Literature: The Martha Years

The four books, written by Melissa Wiley, are Little House in the Highlands, The Far Side of the Loch, Down to the Bonny Glen, and Beyond the Heather Hills, chronicling the life of Martha Morse from age six to age ten.

HarperCollins was behind the publishing of this series; years after the original series was published, they hired several people to write three prequel series, each focusing on one of Laura's relatives. The Caroline Years told the story of Laura's mother, The Charlotte Years featured Caroline's mother, and The Martha Years followed Charlotte's mother.

The original idea was for the Martha Years to take Martha all the way to adulthood, but for various reasons, this never happened.


Tropes relating to Martha Morse, Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother:

  • Aerith and Bob: Grisie, Alistair, Robbie, Duncan, Martha.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Martha's series as a whole compared to the other "Little House Girls". She grew up in Scotland instead of America like the other four and was from a high-class, wealthy background compared to the rest who grew up in ordinary, working class families. note 
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Grisie, Martha's older sister. Though she's clearly more aloof towards Martha than most people.
  • Amazon Chaser: There are hints that Lew's (Martha's childhood friend in her series and husband in The Charlotte Years) feelings for Martha were going to develop along these lines. In the third book Martha challenges him to a footrace - he's widely known for being the fastest runner in the valley - and Lew is clearly impressed and very complimentary when she almost beats him.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Martha herself could be this to her Grisie, at times.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: That said Martha and Grisie do have a few of these moments, particularity in the fourth book when Grisie has married and moved away, making them realize how much they miss each other.
  • Apron Matron: The Morse's cook, who is indeed known only as 'Cook'.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Subverted. Martha, though the daughter of a lairdnote , would rather go barefoot than wear shoes.
  • Benevolent Boss: Martha's father is a very kind-hearted and beloved land-owner who'd do anything to help his tenants.
  • Big Fancy House: Fairlie, one of Martha's father's properties across the loch. (Though he and Martha both prefer their small 'Stone House'.)
  • The Blacksmith: Mr Tucker, Lew's father. Lew is an apprentice in this series, a proper blacksmith in the next.
  • Book Worm: Martha's second governess Miss Crow, who was fast turning Martha into one too. Also Martha's oldest brother Alistair.
  • Brainy Brunette: Miss Crow.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Martha and Lew Tucker, her eventual husband. They're friendly right from the first book from playing together in the valley and grow closer to over the series. Between this series and the next they go through an Inter-Class Romance and end up Happily Married.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Was intended to be this; due to Executive Meddling, the series was cut short when Martha was ten.
  • Cool Old Lady: 'Auld Mary' the local wise woman/healer/midwife who lives out on the moor and is known as the best storyteller in Scotland.
  • Country Mouse: Martha when visiting Perth in the fourth book. Inverted when her city cousins Rachel and Mary come to visit her and are intimidated by Martha's energetic country lifestyle.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Martha. Though the series only covered Martha's pre-teens, she grew up to marry Lew, a blacksmith instead of a wealthy land-owner as was expected. Historical evidence explicity states her family were unhappy with the match.
  • Determinator: It isn't covered in the series, but when Martha's parents forbade their marriage, Lew left for America to make things easier for Martha. However Martha was less than happy with her parents, and so left for America after him. They did, in fact, get married, and are shown to be very happy together in The Charlotte Years.
    • There's also the ending of Down To The Bonny Glen when eight year old Martha runs over three miles to get help for a sick tenant and her parents initially can't believe she made it it such quick time.
    • Lew himself is described as someone who would 'walk through a tempest' to help someone. He proves it in the fourth book.
    • Of course, this characterization is pretty true to the life. The type of people who had the guts to make the journey to America and risk everything to start a life there, would have had to be determinators.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: See Barefoot Poverty.
  • Dude Magnet: Grisie attracts men 'like moths to a flame'.
  • Fiery Red Head: Oh Martha...
  • First Name Basis: Grisie's suitor Kenneth calls her by her first name at the end of the third book, tipping off Martha and the readers that things are getting serious. By the fourth book they're married.
  • Foreshadowing: Quite a bit, as Melissa Wiley wrote the sequel series The Charlotte Years as well. Martha's books establishes her curiosity about America, her discomfort with her wealthy lifestyle and even includes her discussing names for future children. There's also quite a few hints about her romance with Lew. note 
  • Freudian Trio: Martha's three older brothers: Scholarly Alistair is the Superego, mischievous Robbie is the Id and thoughtful Duncan is the Ego.
  • Good Parents: Martha's parents who are generally kind and fair to her, especially by the standards of the time and compared to other adults in the series. We know they disapproved of Martha and Lew's later relationship but never see exactly how that played out.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Martha has a near-constant struggle with this; as the daughter of a laird, the youngest child notwithstanding, she's supposed to be a proper lady, like her sister. She would far rather be playing in the fields with the children of the tenants on her father's land than sitting inside sewing, spinning, knitting, etc.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Martha and her older sister Grisie. Martha was tomboyish, energetic and mischievous, while Grisie was girly, quiet and passive.
    • The difference between Martha and Grisie is further emphasized by their choice of lifestyle. Grisie marries a rich, landowning friend of their father and settles down as a society wife. Martha emigrates to America with the village blacksmith to live the life of a commoner.
  • Happily Married: Martha's parents Allan and Margaret, Grisie and her husband Kenneth by the fourth book, Nanny (the Morse's kitchen maid) and Gerald in the third book. Lew and Martha by the next series
