17th Century Romance/Swashbucklers

17th - 18th century Romance Swashbucklers 

Reviewed  by Francine:

This is a well-researched novel involving real-time persons and events of note alongside fictional elements, which in turn adds a little spice and touch of romance to the overall story. Set within the period of the English Civil Wars (1648), the story begins at a point in time when Royalist forces have been routed and are in serious disarray. Worse, the King is imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, and although the war seems at end for the Royalists and their supporters around the country, there are those of means who refuse to concede to Parliamentary dictate. Thus a petition by the peoples of Kent for a peaceful resolution is viewed by Parliament as the beginnings of resistance, and any notions of a political rebellion must be crushed forthwith: by force if necessary; and that force is General Fairfax and the Army of Parliament.

The hero of the novel is Roger L’Estrange, an experienced Royalist soldier with a price tag on his head! But he’s a Norfolk man by birth, not a man of Kent. Albeit he sets out as personal aide to a Kent man (Hales) in his ambitions for Kent as a whole, L’Estrange’s time in Kent becomes one of trial and reason as he battles to win the trust of other prominent gentlemen. His putting forth a sensible directive amidst confusion surrounding a hastily assembled defensive fighting force is met with internal resistance. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and for readers who are unfamiliar with aspects of the Kent Petition, this sheds light on the dark times of Parliamentary oppression of those who dared to challenge its right to rule without a monarch.

Review by Francine:

Written in M. J. Logue’s inimitable style, “An Imperfect Enjoyment” edges toward the realms of a psychological thriller, in which the author wields a mind-bending analogy to that of a deeply troubled and tortured mind: almost in the format of a journal, as though the main character is secretly confessing to revenge enacted without any sense of guilt. Thus deceit, rumour, and inference enough to ruin any man’s chances of elevation in favoured social circles prevails, amidst the ambitious, the dubious, and the worst of the notoriously debauched courtiers of their time.

Initially it is the year of 1663, three years since the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England. A dreadful murder sets the scene for a mystery that will linger akin to smoke-laden miasma drifting throughout this novel. By 1665 the once Parliamentarian officer, Thankful Russell, who despised all that the Royalists ever stood for during the years of the English Civil Wars, is now gracing the corridors, and the drawing rooms of the great and not so good Royalists. Not only is he newly married and revelling in the glory of having one of the youngest brides on the royal campus, old fears of rejection, fears of failing Thomazina, fears of failing others, and most of all fear of failing his old commander; Russell is under pressure as a maze of seeming madness surrounds him. And all whilst some unknown person is hell-bent on putting his neck in a noose! All told, this is a suspenseful read peppered with humour, and earthy language enough to lighten and lift the reader in between the more sinister elements as they unfold.

Reviewed by Nigella.

At first I did wonder if this novel would fit the criteria readers expect from a romance novel. On balance violent battle scenes steal a march on romance to begin with so does the heroic romanticism of a troop in Cromwell’s New Model Army. In spite of my initial concerns, glimmer of a budding romance does begin to emerge. The tragedy of this story develops with heartfelt love bordering on the breaking of religious dictate to do with acts of immorality, but every good story requires a twist in the tale and this book has many exciting twists. When all is said and done this is a novel to do with soldiers who yearn for peace while bracing themselves in readiness to do battle. There is historical merit and vivid detail within the novel and of all the characters, and there are many worthy of mention, Lucifer Pettit stands out as a fine young man who ends up bedevilled by his namesake. I confess I find it difficult to applaud overt use of coarse language inside a book boys may be drawn to. However, on the plus side the narrative is fast paced. The action scenes are nail-bitingly real and the secret masquerade is somewhat amusing. I rate the book a Historical Adventure Novel with a little romance.      

Reviewed by Fran

Although I am far from a fan of first-person narrative, I do love the period of the English Civil Wars. Therefore, I decided to lay aside the fact Royalist Rebel is written wholly from the viewpoint of Mistress Elizabeth Murray. I'm glad I did because Ms Seymour paints a vivid picture of life at Ham House. Given that Elizabeth's earlier (un-chronicled) life is the author's creation it blends well with known facts of the young woman's rise from relatively modest beginnings to that of wealth and title. It's a well-researched book in terms of the political scores and all credit to the author for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I like the way Elizabeth Murray's story begins with highlighting her present circumstances and the staunch allegiance of her parents to the Royalist cause. All the while her haughty manner and fundamental belief the enemy consist of nothing but filthy (smelly) Puritan folk (of low-birth) seems to imply Mistress Murray is indeed ignorant to the fact members of the aristocracy are fighting on both sides of the great divide. Nor does she seem cognisant to the fact that not all Parliamentarian soldiers are of Puritan mindset. I confess there were times when I despised Elizabeth's conceited grandiose self image and her prejudiced outlook, but she's not a fictional character and I didn't have to like her to admire her unstinting desire to keep Ham House in the family.

