In Brewer’s (Quests, 2016, etc.) historical novel, a land deal brings romance and mortal danger into the life of a member of the House of Commons in 1536.
Master Easterling, a goldsmith and banker, is interested in a pending decision by the Crown to seize smaller abbeys and monasteries and sell their land. Easterling wants to purchase real estate for his son, so he invites Henry Barrowby, a member of the Commons for Bedfordshire, to dinner to get an update on the decision. While discussing business, Barrowby is enchanted by his host’s beautiful daughter, Mary; however, she’s being courted by another guest, Lord Lavenham. Barrowby distrusts Lavenham’s motives, and his suspicions take on added urgency when Barrowby is attacked in a local market, presumably on Lavenham’s orders. Easterling offers the MP a safe place to recover, and his attraction to Mary soon turns into a romance and engagement. Undeterred, Lavenham continues his scheme to win Mary’s hand, placing Barrowby and his trusted manservant, Tom Cross, under threat. As the MP navigates the complexities of the land deal, he becomes locked in a race against time to outwit Lavenham and marry his beloved Mary. Brewer’s latest is a rollicking, fast-paced romance replete with action and political intrigue. Barrowby is a thoughtful, amiable protagonist who meets his match in the passionate, intelligent Mary. Although their love story forms the emotional center of the novel, Brewer successfully incorporates two other romances: Tom Cross’ courtship of serving woman Stephanie Duchanel and Lavenham’s relationship with Mary Swanford, Barrowby’s former fiancee. Brewer successfully balances these romantic aspects with well-staged action sequences—particularly Barrowby and Cross’ encounter with Lavenham’s henchmen in a cemetery. Historical details abound, from the significance of certain colors of clothing to the royal intrigue surrounding Anne Boleyn. The novel would have benefited from a stronger copy edit, however.
A briskly paced, entertaining historical romance.