Sunday, April 5, 2015

Review: By The Sword (Guardians of the Crown #1) by Alison Stuart

Book coverBy The Sword (Guardians of the Crown #1) by Alison Stuart
Purchase link: Amazon

My rating: star star star starstar

Heat rating: Flame  Flame

From award-winning author Alison Stuart comes a stirring historical trilogy about soldiers, spies, and the strong women that love them.

England 1650. In the aftermath of the execution of the King, England totters once more on the brink of civil war. The country will be divided and lives lost as Charles II makes a last bid to regain his throne.

Kate Ashley finds her loyalty to the Parliamentary cause tested when she inherits responsibility for the estate of the Royalist Thornton family. To protect the people she cares about, she will need all her wits to restore its fortunes and fend off the ever-present threat of greedy neighbours.

Jonathan Thornton, exiled and hunted for his loyalty to the King's cause now returns to England to garner support for the cause of the young King. Haunted by the demons of his past, Jonathan risks death at every turn and brings danger to those who love him. Finding Kate in his family home, he sees in her the hope for his future, and a chance at a life he doesn’t deserve.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester, Jonathan must face his nemesis, and in turn, learn the secret that will change his life forever. But love is fragile in the face of history, and their lives are manipulated by events out of their control. What hope can one soldier and one woman hold in times like these?

I went into reading this book with much trepidation as I had recently DNF'ed two historicals, both by excellent authors. I thought maybe I was off historicals and I would not enjoy this. Fortunately, that was not the case.

War is a terrible thing and civil war within a country, no matter the reason, is even more so. It splits the country into half and divides the people. Families turns against each other, fathers against sons and brothers against brothers as each take sides based on their individual beliefs.

The setting of By The Sword is one such time, during the civil war in England where Charles II fights to regain his throne against Cromwell.

Alison Stuart delivers a beautiful love story set in a backdrop of a war torn country, where people are tired of war and weighed down by poverty and tragedy. In this midst, Ms Stuart brings history to life, brilliantly told through the lives of Kate and Jonathan. Don't expect a quick journey to the happy ending though. This does not resolve itself over a span of weeks or months, but rather years, as Kate and Jonathan endure the consequences of war.

Kate has lost a great deal to the war and holds no loyalty to monarch or Parliament. She's capable and strong as she manages first one and later two households as the story unfolds, alone, without a man by her side to support her. She's pragmatic in her approach to life even as she longs for peace and the love of a man committed to the war. I echo Giles, when he says "You're a remarkable woman, Kate Ashley."

Jonathan is a wonderful hero. Tired from the war and loss but carrying on due to a strong sense of loyalty and dedication, continuing to fight a losing battle (I promise you this is not a spoiler, it's written in history) because of what he believed in. I love that at one point in the story, his feelings about his death changes as he comes to the realization that there are those who would grieve deeply for him and he wants to live for them. That was a beautiful moment. The things he had to endure before the end of the story broke my heart many times and I wept for him, but through it all, he didn't lose sight of the man that he was.

Alison Stuart did a wonderful job of illustrating what obstacles comes to couples who love during a time of war. The times of separation, the hope that loved ones remain safe and alive, the fleeting, stolen moments when their paths cross for a brief period, and the anxiety when they are apart.

Right through reading this story, I was overwhelmed by the sense of history that I read in the words that were written and had an urge to get to the end as quickly as possible so that I could see Kate and Jonathan have their happy ending. Don't rush it though, this is a story to be savored.

Thank you for writing such an engaging story, Ms Stuart. Well done. I'm looking forward to book 2 and 3.

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About the author
auAlison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of cross genre historicals with heart. Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes. She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town.

Author links: Website - Facebook - Twitter

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