Series Guide










The Golden Chronicles

The Georgian novels by Patricia Veryan

About this guide

The questions, discussion topics, and book descriptions are designed to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Patricia Veryan's six novels concerning the Jacobite Rebellion in the Golden Chronicles. We hope they will enrich your experience of these imaginative and adventuresome works of historical fiction.

First set in early eigteenth-century England following the disastrous Jacobite rebellion against the Hanoverian king of England, the Golden Chronicles follow a band of couriers desperately trying to ensure the safe return of lost Jacobite treasure to the starving Scottish families that donated them. Hounded by Cumberland, the military and ruthless bounty hunters, each novel uncovers the courageous center of Jacobites, their sympathizers and even their foes. Beginning with the Jacobite Quentin Chandler and ending with the bounty hunter Roland Otton, Veryan's novels focus on the changing nature of man.

Each of the heroes, however, also have their own allegiances and much of the texture of the novels comes from the character development of recurring characters and reoccurring characteristics of singular personalities. Roland Fairleigh Mathieson, also known as Otton, goes from depraved villain to unwilling hero over the course of the six novels, while others like Robert MacTavish and Thad Briley are consistently "heroic" and "noble." The characters play against the background tapestry of the turbulent 1740s world from Berkshire to Dover to the sands of Dee.

To these novels, Patricia Veryan brings an effortless narrative mastery, in-depth human portraiture, and an uncanny ability to reanimate the past. The Golden Chronicles are works of marvelous intelligence and pure enchantment, adventures for both the heart and mind.

Practice to Deceive

First in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

June, 1746. In the aftermath of the bloody Jacobite defeat at Culloden, the hunt is on for the couriers who secret the mysterious cypher: a code that contains the location of Bonnie Prince Charlie's golden treasure and the list of the families that donated them. Penelope Montgomery, sister to an English patriot, is compelled to aid an old family friend and Jacobite courier, Quentin Chandler.

For discussion of Practice to Deceive

  1. Practice to Deceive is the first of six books in the Golden Chronicles based on the imaginary pursuit of treasure. How is the treasure a motif throughout the novel? What else is "Golden" within the text?

  2. The theme of deception and disguise runs throughout this novel: Quentin as Sir John Macauley Somerville and Mr. Martin; Penelope as Anne Martin. What are some things that Quentin cannot disguise? What else are the two unable to disguise?

  3. Similar to the treasure motif, a theme of beauty runs through the novel. Contrast the beauty and character of Otton with Quentin, Sybil with Penelope.

  4. The relationship between the brothers Chandler, Quentin and Gordon, is complex. How do their nicknames, Rabble and Sir Knight, determine their relationship? How are these appellations supported in the text both past and present?

  5. How is the notion of "family" developed throughout this novel? Explore both the Montgomery and Chandler families, those deceased and those fictional.

  6. Although this novel is of the romance genre (which tend toward graphic sex scenes) and in the manner of Georgette Heyer (which do not), Veryan portrays her protagonists as making love before marriage. Does this strengthen or diminish the relationship of the two? Is it in character?

  7. Look at the "wedding scene" in Practice to Deceive. How is the setting appropriate to the events? Is there any natural imagery?

  8. Many of the characters engage in extramarital sex. How do the different affairs compare to each other? (Otton and Sybil, Sybil and Quentin, Penelope and Quentin)

  9. How is the concept of patriotism and betrayal developed in this novel? What makes the heroes? What makes the villains? Who is the most villainous in Practice to Deceive? Is it easy to distinguish treason from patriotism--or patriotism from morality--in the world of the novel?

Journey to Enchantment

Second in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

Geoffrey Montgomery, brother to Penelope, rescues hunted Jacobites in this second novel in the Golden Chronicles. Disguised as Cptn. Delacourt, he apes the English invalid, unaware that his deception may be too effective for the eyes of Prudence MacTavish, sister to a Jacobite.

For discussion of Journey to Enchantment

  1. Once again, deception plays a central role in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion. How does Prudence deceive herself? How does Delavale deceive everyone? How do Briley and Clandon fit into the mix? In the end, how many people deceive and how many are deceived?

  2. This is the only novel set in Scotland. How is Prudence shown to be the very embodiment of Scotland? How is her relationship to her country tested throughout the novel?

  3. Compare the dual identities of Delavale to the dual identities in other famous novels, such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, Brat Farrar and The Prisoner of Zenda. Can you separate the protagonist into his identities with a clear identifying characteristic? Is Delacourt the invalid, Delavale the lover and Doone the hero? Does the protagonist combine these at the conclusion in order to become whole? If so, how?

