Tag Archives: English civil wars

Deborah Swift Brings Legend of 17th Century Highwaywoman to Life for Both YA and AdultReaders

01_Shadow on the Highway

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~

01_Shadow on the HighwayPublication Date: July 15, 2014
Endeavor Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 200P

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

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Deborah Swift, Biography~

02_Deborah SiwftDeborah 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.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/shadowonthehighwayblogtourandbookblast

03_Shadow on the Highway_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Hashtags: #ShadowontheHighwayBlogTour #ShadowontheHighwayBookBlast #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SwiftStory


Filed under Book Reviews

The Midwife’s Tale an Outstanding Historical Mystery Debut by Sam Thomas!

The Midwife's Tale

The Midwife’s Tale was an exciting new mystery by first time novelist and historian, Sam Thomas.  The book, set during the mid-17th century during the time of unrest known as the English Civil Wars, takes us on a rousing adventure of a midwife turned detective.  Stephen Cooper, a man with political enemies, is killed and his wife is found guilty without a proper trial.  It’s up to her friend to save her or she’ll burn at the stake.

A woman with admirable girth, protagonist Bridget Hodgson is a midwife and widow of respectable status which allows her to move around the city and speak to men as most women of time are not. It also allows her to be privy to a wide range of gossip of news.  With her newly acquired maidservant, Martha, who has her own story to tell, Bridget sets out meeting around town and begins to make enemies of her own.

Based on a true midwife from the era who lived in York, Thomas does a remarkable job of spinning a tale utilizing her profession as a foundation for a fiction novel.  He is outstanding at casting suspicion on all the book’s supporting characters so we can’t quite figure out who might have poisoned Cooper or if his wife is innocent.  The only delay that Hodgson can bring to the wife’s death sentence is to point out that she is pregnant.  But is she really? Who is telling the truth and who is spinning lies?  How far would someone go to protect their secrets?

With all the political intrigue in the novel, rebels fighting against the King and everyone playing both sides to be in favor with whomever wins, it certainly is any man’s murder. But I bet you’ll be surprised who actually commits the crime.

Filled with life that’s brimming with horrible class distinction in the various area of York, Thomas’ historical knowledge of this time period adds to set all the scenes with great detail and visual. I could totally see this as a BBC show with a midwife detective. And might I add, that this man knows a lot about birthing a baby. The scenes portraying Bridget’s work as midwife–even through to the emotional upheaval that the career brought with it–were phenomenal. Though I love history, I honestly say I do not want to time travel back to this era and proceed in becoming pregnant. Life was hard for women of any class, but especially for servants and in the poorer of any city’s areas.

I can’t wait to read more mysteries from Thomas and hope he writes more!! I enjoyed my time reading it in no time flat.  If you’re a fan of history, sleuthing, and strong female protagonists, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a must-have read.  The style of writing reminded me of C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Secret; however, Thomas winds a tale to us from the deepest part of the society up giving us a glimpse into a character that can move about between both poor, common, and aristocrat with same level of humanity and accountability for all.


Thomas is giving away one regular book copy to a winner in US or Canada!! You don’t want to miss leaving a comment to enter this giveaway either on the blog or on my FB link of this post. In the comment, please leave an email (or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com) so I can contact you if you win regarding your mailing address. No PO boxes please. 

Extra entry will be earned by following my blog: Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Please let me know you did so for the extra entry.

Giveway will run until February 6, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

About the Book~

Publication Date: January 8, 2013 | Minotaur Books | 320p

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale.

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas just recently moved to Ohio from Alabama.  He has a wife and two children.


Find out more on Sam Thomas, as well as the real life Bridget Hodgson and midwives of this era at:  http://samthomasbooks.com/



Book signings/Readings/Events~

For those of us who live in Ohio, so does the newly relocated Thomas, and we have an opportunity to see him at the following locations and times:

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fireside Bookshop, 29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls.


When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, part of the “Dead of Winter, A Celebration of Mystery Writing” event.

Where: Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland.


When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Where: Bertram Woods Library, 20600 Fayette Road, Shaker Heights.


Check out the Tour Schedule where you’ll find more reviews, interviews, giveaways, and guest posts at: http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/sam-thomas-on-tour-for-midwifes-tale.html

Twitter Hashtag: #MidwifesTaleVirtualTour

The Midwife's Tale Tour Banner FINAL


Filed under Book Reviews