The Pretender’s Lady

Written by Alan Gold
Review by Amy Watkin

This book spans the second half of the 18th century, beginning in the 1740s, just as Bonnie Prince Charlie arrives in Scotland for the first time, ready to reclaim what he feels is his rightful throne. Gold gives us several points of view, including those of Bonnie Prince Charlie, King George II, the Duke of Cumberland (the king’s second son), and Flora Macdonald, a staunch supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie even though her beloved stepfather supports King George II.

There are additional points of view as the book goes on, which are interesting in their own right; but since it’s Flora’s story that we are really engaged in, the other perspectives begin to take away from her tale rather than adding to it, and I began to wish for more from just her point of view.

I was not able to become absorbed in the story as I might have wished, partly because the historical detail sometimes felt like an interruption, and partly because some sentences were difficult to decipher, given their unnecessarily complicated syntax.

Overall, though, the book offers a rich, fascinating story, full of historical figures and their intersecting lives. We meet the politicians Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry; writers Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Samuel Richardson; philosopher David Hume; and economist Adam Smith. As I mentioned, though, it is Flora’s tale that is most compelling as we follow her through her encounters with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and her life as it continues both alongside and beyond him.