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William Falkland is a dead man.
Falkland fought for the King. Now, he awaits execution. Yet when he is led out of Newgate Prison with a sack over his head, he is not taken to the gallows, but to Oliver Cromwell himself.
Now more than ever Cromwell needs a man of conscience. Mysterious deaths are sweeping the camp of his New Model Army and, in return for his freedom, Falkland must uncover the truth.
As he delves into the troubled world of the resting soldiers, Falkland unearths secrets so dark he struggles to prove their existence. Surrounded yet alone, the noose around Falkland’s neck begins to tighten.
Is his luck about to run out?
Historical fiction is pretty much uncharted territory for me, I’ve never really been one for history, but thanks to Mr Deas I am now a happy little convert!
The year is 1645, and the story begins with William Falkland – a Cavalier for King Charles I – imprisoned for disobeying the King’s orders. Falkland believes he is being taken to the gallows, but in fact is taken to none other than Oliver Cromwell himself. Cromwell recruits Falkland to investigate some suspicious suicides that have been occurring within the New Model Army camp. And thus the mystery begins…
I think there’s a lot to be said for first person narrative – I’m a big fan of this writing style and it almost always guarantees my immediate interest. I must admit I worried initially about how much of Ye Olde English I would be subjected to – people of yore tended to go all around the houses to say something didn’t they?! – but I actually really enjoyed the prose. There was enough to add to the authenticity, but not so much that I needed the Rosetta Stone!
And talking of authenticity, Deas has a real skill for scene-setting. I felt that I had been dragged right back to the 17th Century and it was a fantastic trip! I truly felt the chill of the harsh English winter and its knee-deep snow. My nose wrinkled at the filth encrusted people living in a time when hygiene was most certainly not a top priority. My stomach turned at what passed for a decent meal – and what didn’t but was eaten anyway! And I physically winced during the extensively detailed violent scenes.
But above all, I was most engrossed with the characters in this story. Our protagonist, Falkland, was a bad soldier but a good man. His depth was first-class. A man who hates himself for holding onto the slightest morsel of hope during such desperate times. A man who clings to the memory of his family and the hope he will one day be reunited with them. A man of duty and conscience, who will disobey his own King for what is right and just. A man who berates himself for caring for a woman who is not his wife. A man who will risk his life to do what is right by the memory of young soldiers whom he has never met. Basically, I loved the guy! Other characters – Cromwell, Fairfax, Warbeck, etc. – were all each as detailed as the next. This story had some real nasty people in it – but not your panto bad guys; these were real everyday men, mostly living very ordinary lives for the time – and they were terrifying!
Deas has delivered an intriguing, drama-laden, heart-thumping crime thriller with historical accuracy and authenticity. I found myself sorely disappointed at the last page; not with the ending, but that it had ended! Then, lo and behold, I discover that The Royalist was merely the first instalment in the William Falkland series, and a very big smile returned to my face.
My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.
Published by Buried River Press
Source: Advance Reader’s Copy
The Dance of Love is a coming-of-age tale that spans more than two decades of vast change. Against a backdrop of high Edwardian luxury, Natalie Edwardes is poised on the brink of adulthood and, in an age when a woman’s destiny is decided by marriage, her beauty, wit and wealth would seem to guarantee her a glittering future. But, isolated by her father’s position as a self-made man, Natalie has never felt at ease in a society bound by a maze of conventions. Heart, for her, will always rule head, and so it seems that an encounter with a dashing yet gentle artist-soldier contains all the seeds of her life’s happiness. The dance of Natalie’s life whirls her from the glittering ballrooms of London and the grand houses of Scotland and Devon, to the Scottish Highlands. But the strictures of polite society are far-reaching and Natalie’s happiness is abruptly snatched away. She is forced to compromise her romantic ideals and it is only when the tragedy of the Titanic touches her life, years later, that she discovers what love really means and the heartrending choices it poses. Choices that even the cataclysmic events of 1914-1919 seem unlikely to challenge.
The Dance of Love tells the story of Natalie Edwardes, a headstrong young girl with no desire to obey the rules of life in Edwardian ‘High Society’; where love plays second-fiddle to class and wealth, and where she is too often reminded that she doesn’t really belong. Instead, Natalie follows her heart, and experiences the many ways in which it can be broken, and healed; and learns that ‘love’ can exist in many different forms and is seldom straightforward.
Now, cards on the table… ‘Way-back-when’ period novels are not really my thing, love stories are not especially my thing, and yet I find myself again knocked sideways by the astonishing works of the extremely talented Angela Young!
Admittedly, the first half of the book was really quite predictable plot-wise; high society, betrothals, dowries, ‘she doesn’t love the guy you are all making her marry, she loves the other guy’ etcetera, etcetera… nevertheless, the beauty of the language was touching;
“He likes shadows, you know, and I think he understands me better than I understand myself. Or, perhaps, when I’m with him, I understand myself better because he shows me who I am.”
and the mesmerising scene-setting that not only really placed you there, but which cleverly related the imagery to the characters;
‘The hills were pale green in the sunlight and the wide expanse of lawn that flowed down to the park from the terrace glowed emerald. Hoxash’s carefully planted and tended herbaceous borders were crowded with colour and life and Natalie’s happiness flourished in harmony with her garden’
Both elements ensured my perseverance – I feel Young has a very special talent for writing and could probably make a ‘flat-pack’ instruction manual sound just sublime!
It turned out though, that this was not just a very beautifully written whole load of nothing! Much like my experience of Young’s first novel, Speaking of Love, I found myself very slowly and subtly reeled in until I was completely consumed and there was no way on Earth I could possibly put this book down! And when Natalie’s already quite tragic life is hit hard by such historical events as the sinking of the Titanic, and the breakout of World War I, well let me tell you there are few books that can make me well up!
I am fast becoming a huge fan of Young’s work. The talent this author has for delivering such moving, heart-wrenching misery, within the most stunning settings described in such beautiful, fine detail is completely mesmerising. The jury is still out on how the book ends – which I’m afraid I can say very little about without ruining it for you – but I feel this story will touch each reader individually in a very unique way.
*My thanks to the author and publishers for providing this book for review.