I do love Deborah Swift’s writing. She has a way of telling elegant, yet exciting stories based on unique individuals who are imagined to have lived around true factual people and she sets the scene amid harrowing historical circumstances while maintaining to keep most of her prose lyrical and light. Yet, though the setting is usually dire, she additionally has a wonderful way of show how commoners or the serving class, or even noblewomen, could overcome great internal strife based on external prisons. That she made sure all was present within her newest historical, also cataloged as YA, didn’t surprise and I utterly enjoyed reading SHADOW ON THE HIGHWAY.
Historically, the wealthy Lady Katherine Fanshawe did exist, though I’m certain that most people prior to picking up this book know little about her life. At least not the every day reader, though she did lead a life exciting enough to become a legend. Her seventeenth century claim to fame, though for her it was just a way out of her eternal struggle of being treated like meat and used for her money by her husband and father-in-law, was that she became a highwaywoman, known as The Wicked Lady!
Swift’s book begins as a deaf maid, Abigail (who is Swift’s main character and purely fictional), is purchased as a maidservant for the Fanshawe household. This book is set during the English Civil War, and coupled with those already difficult times, Abigail being deaf does not give her an easy road to being accepted in somewhere for work. That she is deaf as a reason to be bought as a servant doesn’t occur to her, she just knows she is cheap.
Swift’s book brings to light not only the condition of women during this period, even though independently wealth were mere pawns and treated almost like slaves themselves. However, Swift also brings to readers the realization that most of these women were so highly intelligent as to operate quite a lot behind the scenes of their awful possessive and rule-mongering husband’s eyes. I am encouraged by how Swift always makes it a point to showcase women in dire circumstances and how they overcome them with such courage and bravery. In this instance, she has a mission and she’s also seeking love. As Abi begins to see the workings of the “games” that the men, and also her Lady, play in this life, she begins to question Katherine. I loved watching their friendship and loyalty grow.
The adventure, intrigue, suspicion, and covert operations in this book really propel this book forward. It’s a quick adult read, but I great YA novel for the fact that it would keep older teens reading and help them gain an interest in history from early on, without bogging them down with heavy political details. There are factual situations in the book that would promote further learning, such as the English Civil War, the Diggers (a movement that believed in equality for all and started the first “commune”), and the deaf and the first indication of a universal language of sign.
Swift’s Shadow on the Highway is interesting enough because it’s seeped in the legend of a woman who sneaks out at night in male clothing and robs travelers, yet it shows the woman behind the legend through her blossoming friendship with her servant girl. As both learn about themselves, and what they can accomplish, the book shows depth and their personalities complement each other in a way that makes you feel a connection yourself. The romance is not overly done, due to it being YA I was pleased by this myself, but there is enough forbidden romantic intrigue to keep the pages moving.
Swift brings layers of historical and imaginative detail to her stories and I highly recommend as a light read for any adult and for teenagers interested into foraying into historical fiction. Swift is always a must-read!
Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, Book One), Synopsis~
Series: The Highway Trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction/YA (14+)
May 1651. England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.
Abigail Chaplin, a young mute girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household – the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.
Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.
Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks? How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Shadow on the Highway?
Shadow On The Highway is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in The Highway Trilogy.
To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.
Giveaway is from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and ends at 11:59 p.m. on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email. The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Praise for Shadow on the Highway~
“There is no greater compliment than ‘Give me more!’” – Author Susanna Gregory
“realistic dialogue, an author’s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages” – Romance Reviews Today
“genuinely engrossing… with characters you can get interested in” – The Mum Website
Deborah Swift, Biography~
Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park.
She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance and
is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.
For more information, please visit Deborah’s website.
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