As time moves on and Ham House is under threat of seizure by the Parliamentarian Sequestration Committee, (a method of punishing supporters or suspected collaborators of the Royalist cause), Elizabeth resists at every given turn, though is often forced to capitulate when events and circumstances are beyond her control. But, if something is wanted badly enough, then feminine guile to deceive Cromwell and feminine wile to gain a titled husband is worth the risk in the overall scheme of bettering her position within society and gaining a long for coveted title. 

Reviewed by Francine

It's 1643 and Civil War is raging across England. Whilst officers and men from both sides of the divide are dispatched to defend or besiege rival strongholds, Luke Collier has the unenviable task of defending the Parliamentarian household at Kinton Lacey Castle. Little does Luke know, Deliverance Felton, eldest daughter in residence, is a force to be reckoned with. That is, until she proves her marksmanship is as good as any soldier. Albeit she mistook Luke for the enemy, she's reluctant to apologise or relinquish command in the first instance, and less so with ongoing vie for superiority. Nonetheless, Luke's greater experience of warfare and a little cunning soon has Deliverance keening a risk-laden adventure she may live to regret. To spy on enemy forces from a safe distance is one thing, to venture behind enemy lines is tempting fate and Deliverance will never admit she may indeed be the weaker sex.

Worse is to come, when a neighbouring fortified house falls foul to the wrath of a Royalist campaign to purge the area of supporters to the Parliamentarian cause. With full scale slaughter left in their wake, of the few who survive, Deliverance affords the beleaguered escapees shelter and sustenance. But while the opposing forces are massed at the gates of Kinton Lacey, betrayal surfaces and threatens all that Deliverance holds dear to her heart. Love it seems has betrayed them all, and how are they to uncover the spy and deadly force within their midst before it's too late? Claiming the Rebel's Heart is a fine novel depicting the era portrayed, and draws on the awful truth that families were oft torn apart with brother pitted against brother in the name of Parliament or King.

Gillian Bradshaw's
London in Chains

While this is a romance, that is not its strength. The romantic elements are not really developed as opposed to the historical context and background that Ms. Bradshaw provides us in what becomes an excellent glimpse into a time that perhaps most know little about.

London, after the victory of Parliament over Charles I was not all celebration and happiness, but was in turmoil, the victors fighting over the spoils of war as happens frequently when the victors are not led by one mind. We see this as our heroine comes to London for the first time and has to deal with allies who were oppressors, family that loves and hates her, and a city that is tightly held in an inflationary spiral which happens when a country has been beset by a war that has ravished it.

Add the religious pressures that Parliament was suffering as well to this mix where all those who know the truth of their vision of god tried to wrest control of the nation, and London is indeed in Chains as Ms Bradshaw names the book. What we see also is the rise of printing in this era and a comment that is made, about how no General would dare go to war without their own press, (which reminds me a great deal of Douglas Macarthur) and we see that our Heroine is poised to show us a glimpse of this period that I had no idea of. Before this work, I thought Parliament won, Charles was incarcerated and eventually Parliament voted to behead him, and then Cromwell was made supreme. Yet much was to be done before that happened as I now know. (I am a product of the US education system)

Though there is a romance for our Heroine, and some little time is devoted to it, it does not seem fully fledged as the hero of this action is taken away off stage. That there is some interaction and words between hero and heroine to put the building blocks for a relationship and that they view each other philosophically similarly might breed true, but still, if romance be ones first inclination, more should take place. If History is what you would like to delve into in a period piece, than look no further for the period of 1647 and 1648 one can do little better. At every turn of the page Ms Bradshaw is able to add depth to her world, painting with words details that little occurred to me, but that I think all would find enriching. I recommend this to those who find history of an interest in their reading.

At Amazon US or at Amazon UK

Reviewed by David

Reviewed by David

Reviewed by Francine - purchased novel!

For me, this is one of my favoured periods in history, hence I was thoroughly looking forward to the release of “By The Sword”. 
Albeit this novel revolves around the infamous Battle of Worcester, and that of Charles II’s renowned flight from the city, the outcome of the battle is so well recorded the factual aspects cannot be altered to fit with fiction. But, Ms Stuart's blending of fiction with fact and the intricate weaving of a love story, combined with a revenge thread and a retribution plot, the canvas of By The Sword thus comes to life with entrenched intrigue, a dashing hero, and a remarkably strong heroine. The very fact this novel is well-researched with accurate and detailed accounts of events as they unfold, it is a miracle the author managed to keep her characters’ relatively in the dark as to the eventual outcome of the battle and all that is to follow. With a family torn apart in the past, it is the future that may heal a deep rift and perhaps bring the two divided elements together again: but can the widow of a Parliamentarian officer seriously consider becoming the wife of a Royalist fugitive? Romantically, one cannot help but feel the author’s love for the period and her undoubted affections for the royalist hero: Jonathan Thornton.

