Following the death of her father, Elizabeth has continued running the family estate until her brother Richard returns from the army to claim his birthright. His plan to buy a commission from his inheritance isn’t possible since the lion’s share of bequeathed funds is earmarked for Beth’s dowry. Being the cruel and selfish man he is, Richard forces Beth into a Devil’s bargain of reconciling with her titled relatives to come out in high society so she can marry well, let Richard buy his commission and finally be rid of him.
With her natural beauty and keen intellect Beth is inundated with suitors but she longs for love and passion in lieu of the superficial glitter and lack of substance that fuels the circles of high society. Sir Anthony Peters is witty but Beth finds his effeminate manner and flamboyant attire off-putting. Yet he smoothes the way for her entrance into society. But she is annoyed by the constant gossip and empty chatter and Beth fears losing herself in the mind-numbing senseless environment. Soon she begins to wonder if everyone is wearing some kind of mask and if there is anyone she can really trust?
“Mask of Duplicity” is the first book in The Jacobite Chronicles that takes us into the life of Beth Cunningham and her family and friends in that period approaching the Jacobite Rebellion of ’45. Scores of fiction and non-fiction have been published about this period, rife with conflict from every direction. As a lover of historical fiction, I’ve read many in this sub-genre and I’ll put author Julia Brannan up there with the best of them. In my opinion, Beth Cunningham is a feminine version of Diana Gabaldon’s Jamie Fraser in “Outlander” and I mean that as a compliment. Two nights in succession I read past 3:00 a.m. because I kept telling myself I’d put it down as soon as I finished the current chapter. Didn’t happen. I’m hooked. On to Book Two, “The Mask Revealed”. Five stars.
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