Thursday, June 5, 2008

By The Sword By Alison Stuart

Okay, okay, I'll admit to picking up By The Sword by Alison Stuart simply because it was the 2008 Eppie winner in the historical romance category. It isn't my usual cup of tea, a war romance set in the turbulent times of Charles II starring a widow heroine with a young child. But hey, it is the best of the eBest and if I'm to call myself a historical romance reviewer, I should read it.
Then I read the prologue and cried like a baby. Yes, on page 3, Alison Stuart had this cynical businesswoman weeping. When the baby faced Cornet bravely and silently holds his restrained commander's gaze as he is hanged, oh mamma. Waterworks time.
It continues on from there. Our hero Jon is supporting the losing side of an extremely ugly civil war. Because of this loyalty, he has lost everything including his inheritance (to Kate's son, no less) and is a wanted man. What does he have to offer a practical young widow with a land bearing son? Other than love? And a whole heap of trouble?
This is a historical romance with more focus on the historical than the romance (reminds me of a more modernly written Beatrice Small). The war plays a significant role, as does the heroine Kate's relationship with her son. The passion between Kate and Jon is not the rip off your clothes and run through the sprinklers naked kind. It is slow and builds. The bedroom door is firmly closed.
All this adds to the reality. Kate loved her dead husband. It would take time to move from that memory to the new romance. A mother would face her fear of strange places so her son could meet his father's extended family. The war would be a central part of their lives. Jon is a soldier. The dead husband was a soldier. The war is happening all around them (they could hear the fighting).
This is not a comedy. I wept through most of it. Whether it was a touching scene between the hero and the heroine's young son or during the death scenes (including those of children – this is war, after all), the writing and story moved me.
Yep, sometimes a book is called the best of the best because it is simply that… the best.
The bedroom door is firmly shut in this romance. It is a war romance so there are the usual war wounds and deaths (including those of children) all written tastefully.


Robyn said...

So you'd call this a three-hanky book? ;)

Interesting time frame. I haven't read a lot from Charles II's period; so often historicals are Regency or medieval Scotland and that's it.

Alison Stuart said...

Dear Kimber An

I came across your blog quite by accident and I sat staring at my computer screen with a goofy grin on my face. Thank you so much for your kind words about BY THE SWORD. It was always 'the book of my heart' and to know that I, as a writer, have touched a reader's emotions...well, it doesn't get any better than that!
I hope you may give its companion book THE KING'S MAN a go ;-) The hero of The King's Man made a fleeting appearance in BY THE SWORD so look out for him!

Robyn, you are so right! The lack of variety in the mainstream publishing world is, in my opinion, making the world of historical romance very bland and same same. Sadly, stories like mine, can't find a mass market publisher because its too risky to sell 'unusual' periods...chickens and eggs!
Very best wishes
Alison Stuart

Kimber An said...

Thanks for popping in, Alison! We always appreciate it when an author makes a personal effort to respond here. It means a lot.

For the record, however, I - Kimber An - did not write this review.

K did. We call her 'K' here because her first name is the same as mine. She's Kimber Chin, author of BREACH OF TRUST.

Kimber Chin said...

That's what I love about eBook, Alison, it gives books without a ready audience an opp to build a readership.

Robyn, definitely a three hanky book. Likely used up in the first couple pages. As a businessgal, I love this type of book because it helps burn off excess emotion in a safe, controlled environment.