book review, historical fiction

Review: Mask of Duplicity by Julia Brannan


If Diana Gabaldon Herself recommends a book series, you listen. Mask of Duplicity, the first in the Jacobite Chronicles Series, is of course right up my alley. Taking place in the years leading up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Elizabeth “Beth” Cunningham finds herself at the mercy of her estranged, cruel, military-minded half-brother Richard. Following the death of their father, Beth is set to inherit 20,000 pounds–but only after she marries. Hungry to purchase a higher military position, Richard puts out feelers to those “in society” to find a husband for Beth.

For Beth, vain society London is a far cry from the wild and free lifestyle of her family home near Manchester. Her cousins introduce her to the absolute caricature of an 18th-century powdered and perfumed “fop,” Sir Anthony Peters. Although a social butterfly, seemingly apolitical, and vapid–Beth slowly befriends Sir Anthony and finds that there are many sides to him–some perhaps even unknown to her.

Of course there are books I have enjoyed and liked, however, it is rare that I find a book or series with that “couldn’t put down-ness” factor. The type of book where I stay up later than I should because I want to find out what happens next. Much like my reaction to Diana’s Outlander series, I can safely say I am HOOKED. I was so eager to find out what happens next that I immedietaly purchased book 2, The Mask Revealed, and started reading it the very same night I finished book 1.

One con which could perhaps be a bit jarring for some readers is the writer’s style of sometimes head jumping. I am so used to first or close-third person that it always seems a bit odd when the story is told by getting the thoughts of multiple characters. That said, this doesn’t happen often, as the POV is usually close-third person to Beth. Another iffy part is a sexual assault scene which was pretty disturbing, however, it was written in a way that the main character gets the upper hand before things get even worse. Scenes like this tend to happen in historical fiction about women. My thoughts on it is how does it fit into the context of the story? If something is just thrown in there for shock or via the male gaze, then no, we don’t need it. However, while the scene is graphic (without going the full way,) I understand the stakes in which the author was raising and why.

I also want to point out tht Julia Brannan is SELF-PUBLISHED. I am always amazed when self-published authors actually find success and traction, as it can be really hard to self-promote online when you’re doing it alone. Writers who have success through self-publishing really give me hope about giving up querying altogether (well I have for the past two years) and just try self-publishing again.*

I can understand benig weary of someone who is self-publishing, but Julia is a talented writer. And if you don’t believe me, believe Diana Gabaldon Herself!




*I say again because I did have a book on Amazon, my MFA thesis, but I think I made all of $15 from it over the course of 5+ years. It was only recently that I removed it from Amazon.