The setting of colonial Williamsburg and the impending American Revolution provide the backdrop for The Magistrate’s Folly, an historical romance by author Lisa Karon Richardson.
Merry Lattimore, a young governess, stands accused of theft by her former employer, though she insists she’s innocent of the charges. Despite this, she’s sentenced to a term of indentured servitude in the American colonies by no other than the man whom she had once loved and wished to marry, Graham Sinclair. When discovers that Merry is innocent of the charges, he realizes his mistake. He secures a pardon for her, then boards a ship to Williamsburg to see if he might find her and ensure that she not only receives the pardon, but because he wishes to redeem himself in her eyes.
Meanwhile, Merry has been bought by the Bennings, a kind, wealthy local family, to serve as both governess and nursemaid to the children. Merry, who gained knowledge of herbs and nursing the sick through helping her father, a doctor, proves invaluable when the children fall ill. Under her care, they survive, and the Bennings are thankful to have Merry in their household. But just as the children recover, Graham arrives at the Benning home with Merry’s pardon in hand. Now free, Merry could leave and go wherever she wished, but she is loyal to the children in her care and is reluctant to leave. Mrs. Benning offers to let Merry stay as a guest in the home so that she can figure out where to go from here. Things begin to look up until tragedy strikes. Mr. Benning falls ill and dies after drinking his sleeping draught, which was poisoned. The woman accused of the murder is a fellow slave named Jerusha, who is arrested on the grounds that she had a perfect motive for the murder: Mr. Benning was going to sell her young son in a slave auction.
Merry knows that Jerusha isn’t guilty of the murder, and she promises to help Jerusha in any way she can. She goes to Graham about the situation, and he decides to defend Jerusha at trial. Together, he and Merry work together to investigate the murder and determine who the real killer is, so that Jerusha will be cleared of all charges. As the two work together, they begin to open up to each other about what happened so many years ago. Their partnership is one of equals working toward the same mission. Graham is defending Jerusha because he wishes to redeem himself and to prevent another innocent person from being wrongly convicted. Merry is keeping a promise she made to Jerusha and can empathize with her situation, her own pleas of innocence having fallen on deaf ears. As they work as equal partners toward one common goal, they begin to see each other in a different light, and the feelings they both had thought were long since dead are rekindled.
Richardson’s characters are very compelling, and throughout the narrative, she drops little tidbits of historical detail so you have know what exactly was going on at the time. The love story and the mystery both drive the plot to a very satisfying end that is full of promise for the two protagonists. All in all, a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.