Turn of the Tide is a historical novel set in the 16th century that centers around a long-running feud between two Scottish families, the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries. The feud and some of the events are factual, although the main character and his family are not.
The novel begins when the Cunninghames summon Munro. Not a Cunninghame himself, he is a minor laird who owes them allegiance. But he is not happy when he finds the plan is to massacre a bunch of Montgomeries on their way to meet with the king.
Although Munro’s wife Kate is angry when she finds he took part, she is even more angry when she finds out later that he has befriended some of the Montgomeries. This apparent change of loyalties could cause even more problems for their small family. King James has forced the two families to make peace, but it is an awkward one, with both families jockeying for position in court.
Munro is most wary of his uneasy relationship with William Cunninghame, the Earl of Glencairn’s heir and a brute. As Munro becomes closer to the Montgomeries and William’s eye alights on Sybilla Boyd, the fiancée of Munro’s brother Archie, the relationship between Munro and William becomes dangerous.
This novel never quite gets off the ground for me. Although I don’t demand action from every book, this one has very little going on for much of the time. Skea does so little to differentiate some of the characters that I kept getting confused about who they were. The novel begins with the massacre and ends with some action that is not really satisfactory. In between it concerns itself with grown men literally jostling for position with King James, the form of which seems silly, although probably exactly what went on.
The novel is also about Munro’s family life, mildly interesting but not compelling. It is nicely written with some Scots dialect. It just isn’t very tightly plotted.