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by Ken Follett

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-517-70176-6
Publisher: Crown

From the prolific, predictable, palatable Follett (A Dangerous Fortune, 1993, etc.), a not-unenjoyable mishmash of history, romance, and transatlantic adventure. It's 1766, and in the Scottish Highlands--where wealthy landowners are exploiting their starving coal miners--trouble is brewing in the form of revolution. Gutsy orphan Mack MacAsh has just turned 21 and learned that by law he's free to leave his life of misery and degradation in the Jamisson family mines. With the help of his twin, Esther, and rich but kindhearted Lizzie Hallim, who's about to marry the younger Jamisson son, Jay, Mack manages a dramatic escape to London, where he single-mindedly sets fire to the kindling of the British labor movement. Set up by the weak-willed Jay--who's also conveniently moved to London--the long-suffering Mack is arrested for a crime he didn't commit, and while saved from hanging (by Lizzie, now Jay's wife), he is sentenced to seven years of servitude in America. On a Jamisson-owned ship, he's shackled below deck with lots of other slaves-to-be, including his prostitute girlfriend and her child sidekick, while Lizzie and Jay--headed for Jay's wedding gift, a tobacco plantation--travel above-deck in comparative luxury. Once in Virginia, the foolhardy Jay quickly gambles away his plantation and loses Lizzie as well--to Mack, who, in an unlikely twist, has been working as a servant on Jay's property. Stereotypes abound, and Follett takes liberties with historical detail, but when Mack and Lizzie ride off (literally) into the sunset, it's an undeniably satisfying gallop. No surprises, but this TV-movie--bound summer read, despite its flaws, goes down like a glass of cold lemonade.