A Cruel Courtship is the last book in the Margaret Kerr series. Set in Scotland in 1297, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge, this book ties up several of the loose threads that have been left hanging over Margaret’s head. It also allows Robb to ‘retire’ Margaret from her role, gently writing her out.
The bright side is that the spying and the wheels within wheels of military and personal politics run as gloriously as ever. The afterword leaves no doubt as to the importance and effects of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. There is also a wonderful bibliography that shows Robb’s continually high standards of research.
Unlike the previous two Kerr books, Margaret is no longer the same strong character that I had grown to love. Instead she has started to get the gift of Second Sight, allowing her to see fragments of the future or what may be. Drained by these visions, Margaret is mentally fragile and haunted by the knowledge that her husband may die. She regains some of her strength of character towards the end, but the story seems to flow around her.
Instead, other characters’ lives seem to have more political intrigue in them. It was a delight that characters, such as Hal, were written back into the story. We also find out whether Margaret’s brother, Andrew will survive his punishment as confessor in an English military camp (he knows to much to be allowed to live, doesn’t he?).
For the most part, the strong, perspicacious woman we have grown to know and rely on is just not there. Although writing in the Second Sight was evidently exciting for Robb, it left a slightly fantastical and disappointing taste in the mouth for a mystery lover’s obsession with the explainable.