Two historical novels I’ve enjoyed recently

I usually write quite long reviews because I have been asked to review a book by somebody or because I think that there is a lot that can sensibly be said about it, but this week I’m doing two very short reviews simply because I really enjoyed these books and would like to share them with you.

‘The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez’: Ann Swinfen

Elizabethan spies. Mary Queen of Scots. All those plots you read about at school (if you are old enough to have done history when Good Queen Bess was what you got taught about).

Absolutely gripping stuff in stunningly well-written novel by someone who certainly knows their Elizabethan history. Brilliant characters, (largely) convincing plot, loads of lovely period detail.

I wish I could write nearly as well as this. It’s a model of how to do it.

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‘Shadow on the Highway’: Deborah Swift

This has a YA feel to it and the story seems a little too fantastical, but the Historical Note suggests it’s not nearly as fantastical as it might be. Two strong female characters, a suitably chilling villain and a story that positively romps along, helped by fluid prose that’s a pleasure to read. I seem drawn to English Civil War stories almost despite myself. This one holds up well on the period detail. There’s the odd bit of military stuff I wasn’t entirely convinced of, though that could well be my ignorance showing. The life of a servant back in the 17th century seems suitably grim with lots of description of domestic chores, miserable accommodation and doubtful diet.

It’s a light read but served very well for a holiday break. It’s a lot of fun.

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And one by me

A quick reminder that The White Rajah is available again on Amazon with a shiny new cover. Now seemed a good time to republish a novel based around James Brooke’s adventures in Borneo as a film on the man’s life (End of the World) is coming out on 21 June. It’s got pirates and battles and derring-do, but it’s mainly a reasonably thoughtful novel about colonialism and good and evil and suchlike. It’s not as easy to read as, say, Shadow on the Highway, but there is a lot of excitement as well as an exploration of what happens when Europeans take responsibility for the development of what we would now call Third World countries.

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