Just an aside to start. When I was in high school, I had a job at the public library. There I discovered lots of authors I may not have come across elsewhere, and one of them was a writer of books for teens and preteens who specialized in historical novels featuring likable, feisty heroines. I read every one the library had.
Years later, I would try to remember who this author was to see if I could find some of her books and discover whether I still liked them as much. But all I could remember was she had a relatively common name that started with W. I searched Amazon for children’s books with authors beginning with a W. There are a lot of them. Then one day just awhile ago, a word popped into my head, “Lark.” A Google query accomplished the rest. I found a wonderful page on a site specializing in children’s books called “Stump the Bookseller” where you could ask exactly that kind of question, and more than one person asking about the author of a historical novel with a character named Lark. The author was Sally Watson. A little more searching found she is back in print.
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Elizabeth Lennox has not been called by her nickname of Lark since her Uncle Jeremiah came and took her away from her family. He always thought she would make a good wife for her cousin Will-of-God if she was just raised correctly. Since he is one of Oliver Cromwell’s officers and Lark’s father was away fighting with the Royalists, he could do what he wanted. So, he took Lark away and she has been living miserably in a Puritan household ever since. She has no desire to marry Will-of-God, whom she dislikes. She deliberately tries to appear young so that her uncle won’t realize how close she is to being marriageable.
Lark has had nowhere else to go, since her family had to leave for the continent after their property was confiscated. But one day she receives word from her sister up in Scotland, so she decides to go there, not realizing how far away the Highlands are from southern England. She sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night and sets off.
James Trelawney is a young Royalist who disguises himself as a Roundhead to run errands and pass messages in the interests of Charles II. He comes along as Lark is being accosted by a Puritan man after singing a Cavalier song on the road. James takes her for a child, for she looks much younger than her thirteen years. After tossing the Puritan into the river, he reluctantly agrees to take her north, but only because she seems to be too young to leave on her own and she won’t tell him who she is. The two of them have adventures involving intrigue, capture, travels with gypsies, and other exciting incidents.
When I reread a children’s or young adult book, I try to evaluate how interesing it is for both the adult and the intended audience. I don’t think Lark has as much to offer an adult as some of the old classics I’ve reread recently, such as The Secret Garden or Anne of Green Gables. However, I did enjoy it as a bit of light reading. It is written for girls around ten to thirteen or fourteen years old. Although I loved it as a sixteen-year-old, older teens today may be a bit too sophisticated for it. I’m not sure. Still, it has plenty to recommend it, a good background in the history and a pleasant way of presenting it—through James’ confusion about his own loyalties—adventure, humor, and light romance. It is much more innocent than many of today’s books for teens, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.