Book Reviews

Queen Mary’s Daughter

Review by Ruth Latta

Queen Mary’s Daughter

by Emily-Jane Hills Orford 

Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s new novel, “Queen Mary’s Daughter” is a highly original, fast-paced, skillfully written alternate history set in the sixteenth, seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. The central character, a young Canadian editor named Mary Elizabeth, journeys to Kinross, home of Loch Leven Castle, to trace her roots. Raised by her grandmother after her parents’ accidental death, she has grown up on stories about Scotland, and is fulfilling her grandma’s last wish in making this journey.   

The first hint of time travel in “Queen Mary’s Daughter” occurs when Mary Elizabeth feels strangely drawn toward the loch. Just as someone is pulling her back to dry land, she hears, from far away and from within herself, a scream. Then she blacks out.

A scream occurs in the next chapter, which flashes back to Loch Leven Castle in 1567 where a woman has just given birth to twins. When one is stillborn and the other taken away, the mother calls out in anguish to “all her Marys.”  This scene, crucial to the set-up of the plot, provides a clue as to the mother’s identity. History buffs know that Mary Queen of Scots surrounded herself with ladies-in-waiting named “Mary.”

Orford, who has mastered this period of history, inserts historical information a little at a time, as needed, avoiding information dumps, yet quietly educating readers while entertaining them.

Authentic historical detail adds interest, such as the typical women’s garb of the sixteenth century which Mary Elizabeth must put on to blend in. The old woman entrusted with the baby tells Mary Elizabeth that she must “play her part” and then “find her way back.”

In her acknowledgements, Emily-Jane Orford mentions travelling in Scotland some years ago with her own beloved grandmother, an experience that inspired her to write this intriguing tale in which a grandmother plays a key role. A page-turner with a satisfying ending, “Queen Mary’s Daughter” will appeal to aficionados of Scottish history, alternate history and time travel, as well as to reader new to these genres. 

A retired elementary school teacher, Ruth Latta has a passion for history. As a history researcher/project manager, she indexed 19th century Kingston newspapers. Over the past thirty years, her short fiction, poems, reviews and articles have been published in a variety of literary and general interest publications. Her twelve books, (two on historical subjects, one biography, one on the craft of writing, three short story collections and five novels) have been published by Ottawa-area small presses. Her most recent book, “Votes, Love and War” (Baico: 2019) chronicles the Manitoba suffrage movement and the women on the front during the First World War.

#amwriting #justwrite #creativewriting #timetravel #Scotland

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