Category Archives: English Civil War

Oxford, where North and South are reversed!

People often ask me if I find the research needed to write good historical fiction is hard work. My answer is always the same – if you love finding out about the past as much as I do then research doesn’t feel like work at all!

I often find out something unusual when reading about life in the past, and delving into the impact that the English Civil War had on Oxford is no exception. I’m no geographer but I’ve often wondered why North Parade in Oxford is actually south of South Parade; it doesn’t make any sense. But when you look at what was going on there in the seventeenth century it all becomes perfectly clear. King Charles I had his headquarters in the area around Oxford University whilst the Parliamentarians held north Oxford. So the Royalist front line was to their north and was situated roughly where North Parade is today. The Roundhead’s frontline was to their south, hence South Parade. So there is a logical historical explanation for a strange looking geographical anomaly!

One of my aims in writing novels is to educate my readers through fiction. I hope that those who read ‘The Cavalier Historian’ will get a broader understanding of the English Civil War whilst enjoying a good book. If you want to pre-order your copy it is available on Amazon now.

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‘The Cavalier Historian’ book cover preview

Good news!

 My new book now has its title and cover and will be published later this year.
 For all who have been waiting for a preview – here it is!

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Marston Manor is an old manor house in Oxfordshire which the new owner plans to turn into a ‘themed’ attraction based on the years of the English Civil War.  When historian, Robert Hardwick, joins the project he is delighted to discover a family link with Marston dating back to the time of King Charles I and the witch persecutions of the 17th century.

But right from the start disturbing events raise mistrust and fear on the estate.  Who, or what, is trying to halt the plans for the Manor?  Can the disruption and sabotage be linked to the traveller camp in the woods or to the more sinister appearances of a ghostly old woman?  And just who is Rebekah, and why does she have such a hold over Rob?

In his haunted dreams Rob finds himself living through the turbulent years of the English Civil War, experiencing it all through the eyes of his ancestor, Simon. Dreams which begin gently enough in the days leading up to war in 1642 but which become ever more frightening, ending with the terrifying events of the witch trials of 1651.

Rebekah is a novel which follows characters separated by more than three centuries, living in the 17th century yet somehow linked through time to present day events.  Over the centuries they live through war and peace, experience love and loss, suffer fear and persecution yet, at the very end, is it possible for them to find hope for the future?

Intrigued? I hope so!
In my novel Simon often writes his thoughts and fears into a diary during the Civil War which is why I have chosen this design for the cover. Do you like it? Please do let me know what you think!

 

Book Review – ‘The Royalist’ and ‘The Protector’ by S J Deas

Unusually, I am recommending two books for you to read this month.

The Royalist‘The Royalist’ is the first book about William Falkland by S. J. Deas, set during the English Civil War. The main character, William Falkland, fought for the king but was captured and, as the novel opens, he is in prison awaiting execution. Falkland is led out, presumably to his death, but instead he has a surprising meeting with Oliver Cromwell who wants him to investigate some suspicious deaths in an army camp. To do what Cromwell wants is the only way that Falkland can save his own life, and return to his family.

‘The Royalist’ is a real page-turner, with many plot twists which keep you guessing to the very end. Are the deaths suicides, or something more sinister? What is the reason for Cromwell calling on a royalist to investigate, rather than one of his own men? Falkland finds the answers Cromwell wants (no spoilers here!) and is free to return to his family.

The Protector‘The Protector’ continues the story of William Falkland which began in ‘The Royalist’. Still searching for his family, Falkland is once more called upon by Cromwell, this time to investigate the disappearance of a woman – the sister of the renowned John Milton. Once again the author creates a compelling mystery. Why would someone kidnap Milton’s sister? Is it to silence the writer, or for some other reason? What happened to Ann’s husband? What secrets are hidden in a ruined manor house in Lincolnshire? Deas masterfully weaves a detective story with a picture of life during the English Civil War. Rather than a straight history, details of the war are revealed through conversations amongst the characters, as part of the plot rather than a telling of facts. Deas also conjures the feelings of insecurity, threat, suspense and suspicion which were rife in England at the time as friends, neighbours and families chose sides and fought for what they believed was right.

These two books about William Falkland are thoroughly enjoyable historical mysteries. The characters are well-rounded and totally believable. Falkland is a sympathetic hero, Milton is a complex character who draws out conflicting emotions in Falkland (and the reader!), Miss Cain is a resourceful woman who ably assists in the investigations, and the initially simple Warbeck turns out to be a more complex character than first imagined.

I thoroughly enjoyed the history and mystery in these two books, and hope that there will be more novels about William Falkland in the future.

I heartily recommend both books to you.

Mr Deas website can be found here

The Royalist can be found on Amazon

The Protector can be found on Amazon

You can find more of my Book Reviews here

Book Review – ‘Cavalier Queen’ by Fiona Mountain

Cavalier Queen by Fiona MountainMy Recommended Read for November is ‘Cavalier Queen’. It is the first book I have read by Fiona Mountain – but it won’t be the last!

The English Civil War is a fascinating period of history, but the focus is usually on King Charles, or Oliver Cromwell, or Parliament. This book has a different perspective, focusing on Queen Henrietta Maria, her arranged marriage to the king, and her support for him during the war. I previously had only a superficial knowledge of Henrietta Maria’s life and loves, but this book has brought her to life for me. She was a multi-faceted woman, strong and supportive, deeply religious, loving and caring.

Through her story of the queen’s life Ms. Mountain gives a good description of the reasons for the war, and Henrietta’s constant struggle to raise money and arms for the king. The raising of the Queen’s Army in the north, and its journey south to meet up with the king, is fascinating. The description of Charles’ Headquarters in Oxford is also very interesting, as is the link to France with its own political turmoil at the time.

‘Cavalier Queen’ is an incredibly well-researched novel. The care for historical detail is superb with cameos of the queen’s life, (for example meeting the daughter of Shakespeare) bringing the whole period to life. One of the key players in the queen’s household was Henry Jermyn, someone whom I knew little about but who is a key character in English history, and who also played a key role in moulding Henrietta Maria into the person she was to become. I found learning about his life just as fascinating as the life of Henrietta Maria herself. (Please remember here, though, that the book is historical fiction. Although there is plenty of primary evidence for the role that Jermyn played politically at the court of King Charles, we cannot know the details of his personal relationship with the queen.).

Ms. Mountain is a skilled writer. Her characters are sympathetically drawn and believable, her dialogue realistic. The descriptions of palaces are vivid, and one feels the discomfort of those who suffered through some terrible sea crossings. ‘Cavalier Queen’ is enjoyable on so many levels – history, romance, love and duty. This is a book you can immerse yourself in; and one which, I believe, you will find difficult to put down.

Fiona Mountain’s website

Cavalier Queen can be found on Amazon

You can find more of my Book Reviews here

 

Ten interesting facts about the English Civil War

The English Civil War is a fascinating period of history, but few people know much about it. I recently came across Anglotopia’s post Ten Interesting Facts About the English Civil War. which is well worth a look.

I wonder if you have any facts you would like to add to the list? Please do so in the comment box below as I would love to read them.  Perhaps they would be similar to the facts I have come across in the research for my new novel, Rebekah. One thing I have found interesting is the high incidence of witchraft trials during the war. This is something which will impact on my main characters – but more of that in a later post!

When did you last see your father? by W. F. Yeames
When did you last see your father? by W. F. Yeames