By David Hingley
Publisher: Allison & Busby Limited (2016)
Kindle edition: $4.61
Mercia Blakewood series (Book #1)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
1664: Tower of London. Oliver Cromwell’s government had crumbled, and King Charles II had been restored to his father’s throne. Mercia Blackwell lost her husband in the Civil War that tore England apart. Today she would lose her father as well. Sir Rowland Goodridge had sided with Cromwell. He had been accused of sedition and sentenced to die. Mercy had fought and pleaded for one last visit with her father, but she was denied. She watched, her good friend Nathan by her side, as Sir Rowland was led to the scaffold. He stood bravely, and his final words were strong. Mercia left the crowd before the axe fell, pondering what he’d said. She realized he’d sent her a secret message, something that would help her in the coming days.
When she returned to the inn where she was staying, she was dealt another blow. She had planned to return to Halescott, her ancestral home in Oxfordshire, but her maternal uncle, Sir Francis Simmonds, had other plans for her. He informed her that since her father had left no son, the law gave him the right to inherit Halescott Manor, all the lands and money, and the title. Her young son Daniel would inherit nothing. She vowed to fight his spurious claim with all she had.
Sir Francis mocked her rudely, saying that her father was a traitor and she could not win. Her mother had been moved from Halescott to an undisclosed place. Furthermore, he had already found a tenant for the manor, and she was to vacate the manor immediately, taking nothing with her but her personal items. When she arrived at the manor to retrieve her things, she got another slap in the face. She knew the tenants very well, and she was not pleased, to put it mildly.
She found the letter her father had left for her. Sir Rowland’s missive told of several valuable paintings taken from Charles I’s royal dwelling after he was executed. The records showed that they had been destroyed, he believed otherwise. If Mercia could find the paintings, Charles II would be in her debt, and he might be inclined to return her property and her son’s birthright.
With help from her devoted friend Nathan Keyte, and her new manservant, Nicholas Blakewood, she began a seemingly impossible and certainly dangerous search for the treasure. What they uncovered in London sent them on a perilous journey across the sea to the New World. Danger dogged them every step of the way, but Mercia would not be deterred. When they had accomplished all that they could, Mercy made plans to take the three month journey back to England. She had become enchanted with this new land and its inhabitants, and decided to stay awhile to learn more about this brave new world.
BIRTHRIGHT is the first in a series by David Hingley. It succeeds both as an excellent historical novel and a well-plotted mystery. Interesting historical details are woven seamlessly into the story, detailing the tumultuous and treacherous early years after King Charles II was restored to his father’s throne – his birthright. The characters, both real and fictional, come alive on the page, and the places and customs of that time, both good and bad, are meticulously detailed. I look forward to the next book in the series, PURITAN, which is available now. Highly recommended.
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