The Swift and the Harrier

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Pub Date 4 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 5 Nov 2021
Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin

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A sweeping historical adventure set during one of the most turbulent periods of British history - featuring a heroine you'll never forget...

Dorset, 1642. When bloody civil war breaks out between the King and Parliament, families and communities across England are riven by different allegiances.

A rare few choose neutrality.

One such is Jayne Swift, a Dorset physician from a Royalist family, who offers her services to both sides in the conflict. Through her dedication to treating the sick and wounded, regardless of belief, Jayne becomes a witness to the brutality of war and the devastation it wreaks.

Yet her recurring companion at every event is a man she should despise because he embraces civil war as the means to an end. She knows him as William Harrier, but is ignorant about every other aspect of his life. His past is a mystery and his future uncertain.

The Swift and the Harrier is a sweeping tale of adventure and loss, sacrifice and love, with a unique and unforgettable heroine at its heart.

A sweeping historical adventure set during one of the most turbulent periods of British history - featuring a heroine you'll never forget...

Dorset, 1642. When bloody civil war breaks out between the...

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ISBN 9781838954529
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Featured Reviews

This is an excellent book. I love it when I learn history incidentally from a novel. The main characters are realistic and likeable, the period descriptions are detailed and informative, and the plot moves along at a steady pace. Jane is an unusual character for the time - a female tales of her remedies and the injuries incurred during battles are really interesting. Overall, a brilliant read.

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I’m delighted that Minette Walters has moved from her crime books into the world of historical fiction. She excels at both, but The Swift and The Harrier is, for me, her best yet. The way she weaves a story around fact is breathtaking. The opening pages are powerful. There’s a hanging and the reader is immediately drawn in to the excitement of the event as people crowd to watch the spectacle. It’s a brutal affair but the hustle and bustle feels real. Jayne Swift is a physician and quickly becomes involved with William Harrier, a man of many guises with a mysterious past.

The story takes place during the Civil War and the conflicts within households and a divided country are incredibly well depicted. There’s a strong sense of place in which I was easily immersed. This book is an adventure, but along the way it explores political and personal divides in Civil War England extremely well. And the role of women; often experts in their field, but reviled by reason of gender. A rollicking read that works at many levels and I really enjoyed this foray into a war torn Britain.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley and Allen & Unwin in return for an honest review.

This is a fabulous read. Minette Walters has taken a truly awful and tragic period in history and two amazing characters in Jayne and William and produced a riveting, beautifully executed, exploration of the civil war and its ramifications. I've read a few of this author's books and she really has a gift for bringing things to life. A 5 star read.

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Anyone familiar with Ms Walters fabulous historical fiction will definitely enjoy her latest accomplishment a sweeping tale of love, espionage, political intrigues and religious shenanigans set in England during the tumultuous years of the Civil War. A swashbuckling feat full of unforgettable & very colorful characters, breathless military action and enough twists and turns to keep the reader on pins and needles all the way to the end. A fantastic and captivating fictional journey through 17th century England that should be enjoyed without moderation. Historical fiction at its best!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Allen & Unwin for this wonderful ARC

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As a long time fan of Minette Walters I have been looking forward to this book and was not disappointed - it’s quite simply wonderful! Immensely readable, superbly characterised, with a gripping plot and a wonderful sense of place and time - what more could a reader ask for? It centres around Jayne Swift, a very rare female physician in the 17th century, and the mysterious William Harrier, who has many different personas, but is of course the good guy. The story doesn’t stint on descriptions of war injuries or the effects of poverty on the people of the time, but as these are so much a part of the story, they are far easier to accept than they would be had they been included simply to shock the reader. This reviewer honestly has nothing negative to say about this book!

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Thank you to Net Galley and Allen & Unwin for a pre published copy of : The Swift and the Harrier.

Firstly I have read several of Mind the Walters books including my favourite The Last Hours, well that was until now with The Swift and The Harrier. Quite simply , it's one of her best !