  4. Prudence has an abiding hatred of the English; we saw in Practice to Deceive that there were English who hated Scots. How does this international hatred become embodied in the main characters? If Prudence is Scotland and Delavale is England, what assumptions can you make about the state of the countries at the time? What light, then, does Delavale's secret actions shed on this comparison?

  5. Who is the main villain in this novel? What is the status of Otton? Is the discovery of his identity in the end characteristically important? Why does Veryan choose to make the villainous Otton brave? What is the usual characterization of the ultimate villain? How does Otton compare to the stereotypical villain?

The Tyrant

Third in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

Meredith Carruthers, coming to the aid of a childhood friend, is thrust into the world of the Jacobites and their hunters. Swept up in the whirlwine as well is Phoebe Ramsay, whose connections with the military may result in their downfall.

For discussion of The Tyrant

  1. The notion of family is important in the novel. Yet, once again, deception taints all the concepts of family. How does Rosalie's connection with the Carruthers' both harm and hurt them? How does Sinclair's involvement with Lascelles imbroil Phoebe into committing treason? Does Lucille's confession to Phoebe validate her treatment of Meredith? How important is family to Lambert? Even a member of Otton's family shows up. How does his relationship with Holt affect the larger familial tapestry?

  2. Meredith Carruthers and Roland Otton have known each other since school. How does this friendship contribute to Meredith's faith in his friend? Does this compromise Meredith in anyway? Is his faith rewarded? How does their relationship differ from Joseph Montgomery and Otton's or Carruthers' and Lascelles? Is Otton's haphazard approach to friendship more dangerous than Meredith's devotion to Lascelles?

  3. Does his charm, honesty and bravery make Roland any less of a villain? Who is the real villain in this novel? Compare Otton to Brooks Lambert.

Love Alters Not

Fourth in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

Disguised as an injured passenger, Dimity Cranford attempts to deliver another portion of the cypher. On her journey, she encounters the condemned coward Anthony Farrar, suspected of murdering his own cousin.

For discussion of Love Alters Not

  1. In Love Alters Not, identity becomes a matter of life, death, trust, validation and family. How does Dimity appear to Farrar? What identity does she take on? Why is her true identity doubly dangerous for her to reveal to Farrar in particular? What does Farrar appear as to Dimity? How does his physical appearance reflect his mental state throughout the novel?

  2. Compare the close-knit family of Dimity and her twin brothers to Farrars family situation. Does Carlton's identity impact Farrar? How? Does Carlton's existence make up for Helen's loss?

  3. Multiple people are "resurrected" in this novel. How does Veryan play with death in regard to the following characters: Catherine Deene, Major Rhodes and Harding Farrar? Do the resurrections have positive or negative consequences? Are there any other "resurrections" in the novel? How else is death represented in the novel?

  4. How is Dimity, in fact, the most moral and heroic of all Veryan's heroines so far? In most of Veryan's novels, the hero is the central figure (although the action is rarely seen through his eyes). Why does Veryan choose to make this novel different?

  5. Animals play an important role in the novel. How does Farrar's relationship with his dogs compare to Green's relationship with his? To Otton's with his horse? To Carlton with Swimmer? How does Shuffle's death alter the landscape and emotional tone of the novel?

  6. In this novel we find out more about Mathieson/Otton in three pages than we do in all of the prior novels combined. What do we discover about Otton? What does he hold most dear? How is he similar to his grandfather? What does Beast's affectionate greeting revel to the reader? What does Roly's relationship to his horse, Rump, reveal as well? Is Roly redeemable?

  7. Once again, the reader is introduced to an old friend of Otton's, this time Anthony Farrar. Why has this friendship soured? Is it salvagable? How? What does the duel reveal about both Roly's character and his relationship with Farrar (and vice versa)?

Cherished Enemy

Fifth in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

Robert MacTavish seeks to join all the cyphers together and discover the location of the Jacobite treasure in order to return it to its rightful owners. All that stands in his way is a beauty with a hatred for Jacobites (Rosalind Albritton), her tiger of a father, an England crawling with military and a bloodthirsty bounty hunter named Roland Fairleigh.

For discussion of Cherished Enemy

  1. In Cherished Enemy the worlds of France and England are contrasted sharply. How does the gaiety of the ball in France compare to the "birthday party" at the Albritton estate? How does Rosa's character change in each of the settings?

