Tessa, Macbeth’s niece of the title, is on her way to join her uncle’s household when she is waylaid by the three weird sisters, who give her several mysterious messages: she is heading for England; she will find happiness only among the dead; she will marry two men who will never be her lovers; and her true lover will forget her name.
At Macbeth’s home, she unwittingly overhears a plot against the Scottish throne, and is kidnapped and taken across the border by the English spy, Jeremy Brixton. Her feelings for Jeremy are torn, although she finds friendship and a home with his sister-in-law, Eleanor. When Eleanor dies, and Jeremy is also apparently lost at sea, Tessa marries for her safety but discovers her husband is not what she thought. She escapes to Scotland where her uncle is now king, but a tortured man. Husbands, would-be kings, spies, traitors, and women finding their way in a life (mis)managed by these men color an adventure in which Tessa learns the true import of the witches’ prophecies.
As a student and teacher of Shakespeare, I admit that I took this title prepared to experience a little righteous indignation. However, I found an entertaining yarn worthy of a place by a Celtic fireside (though I am still not sure whether to laugh or cringe at the allusions to the Scottish play). Ms. Herring is, after all, correct when she points out that Shakespeare took as many liberties with the scant facts about this 11th century king as she does. This is a romance in the literary definition of the word: love, adventure, extraordinary characters, and a touch of the supernatural, and, with the romantic action (refreshingly) going no further than a kiss, you can happily pass this on to your own niece, too.