Jayne Swift lives in Dorset in 1642 where a civil war has broken out between the king and parliament.
Jayne is a physician , she come from a royalist family but treats both sides.
She mets her protagonist William Harrier ( hence the clever title )
The story is no gentle love story and can be quite brutal at times , but Minette has the nack of taking straight to the action to the degree that you can feel the emotions and almost see yourself as a bystander witnessing the unfolding action as if it's been laid out in front of you.

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Minette Walters is one of my all time favourite writers when it comes to crime novels, subtle, clever and disturbing.

How talented and versatile she is as a writer to be able to turn her hand to a much lighter but still involving series of historical fiction novels. I believe her first historical novels were set around the time of the plague and they are well worth reading.

'The Swift and the Harrier' is an excellent summer read. Flashes of humour, engaging heroes, villains and heroines and a good dollop of very well integrated history.

The English civil war was an utterly grim and horrible time and deaths as a percentage of the population were higher then they were in the first world war. Minette Walters brings to life the brutality and horror of life then but without ramming all her research down your throat or filling you with gloom.

Her history informs and illuminates rather than making you think you are being given a lecture. Particularly well done was the divide between those believing in the divine right of the king and the rights of the English people.

This is a novel for 21st century readers and if I was being picky I would say Jayne Swift would have had a much harder life than that portrayed in the novel. She is very zesty and sure of herself, partly what makes the novel so fun.

I'm very interested to see how Minette Walters thinking develops and if she moves towards historical crime.. She would certainly be able to create an equivalent to the 'Shardlake' series.

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I really, really enjoyed this book. All the characters are well-rounded and believable.
The novel is set during the English Civil War with characters from both sides, and none, and one gets a real sense of why a civil war is such a terrible thing for any nation. The leading characters - Jayne Swift, a doctor who is prepared to use the latest, untried innovations to save lives, and William Harrier, who is definitely much more than he originally seems - are both engaging and likeable. The plot is well written, and I hope there are more historical novels from Minette Walters - I will definitely read them.

With thanks to NetGalley and Allen and Unwin for an ARC

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I loved this English Civil War story of Jayne Swift and William Harrier by Minette Walters. What more could you ask for than a feisty heroine and a mysterious hero fighting to stay live and help others in turbulent times. It also helped that I live in Dorchester so that the settings had some familiarity and it was interesting to learn some of the local history of that time.

Recommended for all readers of historical fiction.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to review this book.

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From the first page The Swift and the Harrier is a gripping novel set during The English Civil War. It’s focus is Dorset during the era and it brilliantly fictionalises the particular conflicts and shifting of alliances within the county. Dorset is a microcosm for divisions within the country as a whole at this time.

Jayne Swift is a healer from a quietly royalist middle class landowning family who is herself determined to remain neutral. Unfortunately for her her healing abilities takes her into the orbit of Prince Maurice, brother to the more famous Prince Rupert . The very first chapter places Jayne in an horrific incident in Dorchester orchestrated by the Puritan faction led by Samuel Morecott who is her own kinswoman, Ruth’s despicable husband, mean ,and an opportunist. William, lady Alice’s footman, is determined to become Jayne’s protector but is William really what he appears? He seems to be embroiled in nefarious activity , maybe spying for both sides.

The reader will follow Jayne and William’s fluctuating fortunes throughout the remaining years of the war. They will discover much about shifting loyalties , family divisions and the war’s impact on ordinary drafted in soldiers , those ordinary men and women who just want peace for their families and good harvests but are corralled against their by wicked masters. Jayne is a wonderful protagonist and her story is thrilling. This is a wonderful book of courage and fortitude, and incredibly perceptive about character. The novel is pacy, informative , intriguing and beautifully written revealing its characters with a profoundly human touch. I know the period well. It is spot on , brilliantly researched and , above all, I loved the book’s exciting narrative .

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*Many thanks to Minette Walters, Atlantic Books, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
A historical fiction set in Dorset which open during the early stages of the Civil War. Ms Walters does a superb job depicting the horrors of that period, giving us insight into both sides and also into tumultous religious divide. The main character, Jayne Swift, is an ususal young woman, independent and practising medicine , not afraid of opposing male doctors and open to innovative methods of treatment. She finds her equal in the person of a mysterious footman, William Harrier, who turns out to be much, much more.
I enjoyed the solid history in this novel and the characters well-developed and interesting though not all likeable. Descriptions of the position of a woman , consequences of her choices and social conditioning deserve praise. And I was thankful for the romance being kept at the minimum level.

