Delighted to get the following review for A New Lease on Freedom, first in the Dorset Chronicles Series. Here goes:
This is a lovely historical novel set in Dorset’s intimate geography which the author is obviously very familiar. The evocation of place makes you want to visit and soak up the atmosphere of 17th Dorset.
A New Lease on Freedom is the opener for a delightful series that take us from Charles II through to William of Orange via the turbulence of the Monmouth Rebellion and The Glorious Revolution. There are glimpses at Judge Jefferies’ Bloody Assize, near-executions and several unspeakable events. Many of the narrative threads are drawn together but many remain, reflecting the intrigue of the times, for the story to twist and turn.
National events punctuate a plot that sees the principal players – the four Davenport children, Grace, Elizabeth and twins Thomas and Mathew – make their way through a revolutionary period. Their motto is one of “going different ways but always sticking together.
There is a wide supporting cast, led by Lady Merriman aka Glenda Awkright, Amelia and her rotten husband Simon Taylor together with a variety of heroes and villains. Baddies such as Sergeant Roakes and Parchman orbit the narrative like comets returning to the centre of the fray, as their nefarious associations unfold. The Dickensian Big Jim, Plain Jane and the two Bees ensure a gentler sense of humour to leaven the serious moments.
The story is one of opposing forces being played out by, for the most part, ordinary people living their lives: pragmatism and ideology, puritanism and Catholicism, rich and poor, lucky and not. Deep secrets, illegitimacy, intrigue and espionage weave the characters together as the plot develops.
The Duke of Monmouth seems ill-fated from the start, unlike his counterpart William of Orange but the crucial role of City financiers (today’s hedge fund managers?) is also strongly hinted at.
The bite-sized chapters provide a momentum and variation in rhythm works well with sedate, character-building alternated by fast-paced action.
The final third underlines religion as a theme through the use of Biblical homilies to summarise the interpretation of unfolding events.
Completion of the bridge at Sturminster Newton is a fitting metaphor for the resolution and reconciliation of most of the tensions that the book explores and it is interesting to count just how many characters win their new lease.