As the descendant of Scottish kings, young Gruadh is a valuable prize, as a man who marries her can claim the throne of Scotland. Married, pregnant, and widowed within a matter of months, Gruadh after her husband’s death is immediately claimed in marriage by another man—the warrior Macbeth, killer of her first husband.
King paints a vivid picture of the often brutal world of 11th-century Scotland, where allegiances constantly shift and where peace is always elusive. Gruadh, who bears little resemblance to her Shakespearian counterpart, is a compelling heroine, fiercely protective of her lineage, proud of her Celtic heritage, and determined to fight for what she holds dear. Macbeth is not only a man of intense ambition, but a man of honor, a quality that Gruadh shares with him and that she gradually comes to recognize in her husband. Their evolving relationship, one between two strong-willed, intelligent people, is rendered skillfully. Gruadh tells her own story in a narrative voice that evokes the atmosphere of her time and place without feeling contrived or stilted.
As King points out in a detailed author’s note, little is known of the historical Lady Macbeth. Working with the information available, King has created a memorable portrait of a courageous woman.