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Set during the English Civil War this book follows the story of Jayne Swift. As a lady physician she faces much discrimination and danger as she goes out & about helping people. Caught up in the crowd watching the hanging of priests, she is helped by a footman, William. William Harrier is not all he seems and Jayne meets him again in a variety of guises.
This is a well written, engaging book which I struggled to put down. I know little about the history of this period so enjoyed this as the background for the story.
Jayne and William are fascinating characters. Jayne is headstrong which does land her in trouble at times. I do wonder if, in reality, she could have got away with some of the things she said & did but a bit of poetic licence is allowed as it wasn't too extreme. I like the fact that neither character is perfect & makes mistakes. The supporting cast are also well constructed with very real personalities.
All round this was just an excellent read. A fascinating period of history, a good plot and great characters. I do hope that we meet the Swift and the Harrier again.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

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A first for me from Minette Walters and she does one of my favourite genres {Historical Fiction } brilliantly. This isnt just fiction though this is a love story entwined around the Civil wars of Royalist and 1642.

The factual based writing is interesting and tells of the battles that went on in 1642 and works its way around a lady called Jayne Swift , who is a physician but not recognised as one until the wars break out and her skills are needed.

During this time she attracts the attention of a gentleman William Harrier and the love story builds throughout the book.... The Wars rage on and the the insight to the Civil Wars is fascinating and enlightening as to what they were about and why they fought

The use of Jaynes medicine box that was centred around herbs and their uses is and interesting facet of the book and one which as spurred me on to look at herbal medicine in more depth...

I give this five stars as it was a wonderful interesting read

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Dorset in 1642. A civil war has broken out between the king and parliament.
The story centres around brave Jayne Swift, female physician, who were obviously rare in 17. century and mysterious William Harrier, man of many roles and talents.

Minette Walters is one of my favourite writers. I've read all her crime novels and now she excels herself in a history fiction genre. Master storyteller takes us on a journey to the brutal and bloody times and yet the novel is full of adventure, action, heroes, villains and also hope, love and friendship.

Nation is divided by religion, social/patriarchal hierarchy, wealth and much more. Survival of the fittest and the smartest is inevitable. Everything is also still very much relatable even in 21. century.

Superb read!

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It’s 19th August 1642 and physician Jayne Swift tries to negotiate a path through the crowds gathered in Dorchester to watch the execution of Catholic priests as the city has enthusiastically embraced Puritanism. She wants to get to her cousin Ruth’s house as her son is gravely ill. She waits in a doorway that proves to be owned by Lady Alice Strickland and there the Swift meets the Harrier - William Harrier..... who appears to be acting as Alice’s footman. This is the start of a gripping novel which seamlessly weaves fact with fiction with the civil war raging throughout the kingdom and at the centre a developing and fascinating love story.

The English Civil War + strong women + medicine is a match made in heaven for me!!! Jayne Swift absolutely captivates, she’s a central protagonist that keeps you intrigued throughout. Jayne’s vow of neutrality, her desire to use her extensive medical knowledge for the good of all, her intelligence, quick wittedness, kindness and straight honest talking makes you admire her more and more. As for William Harrier, what an enigma, a real chameleon, he’s a mystery in as far as who or what exactly is he??? This conundrum unfolds really well and he is also a colourful and excellently portrayed character. I think it’s fair to say that the large cast of characters are all deftly conveyed so you can picture them in your minds eye, in particular Lady Alice.

This historical novel is meticulously researched, the developing civil war, the conspiracies, backstabbing, reprisals, religious and political divisions that split families including Jaynes, the brutality of war, the war weariness and deprivation and the dramatic conclusion in January 1649 are entwined in the life of Jayne and Will. It’s well plotted and paced, there’s a great ending, it’s beautifully written in a lively and colourful way. In places it’s gritty as Jayne assists in helping the injured and surgery at this time is not pretty. I really enjoy the medical side of the storytelling with Jayne having been trained by Dr Richard Theale who is ‘modern’ in his approach versus the magical, weird and not so wonderful of other physicians.

