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A Highlander and his Books
A Question of Guilt

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA, Email:

A Novel of Mary, Queen of Scots, And the Death of Henry Darnley

By Julianne Lee

A Question of Guilt

Author Julianne Lee is a writer worthy of your time and the cost of her book. I must say that she is a wonderful writer and is as gifted as other Queen Mary writers such as Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser. I have probably read half-a-dozen books on Mary, Queen of Scots and, while this is a novel, it must be considered historical in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott, the father of the historical novel. This full-time author has written a number of historical novels, and I look forward to reading more of her works. She is not afraid to engage the reading public in dialogue as witnessed on some websites, and I must confess I like her style and her brass.

A Question of Guilt is about Mary, Queen of Scots, one of my favorite Scottish people, and the death of her husband, Henry Darnley. No matter how much I have read relating to this famous figure, I am always drawn back when another book hits the book stores. Ms. Lee’s book centers around a fascinating “Scottish-born Lady Janet de Ros, wife of a wealthy English merchant”. The continued interest of Lady Janet in the death of Darnley (Did he die at the hands of Mary or her friends?) eventually earns her some threats and warnings from those in power and from twenty years earlier. She is the recipient of a smack in the face by her husband, but she is my kind of woman…her own! She knows how to even the score. Feminists may have a hard time with this situation, but it occurs during the time when husbands ruled the family, sometimes with an iron fist. To me, Janet’s silence after the incident is a winner that over the years a lot of men have experienced and wished they had not ventured down the muscular path.

As for Mary, Queen of Scots, I find her to be a complex but compelling person in search of her identity, her crown, her country and her love. She gave her heart to this quest and, as a consequence, gave her head as well. I don’t know if the truth regarding Darnley’s murder will ever be known. Was it Mary, the Earl of Bothwell, or someone else? I think “who dunnit?” will always be the question. The intrigue of Mary’s life story tugs at your heart. I was talking earlier today with Ross Roy, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the works and life of Robert Burns and founder of the journal, Studies in Scottish Literature.  I asked him if she would be on the list of the top ten people in the history of Scotland. His immediate reply was, “I certainly hope so”.  Mary has that sort of impact. I have a friend in Orkney who swears that if he had lived back then, he certainly would have tried to woo her as his lover.

If you like Scottish history and enjoying reading about Mary, Queen of Scots, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book. Treat yourself to a treat! I found mine at Costco where it sold for less than the price of one of those “tall” paperbacks that now hit the stands everyday. It is published by The Penguin Group, ISBN 978-0-425-22351-2 (FRS: 9.30.09)

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