tells him she is barren for he can take her as his leman without worrying about getting her with child (and causing her death). Having few options, and still caring for the man who left her all those years ago, Morag does not object. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that Rob is Euan’s child--and therefore his only heir--though Morag doesn’t reveal this to Euan. Morag, who is not a Scot, seems to blend in well with Euan’s clan, albeit the women keep their distance from her.
Housden has developed the characters well and weaves an absorbing story of envy, treachery, lies and second chances. The lives of the main characters and families are all intertwined which leads to some fascinating twists and turns. I recommend it.