By Madison Hart
“The road before and behind you matters little if you can push to follow the path that calls from within.”
This quote stayed with me throughout the entire book The Freemason’s Daughter by Shelley Sackier, and continues to bounce around in my brain even after completing it. What a great reminder that dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future, doesn’t matter when I follow the purpose of my life. In fact, dwelling on these things will only hinder my progress.
Throughout the entirety of the book, Sackier dropped multiple little nuggets of wisdom such as this in the most opportune of places. What I loved, was that she wasn’t preaching them, but truly applied them and portrayed them in love through her characters.
Sackier’s characters are another thing I truly admired about The Freemason’s Daughter. The main character, Jenna, would appear at first impression to be a stereotypical stubborn, fiery, Scottish woman. At first, I was a little worried she would be plain. I was completely wrong! Jenna made me laugh and cry and grip each side of the book until my knuckles were white! There was never a dull moment with her and her reactions always surprised me.
As for the eight Scottish men she lives with, one being her father and the rest her adopted family, well, I wish I was Jenna. They so obviously loved her and cared for her that I continuously choked back tears. Maybe I’m a little sensitive…or maybe, Shelley Sackier did a fantastic job with her character development. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter!
“The fates of many were often altered by the voice of just one.”
I’ve heard that every story that could be told, has been told. To a degree, this is true. Boy meets girl stories I believe are particularly prone to this creative repetition. You know how you start to read a book, and within the first few chapters, you know the gist of the remaining pages? I don’t know about any of you, but that drives me nuts and makes me want to slam the book on the table, grunt in frustration and go back to re-reading my favorite book I’ve read ten times. At the beginning of this book, I thought I had it all figured out, but oh no!
Sackier did a remarkable job of taking a semi-common plot line of girl-meets-boy and twisting in into something brand new and exciting! Jenna finds herself with butterflies in her stomach over a duke’s son, increasing the difficulty of keeping her family’s secret. By incorporating political strife with the characters’ stories, she always left me wanting to read more. Yes, folks, I had the common sleep deprivation disorder while reading this, and you will too, but trust me, it’s totally worth it!
If you love historical fiction as much as I do, this is one to put on your list. The amount of research the author conducted is expertly reflected in the realism of life on an English estate in 1714. The political strife involving the Jacobites who wished to place a Stuart back on the throne is a driving force behind the plot, considering that Jenna and her “clan” belong to this group. Sackier portrayed the struggle of keeping their Jacobite identity a secret in the most seat-gripping way that I fell into her words.
That’s another thing: the way Shelley Sackier uses her words is so subtle and graceful that she once again made me feel like I was walking right next to Jenna through the rotting leaves and the whipping snow. I didn’t feel like I had to try to imagine what things looked like or felt like, I just did. I could feel what she felt and see what she saw. It was thrilling to spend a week near the Scottish/English border with such a daring heroine.
There were several times my little sister asked why I was covering my mouth (trying to stifle a burst of laughter), or why I was fanning the tears away from my eyes. Why? Because The Freemason’s Daughter is a book I think any historical fiction junky should read. Because the clean, yet honest dialogue pulled at me and made me really think about how far I would go for something I believe in. Because slicing words and a daring heroine is just too good a combination to pass up. Not to give anything away, but the end of the book left me contentedly unsatisfied. The characters, the story and the author left me wanting more. So, if Shelley Sackier decides to write a second one, I will happily be the first in line to buy it, with an “I love Jenna McDuff” shirt worn tall and proud. Even if that requires getting up at three a.m!