The rebel daughter by Miranda Mallins

Bridget and her family move to a country estate in Ely after her father, Oliver Cromwell, receives an inheritance from a deceased uncle. Not much later, Cromwell starts to fight against the Papist king and everything he stands for. Both her father and her older brothers leave for a civil war against fellow countryman. However, Bridget also wants to contribute to the ’cause’ and realizes that a domestic life is not for her. That’s why she accepts the marriage proposal of Henry Ireton, one of her father’s right hand men.

I actually know bizarrely little about the Civil War. But a name like Oliver Cromwell obviously rings a bell. So I enjoyed reading about his family, from the perspective of his eldest daughter Bridget, or Biddie as they call her. Bridget comes from a numerous family and Mallins uses pet names for all the children, which was a little annoying at times.

Bridget is a pleasant main character. She’s a rational person who puts herself in function of her family and later her husband and the war. This sets her apart form her slightly younger sister Betty, who also comes to the forefront in this novel. Betty is fiery, vain and somewhat materialistic. The total opposite of Bridget but at the same time there’s a strong bond between the sisters that I enjoyed reading about.

In the second half of the book there’s a hard focus on all the intrigues within the wars. Not always easy to be totally on board with, especially because of the many characters who also constantly switch sides or opinions.

Bridget’s relationship with Henry is not one of great love, but one of mutual respect, so you certainly sympathise with them. Mallins also wrote a book about the youngest Cromwell sister (‘The Puritan princess’) which I now definitely want to read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read any good books set during the Civil War?

The crimson ribbon by Catherine Clemens

Ruth Flowers is a servant in the household of Oliver Cromwell in Ely when suddenly tragedy strikes and she’s forced to leave. She’s sent to London to work for the Poole family. Once there, she quickly becomes friends with the charismatic and outspoken Elizabeth Poole. Elizabeth writes rebellious manuscripts and mean rumours circulate about her, but Ruth doesn’t believe there’s any truth in them. In the midst of Civil War, Ruth and Elizabeth become entangled in the trial of Charles I. When a king might lose his head, nobody is safe.

I borrowed ‘The crimson ribbon‘ from the library not knowing much about it, except that’s a story about women set during the Civil War. A dark period in English history that no so many authors write about it, so I wasn’t familiar with it.

The story opens with Ruth Flowers attending a childbirth with her mother in the charming village of Ely. As the child is born dead and her mother blames Ruth’s mother, the village turns against the two of them. Ruth’s mother is called a witch and hanged by a tree before anyone can stop the crowd. A cruel start that takes Ruth to London.

On her way to London she meets Josep Oakes, a former soldier in The Civil War. He gives us an insight into the cruelty that soldiers have witnessed during some of the battles. Ruth and Joseph loose sight of each other when they arrive and Ruth goes to live with Elizabeth- Lizzie- Poole. Ruth is immediately taken with her. Even when people in the streets start to call her a whore and a witch, Ruth believes in her mistress’ innocence.

Ruth Flowers is a fictional character, but Elizabeth is a true historical character. She played a role in the trial of Charles I where she testified about her visions given by God. Elizabeth was a highly religious person and it is said she was used by Oliver Cromwell to get what he want. Except from her testimony, we don’t know much about Elizabeth’s real life or death. In this book, Clemens tries to reconstruct a believable story.

I didn’t like Elizabeth’s character at all and I believe this was the author’s meaning 😅. She’s selfish, fickle, vain and highly ambitious. She doesn’t care about Ruth’s feelings and I couldn’t always understand why Ruth is so good and patient with her. However, this characterisation does fit in my opinion to the profile of a seer with a self-declared gift granted by God.

The Crimson Ribbon includes an insight into the personality of Oliver Cromwell. This was a different Cromwell than he’s usually represented. It also talks about the gruesomeness of the war, the unrest in the streets of London and the witch trials on the country. For me, this novel gave a fine introduction into the 1640’s and I hope to read more about the Civil War in the future.

Apart from the historical setting, there’s a heavy sapphic romance in this book which felt unhealthy and a bit forced at times. It’s a big part of the storyline and I would have loved to read more about Joseph and his friends for example than having to discover Lizzie’s next love interest.

This was Catherine Clemens’ debut novel. It isn’t the most unique historical novel I’ve read. Some plot lines felt familiar from other books. But she introduced me to a new period. She created a wel-written and engaging story with intriguing characters.

This book 2 for #20booksofsummer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Do you have any recommendations on the Civil War?