William Douglas? James Douglas? Laurence MacKim? Who will provide the love for which Margaret Douglas craves? Crockett’s three very different men are psychologically convincing from the outset. Margaret, Crockett’s narrator, provides a mature woman’s irreverent view of love and life. She begins as a teenage princess who, much to her chagrin, is “dispatched like a bale of goods” to a French convent. She finishes title-less but as connubially content as her best friend, whose marital relationship Crockett uses to emphasise the inadequacies of Margaret’s first and second marriages.
“Maid Margaret” has those cinematic-like scenes typical of Crockett at his best: on a wild night in “the deep middle” of a Scottish winter, an unexpected rider appears at the walls of Thrieve Castle seeking vengeance; father and son fight each other to near-death, two-handed sword against Lochaber axe; an unchristened baby, the last in the line of Black Douglases, is baptised at night in Balmaghie kirkyard. Each fully engages the reader but it is Margaret’s personal drama that is most moving. Crockett’s novel of Galloway’s “fair maid” transcends time and place (mid-15th century Scotland). Historical romance is transmuted into a classic tale of what becomes a woman’s double search for identity and love that has contemporary resonance.
Review by Stewart Robertson
Note that Maid Margaret is the sequel to The Black Douglas.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Black Douglas. Maid Margaret is described as the sequel to The Black Douglas, but I enjoyed it even more. The first reason is because it is a much more personal account of the turbulent times of fifteenth century Scotland, times that were dominated by the internecine war between the Douglas and Stewart Houses. The second and more important reason is because it is narrated by the Maid of Galloway herself – or by Crockett impersonating her. And what an impersonation!
After only a few pages, you’ll forget that this is a man writing as a woman. Across the lifetime of the Maid, from petulant teens to creaky dotage, you’ll experience her joys and pains and anguish. You’ll rejoice with her at love found and you’ll grieve with her at love lost. And throughout the whole of the narrative, you’ll find that Crockett does not fail in his task of being the Maid – not once. I believe he has achieved something in this book that none of his contemporaries, not even the sainted RLS, could have accomplished. He is an astonishing writer. And Maid Margaret is an astonishing book.
Review by Brendan Gisby
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