Queens Never Make Bargains

Written by Nancy Means Wright
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Jessie Menzies isn’t quite eighteen when she finishes her schooling in Leven, Scotland. The Great War has not yet begun, so Jessie’s main concern is how to choose between the village’s lads. Then a letter comes from Cherry Valley, Vermont, where Jessie’s aunt Grace has just died, leaving behind two young children. Jessie’s mother, Flora, packs her off to the blue collar town as a nanny, telling the reluctant girl, “It’s just for a year.”

Thus begins Queens Never Make Bargains. Wright, an award-winning author, presents her readers with a Thurberesque cast of characters anchored by a trio of resolute Scottish-American women: Flora, who comes to America to care for her daughter after Jessie’s immigrant lover dies in WWI; Jessie, who marries her aunt’s pious husband, but never manages to tame her rebellious stepdaughter; and Victoria, actress and Spitfire pilot, who refuses to bow to convention. Sometimes they must compromise, but these three women remain ferociously true to their hearts.

Though it spans two world wars, the Great Depression and the 1918 influenza epidemic, Queens is strongly character-driven rather than plot-driven. Wright’s story is entertaining, poignant, and recommended, especially to readers who enjoy multigenerational tales.