After a major disappointment in love, aspiring author Mary Wollstonecraft must support herself and takes a position as governess to a wealthy family in Ireland in 1786. With one of her feisty young charges, Mary attends a pagan bonfire and witnesses the stabbing of a nobleman from the house where she’s employed. A poor crofter, Liam, who hated the nobleman for seducing his niece, is the prime suspect. Liam is also a member of the group known as the Defenders, who resent and fight against England’s suppression of Ireland. Mary is instantly smitten when she meets Liam—and, always a champion of the oppressed—sets out to uncover the murderer to save the young man’s life.
Mary Wollstonecraft is an engaging character, and her tenure as governess to this family is true. Her first book on educating young women was published while she worked in Ireland, and she vowed to never toil as a governess again. The story sometimes borders on farce, and Mary seems to have an overabundance of free time to wander the countryside. But this early glimpse into the life of the author who was an advocate for women’s rights, a touchstone for many in the ongoing struggle for equality, is a worthy read.