Saturday, February 12, 2022

Dorothy Dunnett’s CHECKMATE – A Scottish Hero Like None Other and the Woman who Loves Him, a Keeper in a great series!


Set in 1557, this is book 6 in a most exceptional series. Our hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond, is now back in France, thanks to the actions of his friends and his unwanted wife, Phillipa Somerville. To get the annulment he seeks for his marriage that will free both him and Philippa to marry others, Lymond agrees to serve France for one year, leading an army against England and Spain.


Lymond succeeds brilliantly on the battlefield, and his wit, wisdom and charm win over the French court, but his mysterious past becomes an issue. Powers in Scotland want to use it to destroy him and Lymond wants to protect the story he discovers before others that will shame the family that raised him. Philippa makes this her quest. If she cannot have him, at least she can protect him.


Brilliantly told, you won’t even mind the long passages and poems in French that are not translated. I just let the story drag me on. There were nights I had to keep reading after my bedtime just because I could not bear to leave it. There were mornings I rose from my bed with the story fresh in my mind. The dialog is amazing, the characters beguiling and the twists and turns something to behold.


More than the others in the series, this one is the love story between Francis and Philippa, which I relished. Philippa is Lymond’s soulmate, the only woman who is his true equal (or at least close to it) and every man who meets her wants her. Lymond holds her away feeling unworthy of her for he has lived a jaded life.


As the end nears, courage triumphs, and love sacrifices. If you, like me, want a happy ending, you will get it so hang in there. This series of six novels is a triumph of adventure, history, great characters in a time of war and love that conquers all. The royal courts are well pictured and history of four countries in the 16th century laid bare. In the midst of it all, one man rises a hero inspiring all around him, even his enemies. Only Philippa, who loves him with her heart and soul, was his worthy match.


I recommend reading the first five books before this one. They are all connected and you can’t really understand this last one without the others.


“There is nothing of me that does not belong to you.”

~ Philippa to Francis


“My son took many years to learn the simple truth. You cannot love any one person adequately until you have made friends with the rest of the human race also. Adult love demands qualities which cannot be learned living in a vacuum of resentment.”


Sybilla, Dowager Countess of Culter,

Francis Crawford of Lymond’s mother



The Lymond Chronicles:


The Game of Kings

Queens’ Play

The Disorderly Knights

Pawn in Frankincense

The Ringed Castle


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