Overall, this is historical fiction at its best with strong women at the centre of the storytelling. This fits with the times as the civil war allowed ‘warrior women’ such as Lady Brilliana Hardy to make their mark. The writing is peppered with humour and scenes so lively they spring off the pages. I’ve been an admirer of Minette Walters for years and continue to do so. If you like Historical Fiction and especially the civil war then I highly recommend this one.

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Atlantic Books, Allen and Unwin for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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Minette Walters is a fantastic author and rarely disappoints. Once again, this is a wonderful book to read - so atmospheric and reminiscent of the time.

Jane Swift is a female physician whose family are split between supporting parliament and supporting the king. Jane doesn't want to take sides, she'd rather help anyone who needs it but it's really hard for a woman. Everywhere she goes she seems to come into contact with William; first as a servant but is that really all he is?

A cleverly written novel with really likeable (and some definitely unlikeable characters) and, as I said, conjuring up the difficulties of the time, particularly as a lone woman. I really enjoyed reading it but then I knew I would.

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Set in Civil War England this book is the story of Jane Swift and William Harrier, a clever play on words as both surnames evoke birds of prey. Jayne Swift is a rarity for her time, a female physician trusted by both the royalists and Parliamentarians involved in the war. William Harrier is an altogether more complex character who isn't quite as he initially appears. A great read which puts the realities of life for the ordinary Englishman under the microscope as King and Parliament battle for control of the country. Jayne and William cross paths at different points in the story and each tie a little more about each character is revealed. They become allies in many senses of the word. Jayne is a strong female character in the mold of many of Minette Walters female protagonists.
This book was an extremely pleasant surprise, this isn't one of my favorite periods of English history yet I remained glued to the pages from beginning to end.

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Historical fiction at its best, great characters & sense of place. Dorset booksellers should be loving this one!

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A beautifully written love story, set in our country's most turbulent times, when brothers took opposing sides, fathers disowned their sons and mothers wept for the battlefield dead, killed by men of their own nation. While this may be a romance at heart, The Swift and the Harrier is the perfect way to learn a little about a vital period of history we never learn about at school, in a way that makes it come alive.

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The joy of this book.
It is the story of Jayne Swift, daughter of Lord Henry who is a trained healer.
Our story begins in 1642 and we watch the course of the civil war through her eyes as she treads a neutral path caring for those injured in the terrible war.
At he same time Will Harrier is keeping an eye, but who is he really.
I loved the characters in this story.

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'The Swift and the Harrier' by Minette Walters follows Mistress Swift, a female physician, who provides medical care in the civil war to Royalists and Parliamentarians alike. Despite her gender she earns respect due to her skills, and whilst those around her choose sides she remains neutral and opposed to the carnage of war. Responding to calls for help from her cousin Ruth to save the life of her infant son, Mistress Swift meets William Harrier, a man she is introduced as a footman, but doesn't act like one. His story and background gradually becomes entwined with hers.

I have heard lots of praise for Minette Walters but have never read her novels. I absolutely loved this one. There was the right balance of fact with fiction, and Walter's prose easily created vivid pictures in my mind that totally absorbed me. I would definitely recommend this to others and experienced book grief when it ended. I will be seeking out other novels by her.

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The first chapter of this book, opening with a bang, sets the scene for an enthralling story set in the English Civil War. You need a strong stomach for the first barbaric incident related here. The battles are wonderfully depicted. You can almost hear the screams as men are blasted with old fashioned weaponry.
Jayne Swift, the central character of this novel, is exceptional for the fact she's a female doctor in a time when this was not the norm. She remains neutral as to her allegiances and vows to help the wounded on both sides but it's her character that shines through and makes you interested in the outcome of her story.
William Harrier, her love interest, is a chameleon. A man of many disguises, we're never sure who he really is. The love story is understated but fits perfectly into the novel.
The fact and fiction parts of the book blend seamlessly. I've always been interested in this part of history and learned a lot here.
This is my first book by this author and I've already purchased another on the strength of this one.
I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good, solid story with fantastically drawn characters. The historical element is an added bonus.

