Five Star, Jan 2008, $25.95
Following the death of her husband Kenneth, widow Kenna realizing her outspoken daughter will never find a wealthy mate dumps Tessa on her late husband’s brother Thane Macbeth MacGindlaech so that there is one less mouth the feed. In Inverness Castle in Moray, Tessa struggles to keep quiet so as to not alienate Macbeth’s difficult wife Lady Gruoch.
A fourth son Englishman Lord Jeffrey Brixton arrives with a bull that Macbeth bought from the Brixton estate. Whereas everyone believes Jeffrey is a non threatening guest, Tessa thinks otherwise. When she overhears Jeffrey plot with her maternal Uncle Biote Cawder to over throw the aging King Duncan, she plans to tell her paternal Uncle Macbeth. Instead Jeffrey catches her and takes her to England where she meets his kindhearted but dying sister-in-law Eleanor, who takes her and some cousins to London for a season. As Macbeth rises to the Scottish throne, Tessa is married to someone who rejects her. When she learns Jeffrey died in Scotland she races home to learn the truth as she knows he is the one she loves.
Peg Herring shows plenty of chutzpah and insanity to tell the tale of MACBETH’S NIECE as she describes the ambitious Lady and the torn Lord with obvious comparisons to the Bard; she does so in homage as only a high school English teacher could. However, the author wisely moves her heroine out of Scotland rather quickly so that she distances her tale from the original. Tessa is a fascinating courageous heroine while Jeffrey is more enigmatic. However, it is the support cast who steals the show whether they come from Shakespeare or Herring as they add depth to a fine medieval romance filled with “Double, Double, toil and trouble” and love.