The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange was a fascinating book to read, particularly since it is based on a true story. I’d never heard of Lady Grange before and quite honestly, if you didn’t know she was a real person, you’d never believe that this kind of thing could have happened! The truth is most definitely stranger than fiction.
Rachel, Lady Grange, had a very stormy marriage to James Erskine, Lord Grange. She was known for her volatile temper and was rather fond of a glass (or three!) of claret. They were married for 25 years and had several children but separated, which must have been rather unusual back in the 18th century. When she tried to expose him as a Jacobite sympathiser, he had her kidnapped rather violently and she spent the rest of her life exiled on various remote Scottish islands.
In Sue Lawrence’s imagined account of what might have happened, Rachel was a fascinating character to read about. She was feisty and opinionated woman and frequently disagreed very vocally with her husband. After her kidnap, her husband seriously underestimated his wife. She was determined to get back to her children, in particular her ‘angel’, her eldest daughter Mary who never believed her mother was dead as her father had told her. Despite not speaking Gaelic, which the vast majority of the islanders did, she somehow made connections and friends who were willing to try to help her.
The story is told from the points of view of several of the main players in the book and this kept it rattling along at a fair pace as the reader learns more about what happened to Lady Grange. it’s hard to believe that Lord Grange could have got away with what he did and managed to keep his wife captive all these years, yet somehow he managed it.
This book has so much happening in it. There’s kidnapping, mystery, intrigue, romance and even murder! It’s all very dramatic and a very enjoyable romp through an interesting period of Jacobean history. Is it what really happened to Lady Grange? Well I suppose we can’t know for sure but it was an entertaining tale of what might have been and gave a voice to someone who has, like many women, largely been forgotten or misrepresented in history.
My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part in the blogtour and to Saraband Books for my review copy. The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange will be published this Thursday (19th March). You can order a copy online here.
From the back of the book
Edinburgh, January 1732: It’s Lady Grange’s funeral. Her death is a shock: still young, she’d shown no signs of ill health. But Rachel is, in fact, alive. She’s been brutally kidnapped by the man who has falsified her death – her husband of 25 years, a pillar of society with whom she has raised a family. Her punishment, perhaps, for railing against his infidelity – or for uncovering evidence of his treasonable plottings against the government. Whether to conceal his Jacobite leanings, or simply to `replace’ a wife with a long-time mistress, Lord Grange banishes Rachel to the remote Hebridean Monach Isles, until she’s removed again to distant St Kilda, far into the Atlantic – to an isolated life of primitive conditions, with no shared language – somewhere she can never be found. This is the incredible and gripping story of a woman who has until now been remembered mostly by her husband’s unflattering account. Sue Lawrence reconstructs a remarkable tale of how the real Lady Grange may have coped with such a dramatic fate, with courage and grace.
About the author
As well as writing popular historical thrillers, including Down to the Sea, Sue Lawrence is a leading cookery writer. After winning BBC’s MasterChef in 1991, she became a regular contributor to the Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday and other leading magazines. Raised in Dundee, she now lives in Edinburgh. She has won two Guild of Food Writers Awards.