Grateful thanks to Netgalley and Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin for an early copy of this book to read and review.

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What a wonderful, really enjoyable book this is. It enabled me to cast away the cares of my everyday life and lose myself in the tale of Jayne, a female physician during the English Civil war. Because Jayne was allied to neither the Royalists or the Parliamentarians the story was told in such a way that the reader could make their own mind up about the rights and wrongs of the times. To say too much would give away much of the story, but Jayne and her family and the intriguing William and his family and friends captivated me for a good few pleasurable hours!

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This is a thoroughly enjoyable read; it's a journey through a turbulent time in English history and I really enjoyed the well-researched historical backdrop. There's also some great characters to follow, specifically Jayne Swift and William Harrier (with a complex and mysterious root to his character) who's relationship is a joy to follow, although there are many ups and downs. I really enjoyed the medical side to the story as well. Highly recommended.

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Historical fiction at its best. Minette Walters' novels always make you feel you're walking alongside the protagonists, in this case Jayne Swift and William Harrier. Jayne remains neutral as one of the few women doctors of the period, treating casualties on both sides of the conflict. William's affiliation is a mystery at first. If you enjoyed The Ice House or The Scold's Bridle, you should enjoy this.

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n the summer of 1642, Jane Swift is on her way to tend to a sick child when she inadvertently gets caught up in the dreadful events taking place in Dorchester as the city is swept up in a fervour of unrest and Puritan retribution. Not wanting to witness the harrowing execution of Catholic priests, Jane waits in the doorway of the house of Lady Alice Strickland where she comes into contact, not only with the formidable Lady Alice, but also with William Harrier who is Alice's footman. This momentous meeting between two strong women will have long reaching repercussions as both Jane Swift in her role as a female physician and Lady Alice Srickland's forthright nature are a combined force which cannot be ignored. The enigmatic Harrier has his own dangerous path to tread, and is one which will have far reaching repercussions for all of them.

When the story opens in 1642 the English Civil war is bubbling under the surface. There is widespread discontent against a King who refuses to listen to his advisors and who will not be moved to compassion by the plight of his people. War is inevitable and with meticulous research and fine attention to detail this troubled period in history comes to vivid, and dramatic, life.

I enjoyed walking alongside Jane Swift, she's a strong and decisive character, more than a match for any man who blocks her path and her true calling as a skilled physician is certainly put to the test as the Civil War battles get underway. Jane's complex relationship with William Harrier is fascinating, both are willful, determined and with right on their side, unstoppable however, Harrier's chameleon like nature means that we never really know what he is going to do next. And that's what makes this story such a fascinating read.

Authentically written with all the skill and passion which this talented writer brings to the literary table. I loved The Swift and the Harrier and am delighted to make it my Featured Book of the Month for November.

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I was lucky enough to review the previous books, set in the period of the Black Death, 1348, The Last Hours, and The Turn of Midnight, and this is set in the period of the English Civil War, 1642-1645.
This was a horrible series of battles that literally had Fathers fighting against Sons, Brothers ranged against Brothers, England tearing itself apart, due to a King, who believed in the ‘Divine Right’ of Kings to rule without consulting Parliament, and thus ignoring the wishes of the entire population of his country. There followed much loss of life on assorted battlefields up and down the country, until Oliver Cromwell, and his New Model Army started to take back control of the country.
The Swift of this story is Jayne, who is working as a Physician, although she cannot be officially recognised as such, no women are allowed a licence from any college or university at this time. Jayne therefore treats the wounded from both sides of this conflict, she is neither for or against either side. Women were allowed to use skills of herbalists, and midwifery when attending injured soldiers and their families.
Set in Dorset, this story opens with a rather gruesome execution of Catholic priests. The Civil War was all about religion, the Royalists, mainly Protestants, were for the King, the opposers were Puritans, Presbyterians and Independents, who believed that the Church of England owed too much allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Harrier is William, who works as a servant to Lady Alice Strickland, but he seems more than his role suggests. Is he a spy, or a turncoat soldier with an eye to the main chance? He and Jayne become acquainted and together, help us to understand the horrors and uncertainty of this war.
The characters are sympathetically drawn and the detail of these battles are excellent. Having been to Corfe Castle and read about the actions of Lady Mary Bankes, during the sieges of May 1643, I full admire these women, who took such risks to defend their homes against armed soldiers, when all they had available was stones and various noxious substances boiled up to throw at besieging troops!!
I wasn’t taught this period of history at school, but since then have learnt much about this time of conflict, especially when on holiday in Scotland. I didn’t know that Oliver Cromwell was so dammed unpopular up North, the sheer amount of destruction he and his troops inflicted upon various houses, farms, churches( Kirks) is always pointed out to us when we visit places over the border, I feel obliged to apologise every time we go away!! I have seen a few re-enactments done by The Sealed Knot Society and been in awe of just how loud a cannon sounds when it is being fired. After one of these events done locally, I had the surreal experience of seeing King Charles and Oliver Cromwell sitting together, enjoying a pint, at one of our local pubs! That would have been much the best way to resolve such an unnecessary conflict.
I enjoyed this book, and I always learn so much from the detail, that is gently disguised in these novels. A five star read.
My thanks go to Netgalley and Atlantic books, and publishers Allen and Unwin. This is my honest, freely given review, in return for my copy of this book.

