Earlier this year, I read and loved Turn of the Tide by Margaret Skea; the first part of her sweeping 16th century tale. I found I couldn’t wait too long to find out what happened next in, the second part, A House Divided.
In the first book, the Earl of Glencairn and the Cunninghames set a deadly ambush for their long-time rivals, the Montgomeries, which led to a string of bloody reprisals across the land. Finally, the young James VI stepped in to stop the chaos; forcing the leaders of the clans to sign a peace treaty. In this second book the peace is just about holding but tensions are running high, both sides are barely holding it in and the success of Hugh Montgomerie at court only antagonises the vicious Cunninghame heir, William, further. William can’t touch Hugh or his family without risking the wrath of his father and the king, so he goes after the next best; Munro and his family.
Again I loved immersing myself in this bloody, family drama during the reign of the young James VI in Scotland; a period of history I have previously not read about before. In fact, it is well documented that the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries did have a long-standing rivalry, with attacks and deaths on both sides. For the purposes of this story though, the author has chosen to portray the Earl of Glencairn as the antagonist (although he has cooled off in this second book) and his heir, William, as the villain; and what a villain he makes! While Hugh Montgomerie, his family and friends get to play the more sympathetic roles.
In addition, in this second book the author has incorporated other elements from history into the story, including the role of women in society. Most women were expected to marry, be subservient to their husbands and have children, perhaps join a convent, but they were not expected to be educated or have an opinion. Interestingly, there are examples of good and bad marriages in this story. Sadly, there was also wide-spread witch hunts and burnings in this time period, which was allowed by James VI unlike Elizabeth I in England.
The author cleverly steps out from the real history to narrate the story to us through the fictional Munro and his family. Munro is an honest and hardworking man who was dragged into this terrible feud due to his forefathers long-standing allegiance to the Cunninghames. However sickened by the blood shed and the behaviour of William, Munro turns his back on his old, family ties. This has led to his family been torn apart, living in hiding and fearing the repercussions of breaking his oath. They live safely for several years but the rumours of their deaths doesn’t ring true with William and he continues to seek them for revenge.
In conclusion, I found A House Divided to be another gripping and fascinating 16th century tale of family, rivalry and death, which is evoked beautifully by the author. I would love to read more by Margaret Skea. Great read.
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Any recommendations for other 16th century fiction?
10 Books of Summer – 7/10