In the historical fiction novel Trust and Treason, author JR Tomlin treats us to the second installment of the the Douglas Bastard series.
Summary of Trust and Reason
The novel is set in medieval Scotland. At the battle at Neville’s Cross the Scots are forced to fight on ground that is riddled with ditches and walls. Their tactical mistake limits their movements and turns into a disaster. During the rout, many Scottish commanders and troops were killed, and many flee. The English capture others, including the king of the Scotts David II and Sir William Douglas, the heroic Knight of Liddesdale. Sir Archibald “The Grim” Douglas survives the battle and returns home, riddled with guilt, to find Scotland under the thumb of the English troops.
On Archie’s return, the Lady Douglas orders him to leave her castle for failing in his duty to protect Sir William.
“Her disdain stung more than a slap could. I covered my mouth with my hand, pain tightening the back of my throat. She had always been kind to me. The worst was that she was not wrong. I had a duty to Sir William and to the King. Both duties I had failed.”Historical Fiction Novel Trust and Treason, by JR Tomlin
To atone, Sir Archibald organizes a small band to attack the English and continue to fight for his King and for Scotland. His tactics are successful on a small scale until the discovery of power struggle between branches of his family and the breakout of the black plague in Scotland, which throw his efforts into disarray.
Some ten years later, as the plague subsides, the English propose to ransom the King of Scots free if Edward III’s son is named in the succession for the Scottish throne. The ransom message was carried to the Scots by the paroled King David II himself.
Shocked by what he is hearing, Archibald, who is now in the service of Lord Douglas, soon faces an even greater test of his personal loyalty.
Thoughts about Trust and Treason
The book is gritty, vivid, and rich in historical detail—easily transporting me into medieval Scotland. Although at first it was a little hard to get used to, the archaic Scottish added to the emersion experience. I also liked Ms. Tomlin’s interpretation of a portion of Sir Archibald’s story which does not appear the history books.
I enjoyed experiencing Archie’s trials. JR Tomlin’s Trust and Treason is a fantastic piece of historical fiction, a meticulously painted portrait of a principled and idealistic patriot. There is no surrender for Sir Archibald, and by the end of the story, he is forced to choose between two painful options. The only thing that I wish would be a little different is to have a little more time between Archie’s decision and the final confrontation scene. I think exploring Archie’s likely conflicted feelings would have been prime internal conflict to see on the page.