In my teens and early twenties I used to read shedloads of historical fiction. I loved them and used to stun my history teacher at school with some esoteric fact or nugget of information that I had learned about. HOW did you know that she would cry and I would say Jean Plaidy and smile smugly...
I worked my way through the entire Plaidy oeuvre though, to be honest, they were pretty pedantic and the dialogue etc was not exactly riveting but it gave me a historical background I have to this day. I answered a question on University Challenge the other day about some early French king and realised I had picked that up from one of her books. I sometimes use to surprise my children as well with my knowledge, always a good feeling.
One of the writers I read was the above mentioned Pamela Belle. When I was working in the library system as a teenager and then full time once I left school, I had the run of all the books and every week when the box of new ones arrived it was like Christmas and I used to snag all the ones I wanted to check out. And one week I checked out Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. Set in the time of the Civil War, Silence St Barbe the wife of the Puritan St George, finds a troop of Cavaliers on her doorstep, while her husband is away fighting, and has to garrison them. Led by a repulsive Captain Ridgley she finds that she is tested to the limit in trying to keep her family safe and run the house. Silence had had a repressive childhood with a strict father and had been married off to Sir George at a young age, mainly to help with his two step children. She then produced two of her own and is settled in a comfortable if boring life. Her mother in law is a constant presence hectoring Silence on her ways of bringing up her children and generally making life hell. Inside Silence is seething with rebellion but her upbringing holds her firmly in check.
But amongst the troop is a dashing Cavalier with merry brown eyes and a smiling face, Captain Nicholas Hellier, and gradually over the months of dealing with the trials and tribulations of the troops and the brutality of Ridgley, Silence finds that her friendship with the Captain is blossoming into love. A Puritan housewife yearning after a Cavalier - shock horror.
In the end the inevitable happens and Silence discovers the joy of love and happiness. Not for long of course as the New Model Army proves to be too strong for the Cavaliers and they are forced to surrender and Silence and Nicholas are parted.
I remember enjoying this book so much when I first discovered it and also remember sitting up late at night in bed unable to put the light out until I had finished it. The following year the sequel came out and I grabbed it immediately. The Herald of Joy takes up the story several years later. Sir George is on his deathbed and he leaves a cruel will behind forcing his daughter Rachel into a loveless marriage and depriving Silence of the right to live at WIntercombe unless his son Nick allows her to. Tabitha, Silence's daughter who suspected the love between her mother and Nicholas vows to track him down and bring them together but of course in the years that followed the end of the Civil War the country is still fragmented and broken and she has no idea where Nick might be.
Both these books are large, fat books with loads and loads of reading. The historical background is wonderfully depicted and the domestic life at Wintercombe is beautifully researched and totally fascinating. There are two more books in this series and I have managed to get hold of them and will be reading them with pleasure. Now the nights are drawing in and curtains will soon be drawn, it is good to curl up on the sofa with a great book.
I had these books on my Kindle and they can be bought direct from Endeavour Press who are a simply marvellous publishing house finding titles from the past that are now available once more. They do a fantastic job and through them I have not only read Pamela Belle, but have also rediscovered another old favourite of mine, Rosalind Laker. Do check them out. They are also available on Amazon
My only quibble is the covers. The usual almost headless woman and the costumes wildly wrong and the pose of the models totally modern. But ignore the cover and just enjoy the contents.