Robert Louis Stevenson is in a constant shoving match with [a:Anthony Trollope|20524|Anthony Trollope|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1199114248p2/20524.jpg] to be my favorite Victorian. If it comes down to it, its pretty clear which man would win.
Hint: Its not the one who writes sensitive drawing room think-pieces.The Master of Ballantrae
has all the trappings of an adventure story, but what the reader ends up with is a novel about the allure of evil and how, by inches, we're drawn to it even as we're on guard against it.
The story is the narrative of Ephraim Mackellar, steward to the Duries, a prominent noble family of Scotland, and how it was fractured by the Jacobite uprisings of 1746. There were two brothers and their father ordered the younger son to join the rebellion while his heir and favorite, the Master of Ballantrae would support the English King so that the family would be safe whatever the outcome of the rebellion. But the Master refuses to stay behind and makes his brother Henry stay home at Durrisdeer instead.
The rebellion is a failure and nothing is heard of the Master for many years. In the meantime the Master's intended bride marries Henry out of duty. But the Master is alive and returns full of spite against his brother and all smiles sets about destroying the family and estate in such a way that his brother can only take the blame.
There's more, of course, but the novel centers on the conflict between the dry, responsible and unloved Henry with his charismatic manipulative brother who effortlessly gains the affections of those around him. This is a dark book and the humor that Stevenson attempts to inject into it, mostly at the expense of the stiff "old maid" Mackeller, fails to lift the spirits. Its a dark book, perfect for adding an additional chilly layer to wintertime.