Secrets and lies have a tendency to destroy long-held perceptions and to change the lives of all involved in unexpected ways, especially when family is involved. Deborah Swift’s A Divided Inheritance is a stunning illustration of the power of secrets – and of family.
A Divided Inheritance begins simply enough, in 1609 London. Aspiring fencer and petty thief Zachary Deane follows his mother’s dying wish and makes contact with lace merchant Nathaniel Leviston, his would-be father. Though Nathaniel dotes on Zachary and dreams the he will join the family business, his daughter Elspet suspects her “cousin’s” motives. She envies Zachary’s hold on her father, one so strong that Nathaniel finances a European tour for Zachary to learn the lace trade.
Zachary has other ideas for his grand tour, and makes his way to Spain in search of a grand fencing master to teach him. When Nathaniel dies unexpectedly, Elspet learns that he has left half of the lace business, and her home, to Zachary in his will – and she is left with nothing.
Desperate, Elspet sails for the continent to track Zachary down and negotiate a settlement. Her journey takes her to Seville, where their story becomes intertwined with that of the Moriscos of Seville, anxious about their future in Spain as anti-converso sentiment comes to a head. Their time in Spain promises to change them in ways neither of them can imagine.
Swift’s portrayal of King Philip’s expulsion of the Morisco population is heart-wrenching, but it also provides a perfect setting to tell Elspet and Zachary’s story. Each of them learns new truths about the other and the way they see the world as their paths cross with characters such as wise Señor Alvarez and fiery Luisa, whose fates become intertwined with the supposed siblings.
Narrative, dialogue and characterization flow seamlessly to bring the different threads of this story together. The ending was hopeful rather than outright happy, but it felt more authentic than the possible alternatives. More importantly, as I was reading the theme of division revealed itself in many critical ways to make the story even more cohesive.
A Divided Inheritance is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that would appeal not only to fans of the genre but also readers who love strong female characters, sword-fighting, and of course, stories about love.
Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by PAN Macmillan Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.