  • Idle Rich: Not Martha's parents themselves who are shown working around the house and on their properties, but Martha's Uncle Harry and Aunt Grisie have shades of this. Martha herself feels very insecure in Down To The Bonny Glen when she realizes her friend Annie cooks for and looks after all her siblings while Martha isn't needed by anyone.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: While she comes to appreciate the privileges of being a laird's daughter Martha spends a lot of time wishing she could be a normal village girl or tenant's daughter. The fact her status means she stuck inside while everyone's out working and playing together doesn't help. Even the other characters acknowledge she's better at common things like cooking, weaving and working outdoors than fine accomplishments of needlework and dancing.
  • I Was Quite The Looker: Martha is entertained to find Cook had plenty of suitors back in her day.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Cook again, who comes across as rather gruff and aloof, but acts as a second mother to Martha.
  • The Klutz: Definitely Martha.
  • Lady of Adventure: Martha emigrated to America when her parents forbade her to marry Lew Tucker...As a single woman by herself in the 1790's!
  • Marry for Love: Martha big time. Although the readers never get to see it, instead of choosing a land-owner like Grisie she falls in love with common blacksmith Lew and - when her wealthy parents forbid the match - she doesn't just marry him but first leaves them and goes all the way to America so they can be together. The next series shows the pair very much Happily Married so it's clear it was all worth it.
  • Nice Guy: Lew, who helped smuggle Martha craft supplies when she was sick in bed. (Including giving her his own knife).
    "Martha had no doubt he'd do as she asked. Lew Tucker was the type of boy who'd walk through the tempest to help a friend."
    • Also Gerald Cameron who got Martha a hedgehog and later married Nanny. Also Kenneth (Grisie's eventual husband) and Duncan (Martha's favourite brother).
  • Nice to the Waiter: All of Martha's family who are very kind to their household servants, though Martha is particuarly close to them. Martha is noticeably uncomfortable when she visits her cousins and later Grisie's father-in-law who don't treat them with such familiarity.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Grisie's father-in-law isn't the most pleasant of guys.
  • Old Maid: Cook, though she admits she had plenty of suitors she turned down. Also Auld Mary.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Martha spends most of her time roaming Scottish moors and playing with her father's tenants.
  • Overprotective Dad: Martha's father isn't generally this. However, in between the final book in this series and the first book in the next, Martha becomes estranged from her family when her parents will not allow her to marry Lew Tucker, the blacksmith's son. (As the daughter of a Scottish laird, Lew was seen as below Martha's station.)
  • The Patriarch: Martha's father is patriarch of the Morse family and of the whole valley as the laird.
  • Pint Sized Power House: Martha. At the age of eight she challenges Lew to a footrace and comes closer to beating him than any boy in the valley. (Bear in mind Lew's already working in the blacksmiths forge and several years older than her). Later in the book she runs over three miles to get help to a sick tenant and her parents are amazed she made it so quickly.
  • Plucky Girl: Martha, most definitely.
  • Proper Lady: Grisie and cousin Rachel in contrast to Martha's Spirited Young Lady.
  • The Quiet One: The Tuckers (Lew's family) are this to the whole valley. Everyone even jokes that the world will end if two of them speak on the same day.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Martha and a constant issue in the series as she feels restrained by the expectations of being 'the laird's daughter' and wants to be normal like everyone else. Clearly her rebellion only grows as she's emigrated to America by the next series.
  • Riches to Rags: Martha between this series and the next. Or rather Riches-To-Normal-Commoner-Lifestyle. Played with in that she chose to leave her wealthy lifestyle as she was never comfortable with it and shows no regrets about the change.
  • Scenery Porn: Describes the Scottish highlands beautifully, befitting a prequel series to Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.
  • Ship Tease: Martha and Lew's eventual romance isn't developed in the early books, as Martha's so young. However a sub-plot in Beyond The Heather Hills has Lew going above and beyond to help a bed-ridden Martha, them passing secret letters to each other and a sweet scene at the end of the book, that definitely hints at something more. Cook even calls them quite a pair and suggests there isn't anything Lew wouldn't have done for Martha.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Martha and Grisie.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: A recurring theme. Nanny goes for the plain Nice Guy Gerald over his arrogant brother Henry, out of her many suitors Grisie chooses the good-natured Kenneth and Martha clearly follows the pattern marrying Lew, who she's describes as incredibly loyal and kind-hearted throughout the series.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Martha definitely qualifies, being the daughter of a laird, but preferring foot-racing to sewing.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Martha is remarkably down-to-earth and friendly considering her status.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Martha and Lew. She was from well-off society, the daughter of a lairdnote  while he was a skilled labourer. The books were developing this before Executive Meddling ended the series. In real life, they emigrated to America to get married and start a family freely.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Martha's mother and Grisie are both very good at sewing, spinning, knitting, etc.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Martha and Grisie; much like her great-granddaughter Laura, Martha would far rather be playing outdoors than sitting inside sewing or knitting.
  • Tomboy: Martha, obviously.
  • Tomboy Aristocrat: While not royalty Martha is the daughter of a Laird, a Scottish landowner
  • Uptown Girl: Martha for Lew. She is part of the Scottish land-owning class while he is a working class blacksmith. See Star-Crossed Lovers above for more details.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The author admits that the only facts known about Martha is her birth and death date, the date she emigrated from Scotland, that she was the daughter of a laird and married someone considered beneath her station. With Lew only his name and profession are known. Everything else is fictional.

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