Reviewer note: 5 stars for the author and the story— 
1 star for the publisher (Harlequin Enterprises), of whom one would expect standard of excellence in proofreading skills, not overt presence of typos and missing words.

Reviewed by Suzy January 2014 (goodreads) 

An epic style novel with swashbuckling action and steamy romance.

Set in England during Oliver Cromwell's time the author cleverly weaves fiction with historical fact. 17th century Bristol and surrounding districts are brought to life from page one while a high price is paid when Charles Stuart fails in his bid to regain the throne of England. With the Battle of Worcester lost, the uncrowned king makes good his escape from the city and those left fighting to the last man are killed or taken prisoner. Let it be said, a prisoner's lot is not a happy one in 1651. Worse. The wife of a prisoner becomes sporting game for a triumphant victor. Trauma takes its toll on Bess Thornton, and an escapee prisoner needs help in getting safe to France. With the help of friends and her father, Thomas Thornton safely boards a ship in Bristol. Too late a courtier arrives seeking passage to France on behalf of the king. He's forced to seek help elsewhere. There is a second half to this novel. It's no less thrilling than part one. Set in France, Belgium and Holland, the heroine's husband becomes a private courier for his majesty Charles II. The hero's experience of courtly intrigues are initially shocking and yet not improbable. When Bess joins Thomas in exile Lucy Walter is a close neighbour. As the years pass Bess and Thomas reveal a new and intriguing story of Charles Stuart and Lucy Walter's love affair and her infamous demise. The Thornton couple's loyalty to Charles Stuart wavers many times throughout their enforced exile. Cromwell's sudden death however, lends opportunity for their return to England. They abandon the court and with their children return to a beloved house and lands. There is an author's note, which refers to new evidence relating to Lucy Walter. The author weaves truths of induced courtly propaganda and malicious gossip. Over time Charles Stuart's trust in Lucy Walter is destroyed and courtly lies sadly cost the lady dear. A happy outcome for Bess and Thomas is marred a little by Lucy's untimely death.  Evidence of foul play stacks up strongly in favour of royal chicanery. I was left pondering whether Lucy Walter was murdered or not? This is a well written novel depicting the era when kings still fought alongside their men and women risked their lives and virtue in sheltering defeated runaway warriors. Highly recommended read for two reasons: historical accuracy and a page-turning read.

(a noteworthy point in recorded historical documentation is that Henry Bennet did try to obtain passage aboard a merchantman for the prince. Unfortunate as it was the port of Bristol was so heavily guarded by Parliamentarian forces there was no hope of escape that way) 

Amazon .co.uk

Suzy's Review 2012 (Goodreads)

Lovely Historical English Civil War Romance 

This novel is an epic two-part historical romance of some 350 plus pages. It spans five years in total.

At the outset Francine Howarth paints a landscape of 17th century England, in which Royalist forces and Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads (Ironsides) are battling for supremacy. As war marches across England, Howarth presents romance and intrigue to the reader as the lead theme. I will say the book does have steamy moments but the sex blends well with historical fact and the emotional scenes really do tug at the heartstrings. I haven't read a historical novel like this in a long while. The English Civil War is superbly depicted and although epic in story this novel is far from top heavy on word count. It is apparently the first book in a series of four. I simply loved it. The heroine is headstrong, wilful and although a little naive at times she has spirit and when faced with tragedy (twice) she steps to womanhood and renders herself to that of a true heroine. The hero is equally as headstrong as the heroine and he risks all for what he believes is the right path ahead for him and the country at large. I even liked the anti hero who never quite redeems himself but does make amends in the only way he knows how. This novel is a stunning read. 
The plot flows so beautifully and although it does stand as one book purchase I'm definitely looking forward to the next book. 

Emma's Review  

Fabulous swashbuckling bodice-ripper. I adored this from start to finish and the hero wowed me. Although this book spans five years it never lagged on pace. Historical fact is masterfully blended with fiction. It's a page-turning read and even though it's one of a series it stands well as a single read. That said I'm seriously looking forward to book two. Yeh, and that from me who happens ordinarily to be a fan of chick-lit. 

The Royal Series.      

Amazon UK