Set in the late 1560s, the story of Robert’s participation in a rebellion against the heretic queen, Elizabeth, when Catholics longed for the return of the old religion and aimed to set free Mary Queen of Scots, is told from both Catherine's and Robert Gray’s points of view.
There is a fine level of historical detail for the many who relish those things, and the setting is the north of England during the winter months of 1569-70. There are many references to the Pilgrimage of Grace some years earlier in which Robert’s father died in mysterious circumstances. However, someone wishes those circumstances to remain forever hidden and this becomes a danger for both Robert and Catherine.
There was a tendency for the writing to be more non-fiction than fiction in tone and the characters, particularly the males, seemed a little flat, but the history I could not fault. Today few people have the blind faith and devotion that inspired these characters to leave their homes and families to follow a cause but the author does give a sense of why that feeling was prevalent in the sixteenth century.
I felt there were opportunities to shape the story in a more dramatic way and use less narrative writing, but that is a matter of personal taste and I see no reason to mark this novel down because of the “show v tell” argument. There are many people who enjoy a serious historical novel without feisty maidens and bare-chested heroes pushing their way to the front. I hope this book does well for this author.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Jen Black