I received this copy of Deborah Swift’s new book in exchange for an honest review. I first came across Swift’s work (The Lady’s Slipper) when I was browsing in Victoria Station, London, a few years ago. I was happily surprised to find a traditionally published book set in the seventeenth century. Deborah is now the author of five novels – again, all set in the 17th century! I must admit that although I have bought all of these books, this is the first one I’ve read (and since this book was so interesting, I shall have to find the time to read all the others!).
Spirit of the Highway marks Book Two in the Highway Trilogy that Swift has written for Endeavour Press – the same publishing company that published my debut novella, His Last Mistress. I haven’t read the first novel in this series, but was able to get to know all the characters well since this book can also be read as a stand-alone.
Set in England, 1651, at the end of the English Civil Wars, the tale begins and ends with some paranormal activity, and we follow our narrator, the hot-blooded Ralph Chaplin, from the Battle of Worcester to his homecoming at Markyate Manor. There, Ralph is reunited with his family and Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the married young woman with whom he is in love. Theirs is a touching story of people divided by class but united by shared beliefs. Ralph is an idealistic supporter of Parliament, and Kate is married to a Royalist. They both wish to change the country and adopt the ideals set forth by Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers Movement, but these aims are not practical. Kate, Ralph, and members of Ralph’s family – notably Abi – have to deal with the consequences of so long and terrible a war.
Unfortunately, the horrors of war pursue Ralph, not only when he learns about a dreadful family secret, but in the form of a Cavalier out for vengeance. Some characters are simply dreadful – I didn’t like Elizabeth at all, and this dislike is a testament to Swift’s ability to bring life to her characters in only a few pages.
The ending, although tragic, made me eager to learn about the rest of the story, which Swift states in the Author’s Note will finish in 2016 when the final story in the trilogy is released. In this same Note, Swift succinctly summarises what the English Civil Wars were and their significance. She also explains that some of the characters were real and explained who the Diggers were. I think this was a very well-written, interesting, story and I look forward to reading the other two as soon as possible!
SCL rating: 4.5/5 (I wished there were more scenes between Kate and Ralph because I was captivated by their romance!)
From the publisher:
England has been engaged in a bitter Civil War for nearly ten years. Ralph Chaplin, a farmer’s son, has fallen for beautiful copper-haired Kate. There is only one problem – he is a Roundhead soldier and she is a Royalist Lady. Tired of bloodshed, Ralph volunteers to fight, sensing that the Battle at Worcester will be a chance to finish the fighting for good. He longs for peace, so he can forge a secure future and find a different, more equal way of life for himself and Kate. But War is not what he imagined, and soon he has made a deadly enemy; one who will pursue Ralph and those he loves, to wreak vengeance.
What’s more, Ralph finds he has as many enemies at home, as on the battlefield… Can Ralph protect his family – and Kate? Or do they stand to lose it all to his avenger?
‘Spirit of the Highway’ is the stand-alone second part of the Highway Trilogy based on the real life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, Highwaywoman. It followed on from ‘Shadow of the Highway’.
To purchase your copy of Spirit of the Highway, simply click on the cover image above.