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Historical Fiction on the English Civil War

29 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 15 September 2008. While the label, English Civil War, is a bit of a misnomer, it refers to a series of events and conflicts that take place in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales from 1625 to 1660. “During this period, the Stuart kingdoms … were ripped apart by religious and political unrest. But the conflict of the 1640s wasn’t a purely British phenomenon, it was part of a wider struggle for supremacy between Catholics and Protestants in Europe.” (BBC/The Open University, Civil War)

The British Civil Wars site provides a timeline of events as does the BBC/The Open University. Seattle University’s A.A. Lemieux Library offers an excellent list of sources, which includes biographies, treatises, research databases and more.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Or for books currently available at Amazon, follow the title links. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for referral purchases.

Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). Some of the works listed are biographical novels on King Charles I, who reigned during much of this time. If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book. Or I haven’t found any information about it.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. The first war provides the background with detail on the New Model Army and the Digger Movement. Read the full review.

By The Sword by Alison Stuart. Lovers on opposite sides of the conflict.

A Call of Trumpets by Jane Lane. Deals with the war and the relationship between Henrietta Maria and Prince Rupert.

Charles the King by Evelyn Anthony. A sympathetic look at Charles I, focusing on his marriage to Henrietta Maria. Includes much historical information about the events of the English Civil War.

A Crowning Mercy by Bernard Cornwell and Susannah Kells. A love story set against the English Civil War.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory. The gardener John Tradescant becomes lover to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

The Faithful Lovers by Valerie Anand. This is the 4th book in the Bridge Over Time series.

The Green and the Gold by Christopher Peachment. Biographical fiction about Andrew Marvell, who was a spy in the service of Oliver Cromwell.

Havoc, in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett. A “somber account of a man facing a crisis of spirit and conscience in” the early years of the English Civil War. (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Hostage Prince by Vanessa Hannam. A romance with the lovers’ families on opposite sides.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. A historical mystery set during the Restoration period – about 3 years after the end of the English Civil War. Read the full review.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart. A plot against Oliver Cromwell provides the background for this love story.

Lord Greville’s Captive by Nicola Cornick. A Harlequin romance set against the English Civil War.

Mara Haviland by Sue Hull. A romance set against the English Civil War.

Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes. The laundress Mary Floyd (actual historical person)  cares for Charles I during his captivity in Carisbrooke Castle prior to his trial and execution.

The Moon in the Water by Pamela Belle. Historical romance series with the first 2 books set during the English Civil War. Subsequent titles are The Chains of Fate, Alathea (post Civil War with detail about the London fire of 1666), and The Lodestar (set during the reign of Richard III).

My Lord Foxe by Constance Gluyas. Accurate characterizations of Charles and Henrietta Maria.

Myself, My Enemy by Jean Plaidy. The first book in the Queens of England series focuses on Henrietta Maria, the daughter of King Henry IV of France, who married Charles I.

The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Part of the Morland Dynasty series (#4), the book opens in 1630 and leads up to the struggle between king and parliament.

Pargeters by Norah Lofts. An epic novel set during the war and Restoration period.

Phoenix Rising by Jean Evans. Focuses on the power struggle between Charles I and his son.

The Proud Servant by Margaret Irwin. Subtitled The Story of Montrose, it relates the career of James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, a proponent of the king.

The Questing Beast by Jane Lane. Biographical fiction on John Pym, who managed the money Parliament needed for the War.

The Quickenberry Tree by Annette Motley. A family story during the English Civil War.

Rider on a White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Rokeby by Sir Walter Scott. A poem on the events following the Battle of Marston Moor.

The Severed Crown by Jane Lane. The last months of the reign of Charles I told through letters.

Shadow Flies by Rose Macaulay. Biographical fiction on the poet, Robert Herrick.

The Stranger Prince by Margaret Irwin. Subtitled The Story of Rupert of the Rhine, this is biographical fiction on the nephew of Charles I.

They Were Defeated by Rose Macaulay. “Real 17th-century poets (including Robert Herrick) mingle with fictional characters …. She [Macaulay] paints a vivid portrait of one of England’s most turbulent periods.” (Amazon.com)

Turncoat’s Drum by Nicholas Carter. The first book in the Shadow on the Crown series “portrays life in 17th-century England through the eyes of the common men and women who fought and died for the distant causes of Parliament and the King.” (Amazon UK) It’s followed by Storming Party, And King’s Men Crow, Harvest of Swords, and Stand by the Colours.

Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory. This stand-alone sequel to Earthly Joys follows John Tradescant the Younger into the service of King Charles I.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge.

Wife to Mr. Milton by Robert Graves. Tells the story of Marie Powell, the poet Milton’s first wife. The English Civil War and the execution of Charles I provide the background.

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. A story about a family’s hardships when the man leaves for war. This is the first book in a series of 4. It’s followed by Herald of Joy, A Falling Star and Treason’s Gift.

The Winter Prince by Cheryl Sawyer. Romantic suspense involving Mary Villiers, the Duchess of Richmond and wife of James Stuart, and Prince Rupert of Bohemia.

Woodstock; or, the Cavalier by Sir Walter Scott. A romance.

The Young and Lonely King by Jane Lane. Biographical fiction on Charles I.

The Young Montrose by Nigel Tranter. Biographical fiction on James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose. Montrose is the sequel.

Additional Resources

The English Civil War Through the Restoration in Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography, 1625-1999 by Roxane C. Murph. Available for sale; not online.

Novels of the 17th Century, HistoricalNovels.com

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As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

12 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

It’s been a long time since a book held me in its grip so completely I was unable to put it down. Fortunately, it’s the weekend and I could tune out all but the narrator, Jacob Cullen.

To say Cullen is a troubled man is to gloss over what drives him. Impoverished at a young age and sent from his home with his brothers to serve a wealthy Royalist family during the English Civil War, Cullen grows up disillusioned, insecure and distrustful.

Within the first 100 pages, he commits murder (to thwart a charge of treason), theft (to survive) and rape (to claim what is his). You witness a man who is violent and, perhaps mad. When he escapes into the arms of the New Model Army, and his lover-to-be, you know his story will end badly. But because you see the world through Cullen’s eyes, you hope against all reason that somehow things will turn out alright.

They don’t. But not because As Meat Loves Salt is a work of historical fiction and therefore, the ending is known. History simply provides the environment. Weary of the war, Cullen and his lover, Christopher Ferris, escape to the home of Ferris’ wealthy Aunt. Eventually, Ferris’ involvement with radical political thinking leads him to organize a farming commune with the biblical implications of a New Jerusalem.

Ferris is opposite Cullen in almost every respect. He is slight and gentle to Cullen’s muscular build and violent ways. But he possesses an inner strength that Cullen has never had. He’s stubborn. About the commune, he is Cullen’s equal in obsessive behavior.

The tale, then, is not just about history. It’s about a relationship between men when one borders on the brink of insanity. It’s about a Puritan upraising and sexual confusion. In the words of the author, who I think says it best, “It’s about longing, about being cast out from happiness into a shattered world, about the fear that there is some evil inside you that drives others away. It’s about the possibilities that love holds out to people, its power to ennoble and to enslave. It’s about the futility of trying to hold on to love by force.” Rating: Excellent. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)