The Secrets of Crestwell Hall – Alexandra Walsh | Book Review | #TheSecretsOfCrestwellHall | #HistoricalFiction #DualTimeline | @purplemermaid25 @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources

‘A king adorns the throne… He has no subtlety, no grace but he does not deserve to die in the way that has been planned and this is why we shall stop them, our men, our kin and save us all.’

1605

Bess Throckmorton is well used to cunning plots and intrigues. With her husband Sir Walter Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she and her family in a constant battle to outwit Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the country who is determined to ruin her, Bess decides to retreat to her beloved home, Crestwell Hall. But there she is shocked to hear talk of a new plot to murder the king. So, unbeknownst to their menfolk, the wives of the plotters begin to work together to try to stop the impending disaster.

Present Day

Isabella Lacey and her daughter, Emily, are excited to be starting a new life at her aunt’s home, Crestwell Hall in Wiltshire. During renovations, Isabella discovers an ancient bible that once belonged to Bess Throckmorton, and to her astonishment finds that it doubled as a diary. As Isabella reads Bess’s story, a new version of the Gunpowder Plot begins to emerge – told by the women.

When Emily’s life is suddenly in terrible danger, Isabella understands the relentless fear felt by Bess, hundreds of years ago. And as the fateful date of 5th November draws ever closer, Bess and the plotters’ wives beg their husbands to stop before a chain of events is set into action that can only end one way…

This unforgettable timeslip novel is perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine, Elena Collins and Diana Gabaldon.

MY THOUGHTS

Remember Remember
the fifth of November
Gunpowder Treason and Plot

My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation and to the publisher Boldwood for the copy to review via Netgalley. The Secrets of Crestwell Hall is published in ebook, audio, hardback and paperback (24 January 2024).

Alexandra Walsh is a new author to me and after enjoying this book, one I shall be following. This is a dual timeline story, the historical part mainly set in 1605 together with a present day strand. I remember the rhyme and the story of the Gunpowder plot from childhood – Guy (Guido) Fawkes was discovered planning to blow up the Houses of Parliament, kill the King and hundreds of innocent Londoners. Guy however was not the instigator of the plot that involved 13 men – that was Robert Catesby, a Catholic cousin to Protestant Bess Throckmorton (Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh), wife of the imprisoned explorer Walter Raleigh. Instead of highlighting the plotters, the author has focused on their wives; how much did they know and what could they do to protect themselves and their families. Bess is the mainstay here with her discovery of the plot and her plan to foil it, potentially saving many innocent lives but involving the wives of the plotters in a daring and dangerous scheme.

In the present day, Isabella Lacey and her young daughter Emily following a tumultuous period in their lives, move to Crestwell Hall, an historic but rather dilapidated building filled with artefacts (and much rubbish!), inherited by her aunt Thalia, and which requires enormous amounts of restoration -and money. What they discover within the Hall has direct connections to Bess and the Gunpowder Plot and is the vehicle by which Bess’ story is revealed.

I enjoyed both timelines, especially the historical part which combined fact with fiction. This Bess was a remarkably strong woman and far more savvy and intuitive than might be expected of many women of the time when the pursuit of power and personal ambitions put many in danger and to be the subject of even the slightest suspicion could have brutal repercussions.

The writing style was so very readable and the transition between the two timelines seamless. The author’s note at the back makes clear how much detailed research was required and gives further information. I loved the historical retelling and even though I initially thought Isabella’s character was the weaker, I rather changed my opinion of her when during this topical contemporary plot, she was faced with a dramatic and dangerous situation. Supportive friendships, on which both women relied, are the backstop to this story and the light touch of romance was nicely done. The description of Crestwell Hall appeared so authentic that whilst reading I had to check if it was real.

Finally, I have to mention the detailed character listing at the beginning for both timelines. My initial thoughts were 😱 – so many names to remember (I have to confess I didn’t fully get to grips with all the minor historical characters), but these type of references are useful (even more so if you are reading a print version- rather than an ecopy as I was).




Alexandra Walsh is the bestselling author of dual timeline historical mysteries, previously published by Sapere. Her books range from the fifteenth century to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. Formerly a journalist, writing for national newspapers, magazines and TV, her first book for Boldwood will be published in Spring 2023.

Follow the author: Website | X | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon UK

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