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Following her two epic novels on the Black Death, Minette Walters returns with a rousing historical fiction novel and love story set against the backdrop of the English Civil War with an inspirational woman at its heart. Spanning 1942 to 1949 and predominantly set in Dorset, the novel opens in dramatic fashion with not yet twenty-seven-year-old Jayne Swift, the daughter of a local squire from a loyal Royalist family, making haste to attend the sick baby son of her cousin in Dorchester. A physician by training but unable to declare herself one in the county, Jayne arrives as a frenzied crowd awaits the execution of two Catholic priests with her cousin’s husband, Samuel Morecott, leading the Puritan uprising. Encountering Lady Alice Stickland known for her outspoken support for Parliament in Dorchester it is the behaviour of her overly familiar footman, William, that gives Jayne pause for thought. As the conflict continues apace with a siege at Lyme Regis where Jayne takes charge of a former hospital for treating the wounded and wins plaudits aplenty, to returning to her family home and finding it divided by the conflict, Jayne seems to encounter William Harrier wherever she goes. In one instance a footman, in another a Knight or soldier comrade of her brother, William turns up everywhere and it is never quite clear on which side of the divide his loyalties lie.

Jayne Swift is a brilliantly drawn character, a woman to be admired and very much the focal point of this engrossing stand-alone. A woman who has never conformed to expectations, Jayne is an intelligent, quick-witted and kind woman who makes no secret of her intention to remain neutral from the outset of the conflict and treat the wounded, whether they be Royalist or Parliamentarian. William Harrier remains an enigma for the majority of the novel and in contrast to straight-talking Jayne I had difficulty warming to his chameleon-like persona and never quite felt he was trustworthy or indeed worthy of Jayne! The romance aspect of the story is muted and throughout plays second fiddle to the overriding story of the conflict dividing the nation and the opportunities it presents for Jayne to use her training as a physician. Jayne’s romance with William Harrier doesn’t feel written on the cards from the start of this novel and it certainly doesn’t read like a typical historical romance novel which I doubt would have held my attention so completely over the course of five hundred pages. The story is vividly evoked throughout and there is a regular cast of around twenty supporting characters that the reader gets to know with a balance between details of conflicts, political machinations and Jayne’s medical work.

Whilst I think that in reality a female physician, particularly one as doughty as Jayne Swift, would have had a far tougher time getting a modicum of respect and would have faced far more hostility than she did, it did nothing to detract from an extraordinarily compelling reading experience. Unequivocally well-researched and both dramatic and fast-paced enough to make it a real page-turner that is both an accessible and introduction to the period. That the denouement isn’t rushed is the icing on the cake to a powerfully told story where the very best and worst of humanity are on display.

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An excellent, compelling and fascinating historical fiction novel, it kept me reading and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Great characters, vivid and well researched historical background.
It was a good way to learn something new and I appreciated Jayne and the realistic description of the Civil War.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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