Day 817: The Hornet’s Nest

Cover for The Hornet's NestIt is 30 years after the Battle of Culloden, but Highland Scots are still forbidden by their English overlords to wear the plaid, play bagpipes, or honor their heritage in other ways. Rebellious Lauchlin MacLeod and her brother Ronald, teenage children of Laird Kildornie, are always finding themselves in trouble.

So it is on the day they meet their cousin Matthew Lennox, a gentleman from Virginia journeying to visit his English and Scottish relatives. Lauchlin is marveling that this Sassenach is related to her family and doesn’t realize he has been escorted there by a troop of redcoats. She just barely avoids being caught wearing a kilt while her brother hides in the bushes with his bagpipe.

In town showing Cousin Matthew the sights, Ronald and Lauchlin attack some boys who are torturing a kitten. Later Sergeant Tucker arrives at their home to tell them that the boys are the children of Captain Green, the new area commander. The boys have lied about the cause of the attack, and Captain Green isn’t as likely as the previous commander to overlook their behavior. The next incident could be serious.

Cousin Matthew has a solution. Lauchlin and Ronald can travel to Virginia and live with his sister Lavinia until things calm down. Secretly, he enlists them to send news and drawings, for Lauchlin is a gifted caricaturist, about doings in the colonies for a paper he is founding in London called The Gadfly.

So, Lauchlin and Ronald set out for the colonies accompanied by their kitten Haggis. They arrive in Williamsburg in 1773, just in time to witness the lead-up to the American Revolution. It’s not too difficult to imagine where their sympathies lie.

This novel effortlessly mixes the viewpoints from both sides of the revolution, for their Lennox relatives are Loyalists, and some are charming characters. Lauchlin is an ebullient scamp, Ronald a boy who must learn that all Sassenachs are not the same. Their many Virginian cousins dislike them at first but then most of them learn to love them. And Haggis has his own distinctive personality.

This novel is one of my favorites so far of the Watson books I’ve newly discovered, because it is less unlikely than some of them and has really enjoyable characters. Plus, it provides an unusual viewpoint of the American Revolution. Young teens and tweens should love this book.

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