Book Review: The King's Mercy by Lori Benton

the kings mercy lori benton book review

Synopsis:

For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king's mercy--exile to the Colony of North Carolina--he's indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey's slaves--and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant's heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father's overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys.

When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he's faced with the choice that's long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex's very life.

  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

  • Publisher: WaterBrook

  • Pages: 400

  • Published: 6/4/2019

  • Goodreads Rating: 4.59 Stars


Heidi’s Rating:

4.5 Stars

Suggested Drink Parings:

Tea: Scottish Breakfast Black Tea

Coffee: Scottish Coffee (whisky and coffee)


The greater the material comfort you accrue, the greater the burden of it will weigh.
— Mr. Carey

Why I Chose This Book

I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher. When I read the synopsis I knew I was going to enjoy this book! I love any story that involves Scotland. ^_^

First Initial Thoughts

Joanna is the step daughter of a plantation owner in North Carolina. She is expected to wed the overseer of Severn, the plantation, Phineas Reeves. He is well into his 50s and she does not want to marry him despite the need to marry him to save her families plantation. Soon as Alex moves into the plantation as the blacksmith, Joanna is intrigued by his character and personality. Joanna is definitely born out of the wrong century. She has visions to own a plantation without owning slaves. Which is absolutely unheard of at this time. She was definitely a modern thinker!

Alex is a young Scotsman that survived the battle of Culloden. Because he is marked as a traitor to the crown he is sentenced to 7 years as an indentured servant in North Carolina as a Blacksmith. I knew that after the Battle of Culloden the survivors were sent to the America’s to serve out their sentence. But I didn’t know what exactly they did. I liked Alex from the beginning. Although he was kind of a mystery in the beginning. He was quiet and reserved at first. But his character and personality won people over, especially a young girl named Jemma.

Speaking of Jemma. She is a 12 year old girl when Alex arrives and she is an African American and Native American mix. She wants to go home to her people, the Cherokee but is a slave to Severn. I absolutely adored her and she was such a sweet but stubborn child.

Setting

Lori really knows how to capture the essence of the south. The unbearable heat in the summer (I couldn’t imagine living without AC in the south!), the Appalachian mountains, and beautiful forests.

Ye’ve always had that about ye, a need for a purpose beyond yourself. ’Tis the Almighty knit ye so.
— Alex

Final Thoughts

Fans of Outlander will throughly enjoy reading this book before the next season starts. This book is also set in North Carolina (like the last season) and also involves a love between a Scotsman and English Woman. I could see similar story lines played out in The King’s Mercy but I think it was done in a unique way so it didn’t feel like Lori was copying Outlander in any way.

I also want to note that this book reads slow. That is why I gave it a 4.5 stars. I think Lori could have shortened it a little bit. It took me a little while to get into the book but once the storyline picked up I found that I couldn’t put it down!

I really liked Joanna and Alex together. They fit together so well. They had the same visions in life and wanted the same out of life. I also liked that their love was not something easily achievable. I liked that they both had to fight for each other and it wasn’t “easy”. Alex in the beginning lost faith in Christ because of his misfortunes in life. He thinks the LORD has abandoned in him. I think Joanna saved him in that sense. Showed him that Christ still loved him despite all that he has done in the past. I also think Alex inspired Joanna to lead her own life and not to succumb to what is expected of her.

I also want to note that this book didn’t really read like a Christian book. It had Christian elements in it but it wasn’t bluntly obvious. It also had some real life issues included in this book that many settlers faced such as disease, heartache, and violence. There were some dark themes in this book but I think Lori wanted to paint a realistic picture of North Carolina during the 18th century. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time I am sure. I liked that it didn’t read as a Christian book because I could see a wide variety of people liking this book for what it is.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. I think that because the way it was written, this book can be read by Christians and non Christians alike. However, I would advise that it does get graphic and violent at times. So be wary of that if you are sensitive to that type of material.

Q&A With Lori Benton

What do you enjoy about capturing early American history in your novels? Why did you decide to include Scottish characters in this particular story?

The forced exile and indenture of Scottish prisoners after the failed 1745 Jacobite Uprising lent itself to the needs of this story, but I’d include Scottish characters in all my stories if I could. I’m drawn to Scotland’s Highland and clan history, particularly during the 18th century decades of immigration across the Atlantic. 

The notion of migrating cultures fascinates me, particularly the push into what Europeans considered the Appalachian frontier, during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Of course it wasn’t truly a frontier. There were Native Nations living there as they had done for centuries. It’s the collision of these cultures—as the result of trade, friendship, war, settlement, or evangelism—that intrigues me, and that I keep returning to with new stories to tell. 

Clearly from The King’s Mercy’s main setting, the mountain frontier wasn’t the only place this collision was happening. Particularly in the southern colonies (later states) it took place in countless homes, back yards, and fields where people of African and Native heritage were denied their freedom and forced to labor under harsh and unrelentingly deprivation for the betterment of a few. What inspires me are the accounts of men and women on either side of that cultural divide who had the compassion and conviction to see the “other” as a human being created in the image of God, deserving of dignity (or forgiveness) and the freedom any man or woman inherently craves—and the courage to do something about it, however small.

The book spans several different settings, including a Scottish battlefield, an English prison ship, a North Carolina plantation and the high blue mountains of the unconquered Cherokee Nation. Which setting did you most enjoy writing about?

I’d have liked to linger in Scotland and enjoyed writing the battle scene set at Culloden Moor, mainly for the novelty of it, but I think I’ll always love writing the Appalachian mountain settings best. I’m drawn to mountains, their grandeur and mystery, how they can inspire and daunt in the same breath. They demand your full engagement when you’re among them. They are beautiful but not always safe. 

As you did the research for this book, what was one of the strangest historical facts you learned?

Without a doubt the lotting of prisoners taken at Culloden and transferred to various English prisons. I’ve of necessity simplified its depiction in the pages of The King’s Mercy. It was in fact a complicated, chaotic, and random process, depending on your bloodline and who happened to be in charge of you, and whether he had some personal vendetta to pursue. The common man fared the worst, but in general one in twenty were chosen at random (slips of paper drawn from a hat, in many cases) to stand trial. The rest applied for and received the king’s mercy—exile and transportation. 

What do you hope readers take away from The King’s Mercy?

Honestly, whatever the Lord wants to impart. One thing about celebrating the grace and redemptive power of Jesus Christ in the form of story that I’ve discovered over the course of five (now six) published novels is that while I’ve had my conversation with the Lord about these characters and themes, heard from Him and changed and grown in the writing, after the book is published it becomes the reader’s turn, and God will speak to each heart something unique. Whatever that is for each reader, my hope is that they’re drawn closer to the Lord through Joanna and Alex’s story, and that they turn that last page of The King’s Mercy more in love with our merciful Jesus than when they began. 

You can purchase the book —> HERE

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Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher to review. All opinions are my own.