  2. MacTavish and Fairleigh evince a liking for each other that does not survive the revelation of the latter's identity. Why do these two like each other at first? Do they have a similar sense of humor? Is it only the cypher that unites them? How does Otton's reputation alone harm his friendship with MacTavish?

  3. How is the father and son relationship between Lennox and Charles reminiscent of Fairleigh's with his grandfather? Of Prudence and her father from Journey to Enchantment? Of Meredith and his mother?

  4. How is Charles' religion more a matter of faith than belief? How is this translated into his everyday actions? In what way is he similar to Rosa? Is her belief in her betrothed's death more or less valid than Charles' belief in the cypher? How is trust and faith used and abused throughout the novel by all the characters?

The Dedicated Villain

Sixth in the magnificent Golden Chronicles

Roland Mathieson, called Otton, pursues the Jacobite treasure right into the arms of Fiona Bradford. He inveigles himself with her "acting troupe" and persuades them that he is a Jacobite sympathizer. Fiona's admiration of him and his desire for his grandfather's approval cause Roland to have an unexpected detour in his life's journey.

For discussion of The Dedicated Villain

  1. The Dedicated Villain opens with a flashback to Roland's escapades in Flanders. What reasons do you think Veryan had for beginning this novel with that specific scene?

  2. Does you support Clorinda Ericson's belief that a tiger cannot change his stripes? Can someone change for the better? How believable is Roly's transformation, keeping in mind the entire set of novels? Is Fiona's belief in Roly the deciding factor? Or is it Roly's love for her? Do you agree with Clorinda when she says that the love of a woman cannot change a man, but the love for a woman may?

  3. How does Rob MacTavish's relationship with Roly continue from the last novel? Can this indeed become a friendship? Or is it doomed to be an alliance only in times of trouble?

  4. Fiona views Roly as a hero, no matter evidence to the contrary. How is she similar to Meredith from The Tyrant? Does Roly change to fit their view? Or is it that his true character is finally revealed?

  5. How does Roly's loss of sight and beating serve as a redemptive process? Compare it to the similar incident in Jane Eyre. Does regaining his vision in one eye signify redemption? Partial redemption? Or pity on the part of the author?

  6. This is the only one of the Golden Chronicles that is seen through the eyes of the hero. Why? Does this make his redemption more believable? Does this make it harder to believe in the innocence/purity of Fiona? Do you think she is as naive as she is perceived?

  7. What are the multiple ways that Roly deceives people in the novel? What purpose does each deception serve? How many roles does Roly play in the novel?

  8. Roly is reunited with and forgiven by his grandfather in the end. Which is the more important to Roly? His reunion with his grandfather or his discovery of his love for Fiona? Which do you think truly redeems him in the end?

  9. Roly explains to MacTavish how he got started on his path to villainy. Discuss the believability of his reasons. Does the title of the novel imply a true villainy or a determination to be good at whatever one choose (even villainy)? The title harks back to The Tyrant when Roly first said it. What connections can you make between the two novels regarding both the titles and the state of the protagonists?

For discussion of the Golden Chronicles

  1. Each of the heroes in the Golden Chronicles must undergo an episode of physical hardship, usually in the form of torture. Quentin is burned with cigars, Geoff is , Meredith is shot in the arm, Anthony is dragged through the streets of London and thrown in jail, Robbie is, and Roly is flogged by Lambert. What purpose do these "tests" serve? Do they all serve the same purpose?

  2. Veryan plays with time very effectively throughout the six novels. The first novel, Practice to Deceive is set in June of 1746, within a month of the defeat at Culloden. The last, The Dedicated Villain, in Autumn of 1746 a bare three or four months later. How does the passage of time in the novels effect the reader's sense of equilibrium?

  3. The theme of redemption and metamorphosis runs clear through the novels. What clues does Veryan show us in each novel that Roland Otton may be redeemable?

  4. What are some common threads that the heroines possess? Compare Dimity with Fiona, Phoebe with Penelope, Prudence and Rosamund. Do the heroes resemble these similarities?

  5. Roland Otton's identity is revealed layer by layer throughout the novels. How does the theme of deception that was first introduced with Quentin and Penelope in Practice to Deceive come to fruition in Roland's character? How does deception play an integral part throughout the novels? Are most of the deceptions necessary? How effective are the roles the characters play?

  6. Why do you think most of the heroes are not Jacobites (in fact, only Quentin and Robbie are)? Is Veryan making a specific point? What are the moral demands that are placed on the characters?