NESFA Members' Reviews


by Katherine Kurtz

Bantam Spectra, ISBN 0-553-07562-4, 1996, 384pp, US$22.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1996 Evelyn C. Leeper

Though at first glance this may appear to be an alternate history, it is more accurately termed a secret history--that is, the events in it are not inconsistent with our present, but are not known in our history. For example, a novel in which John Wilkes Booth was really an agent of the Knights Templar would be a secret history.

In TWO CROWNS FOR AMERICA, the United States is just breaking away from England. But the spirit of democracy is not universal, even among the secessionists. Some want Charles Edward Stuart to assume the throne of the new country. Others think a home-grown king would be better and want General Washington to become King. But more central than these two factions are the machinations of the Freemasons, which form the core of the novel.

If you are interested in the details of the ceremonies of the Freemasons, this book may be for you. If you're a Revolutionary War buff, it will also have some appeal. However, if you're neither--and I fall into this category--you will probably find much of this book boring. Also, I found aspects of the basic premise in TWO CROWNS FOR AMERICA very contrived and not entirely believable. Whatever the actual role of women in 18th Century Freemasonry, the situation in this novel seemed constructed more as a feminist statement than a likely occurrence. (I was reminded of ROBIN HOOD, PRINCE OF THIEVES, which seemed determined to have a Black main character no matter how much it flew in the face of historical reality.) And while it's possible that there were (or are) Jews in the Freemasons, the heavily Christian basis of Freemasonry as described in the book would seem to argue against this.

As I said, I believe that there is an audience for this novel, but it requires a special interest or knowledge of the subject matter. For the average reader, I cannot recommend it.

%T      Two Crowns for America
%A      Katherine Kurtz
%C      New York
%D      January 1996
%I      Bantam Spectra
%O      hardback, US$22.95
%G      ISBN 0-553-07562-4
%P      384pp

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