Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Review: Alison Stuart’s BY THE SWORD – Well-written Love Story from Cromwell’s England

This was my first by Stuart and it’s a worthy read, a crossover between historical fiction and historical romance. That is, it has enough history to satisfy the historical fiction lover and enough romance (and a happy ever after ending) to make it romance.

Set in Yorkshire beginning in 1650 (the prologue is set in Devon in 1646), during the time when Cromwell ruled England and Charles II was in exile in France, this is the story of Col. Jonathan Thornton, a royalist, and Kate Ashley, whose family followed Cromwell. Kate is mother to 9-year-old Tom (a central character and wonderfully done), and the widow of Jonathan’s cousin, a parliamentary soldier killed in battle. Because Jonathan is a hunted man, and the Ashley family supports Cromwell, the Thornton estate of Seven Ways will go to young Tom, not Jonathan. Kate is none too sure she wants the responsibility of running the rundown estate since she has her own home, but she takes it on nonetheless.
Original Smashwords cover
A series of events bring Jon and Kate together and the attraction is instant between them. Jon’s past and his current choices keep them apart, and a Cromwell follower who hates Jon seeks to destroy him. In a well-told story, Stuart weaves an intricate plot that slowly develops so you must be patient to get it all. Her writing is beautiful with vivid descriptions that drew me into this time in England’s history. The story includes the Battle of Worcester in 1651 where the royalists were defeated sending them into hiding and Charles back to exile in Europe.

It’s a story of second chances and living with the consequences of one’s past. The only thing I would have liked to see was some resolution to Charles II’s plight, but perhaps that is coming in future books. The ending seemed like a pause in the action. There is already a second book by the author, THE KING’S MAN. It, too, is based in Cromwell’s time, and tells the story of Kit Lovell, who we meet in BY THE SWORD.

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