REVIEW: A Corruptible Crown by Gillian Bradshaw
The compelling sequel to the English Civil War novel London in Chains – It is 1648, and the Civil War has been resurrected by a king still determined to be an absolute ruler and a parliament unable to agree how to govern without him. Blacksmith Jamie Hudson, weary and disillusioned, is forced to re-enlist, leaving his wife Lucy to struggle on alone in London: printing newsbooks, dodging the censors, and all the while supporting the Leveller demands for democracy and freedom, and hoping for a peace that will finally allow the two of them to be together again.
Dear Ms. Bradshaw,
After finishing “London in Chains,” I knew I wanted to quickly read the sequel before all the politics that I’d learned got muddled in my head. Whew, the English Civil War was far more than just Roundheads vs the King. I was also eager to see how Lucy and Jamie were getting along in their marriage and if the war was going to toss roadblocks in their way to happiness.
Lucy and Jamie are indeed separated due to the Army and the convoluted situation of the times. Jamie might be someone with more social standing than might be thought but he was apprenticed as a blacksmith before the war and it is this knowledge and skill that means the Army will hold onto him with both hands. Soon though there is someone else in Jamie’s life who will cause him – and Lucy – far more difficulties than either ever thought.
Meanwhile Jamie’s family, from whom he was estranged when he roared off in pride and anger to join the Parliamentarian side, appears to be willing to discuss what is keeping them apart which puts Jamie’s eldest brother George frequently on the road between London, home and wherever the Army has Jamie stationed. Frankly I was surprised Jamie never had to shoe any of his brother’s horses, George traveled so much.
Then there is Lucy in London, still working as a printer for a man whose politics she despises but who is willing to pay her a fantastic wage which allows her to save up for her own dream of buying a printing press. Still the fear that those in power will restore the King to his throne and cede all the freedoms for which the country has fought and bled and suffered for seven years hangs over everyone.
Readers might be able to start with this book but I feel they’d spend a lot of time trying to figure things out and get their feet under them. The politics of the day are indeed hard to keep straight but serve as a backdrop to the actions of the characters and the vehemence with which they fight with both words and muskets. The city of London plays a little less of a directly described role in this book than it did last time but I could still feel the seething tensions of the people there. Would their sacrifices be in vain? Are the rights of freeborn Englishmen to be trampled by a King and a Parliament neither of whom seem willing to give up any power?
Lucy and Jamie must also work out their long distance marriage which was interrupted almost as soon as it had been celebrated. Women of the day were expected to obey and yield to their husband’s wishes which is so not Lucy’s way of doing things. Jamie loves her fiercely for her strength and abilities but even he is subject to worries which can drive him to do and say foolish, hurtful things. Lucy, who has suffered much to gain the independence that she has, has to decide how much she’s willing to fight for what she thinks she wants and what her marriage is worth to her.
The historical details are enough to give the story color and a sense of time and place rather than being mere window dressing. The plot is both intricate and simple – great men are plunging a country into the horror of civil war and the little people will be the main ones to bear the brunt while a couple must navigate their way to a happy ever after. Given the cover and the title, I had hoped that we would see the resolution of these momentous events but when all was said and done, I was happy that Lucy and Jamie are happy and ready to face their future together. B