AUDIO REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY: A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley, narrated by Alex Wyhdham

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

For two years, England has been in the grip of Civil War. In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans. Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable. The key to both the fate of the castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance… but will it be enough?

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the first English Civil War.

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Published and Release Date: Stella Riley, December 2016

Time and Setting: Banbury, Oxfordshire, England 1642-4
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction/ Audiobook
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars content, 5 stars narration

Review by Wendy

If you are a fan of historical fiction or historical romance, then you must, must, must, read or listen to Stella Riley’s work, and a good place to start is A Splendid Defiance. (Our review of the book is HERE.) It was this story and another of the author’s books – The Marigold Chain – that initially piqued my interest in this turbulent period in England’s history. Both are superbly researched standalone stories and each is eminently enjoyable. I wouldn’t have imagined it possible to improve upon my enjoyment of the print version of A Splendid Defiance but by employing the superbly talented Alex Wyndham to narrate her powerful story, Ms. Riley has done just that, because Mr. Wyndham brings her exciting, wonderfully romantic feast of a book to multi-dimensional life.

Captain Justin Ambrose is moodily kicking his heels at the Royalist controlled garrison of Banbury Castle in Oxfordshire owing to having made an ill-judged remark about one of the King’s favourites. A career soldier of considerable experience, he has earned a formidable reputation and naturally he feels resentful at being stuck in such a backwater. His generally acerbic and sarcastic tongue is even more prominent as the prolonged inactivity begins to take its toll on his temper.

Abigail Radford is a young, sweet, and innocent seventeen year old when this story begins. She lives and works in the home and drapery shop owned by her older brother, Jonas, but this is no happy household, for Jonas is an autocratic, over-bearing bully of a man whose hatred of the Cavaliers at the castle is topped only by his religious fanaticism.

Justin is a man of integrity, honesty and honour and a Royalist to his bones – completely and unwaveringly dedicated to his King and cause; and a man who has sworn off love and marriage. At his first encounter with Abby – during which he saves her from being ravished by a couple of his subordinates – he doesn’t really see her as anything more than a terrified girl. It takes time and several more unplanned meetings before he notices that beneath the extremely plain clothing and white puritanical cap, there is a rather attractive young woman. Any possible furtherance of their acquaintance is delayed by the arrival in Banbury of a large Roundhead contingent, the senior officers of which take up residence at the Radford home. And the first siege of the castle begins. I admire the way Stella Riley grows her love stories in all of her novels but particularly in this one; understated and plausible, it is entirely in keeping with unfolding events. After the first siege is over, the Roundheads ousted and on the run after Royalist re-enforcements arrive, the garrison can breathe again and life returns to some semblance of normality. Ms. Riley then continues to develop the growing attraction between Justin and Abby, throwing them together in various situations which further advance their apparently ill-fated friendship. For how can two people on opposing sides of a civil war ever have a chance at happiness?

Justin is a multi-layered character with many deep dark secrets; even his closest friends know little about him other than he has a well-deserved reputation with the ladies. His is such a believable character, especially when one finds oneself getting cross with him because he’s given Abby an undeserved tongue lashing, upsetting her to the point that it feels as though he’s kicked a puppy. But then, conversely, one finds oneself going all gooey over him when he’s being particularly charming – and by God he certainly can turn it on when he chooses! Abby’s character grows over the course of the story from the timid girl we meet at the outset to an attractive young woman with a lot more oomph than she had to begin with. Justin sets out initially – not entirely altruistically – to help her stand up to, and defy his nemesis, the odious Jonas. But in the end, he’s hoist by his own petard, finding himself drawn more and more to her quiet, unassuming and undemanding presence. Eventually Justin realises that she is the only person in his life who has ever cared for him or gives a damn what happens to him, and their eventual acceptance of the love between them is heartwarming, tender and all the better for the waiting. And as is the norm with Stella Riley, she doesn’t need to resort to explicit love scenes – instead sensuality and tenderness is the order of the day and I was left with a warm glow as she eventually brought these two lovely characters together against all of the odds.

Alex Wyndham’s performance is stupendous. There are few performers who could have tackled such a varied and wide cast of characters and fool the listener into feeling as though they are listening to a rather superior radio play with numerous actors rather than one man’s narrative of a story. As this is a story set in time of war, it features a large number of male characters, but this poses no difficulty as Mr. Wyndham switches effortlessly between a variety of accent, tone and timbre to give each of them a distinct interpretation. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough because it has everything that I look for in an historical romance. Filled with atmospheric, superbly researched historical content and a spine tingling romance, A Splendid Defiance has to be awarded a straight 5 star rating for both content and narration, although quite honestly that doesn’t seem high enough. But whatever the star rating, this is another winner for this phenomenal writer/narrator team.

GIVEAWAY

WE HAVE THREE (3) COPIES OF THIS WONDERFUL AUDIOBOOK TO GIVE AWAY TO THREE LUCKY READERS. TO ENTER, CLICK ON THE RAFFLECOPTER BOX BELOW AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. THE GIVEAWAY WILL REMAIN OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS – AFTER THAT, WINNERS WILL BE CONTACTED BY EMAIL.

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20 thoughts on “AUDIO REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY: A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley, narrated by Alex Wyhdham

  1. A tremendous review, Wendy – it’s always a pleasure to see how you drill down into a story and hit all the right notes. Thank you so much!

    • It was this author’s work that interested me in the ECW, Jules, and now I’m fascinated. I promise that once you start on her books you’ll be hooked.

    • Constance, I’m left wondering how on earth I missed Stella the first time around. It was the editor of this blog, Caz, who urged me to read her books and I’m SO glad I listened. The Marigold Chain was my first and I adored it.

    • I hope you’ve entered the giveaway, Marsha, because I know you will love both the content and the narrator. Dream team!

    • Thank you, Eileen. I feel I want to shout from the rooftops to get the uninitiated listening to Stella’s words brought to life by the talented Alex Wyndham.

  2. Great review. I have definitely added this one to my TBR list. I haven’t read any historical fiction dealing with this time period.

    • Oh, Terry, I almost envy you. IMO Stella is the best out there writing in this period (and I’ve tried a few since she hooked me in). I promise that you will be fascinated. There are six in this period and three Georgian romances (all three narrated by AW 😊). Each and every one is a five star read/listen.

  3. Another great review – I, too am delighted that Stella recovered her muse. I waited and prowled Google and FantasticFiction hoping she would reappear. A 20 year gap and the reissue of her Georgian “Rockcliffe” series (published under a different name) as well as “The Black Madonna” which I’d missed first time around has only whetted my appetite for her works.

    • Have you read Lords of Misrule yet, Margo? I loved it – Eden Maxwell is one fantastic character – Stella is so strong in this area. I remember all of her characters individually- which says a lot – because I read and review so many books and I have difficulty remembering most distinctly. Stella’s always have that undefinable ‘something’ that makes them special.

  4. Great review Wendy! I totally agree. This is such a stellar historical romance, equally strong in both the history and the romance. Moreover, Alex Wyndham’s divine narration makes this a must listen.

    • I agree – Stella brings the ECW to life. And with Alex Wyndham narrating, what’s not to love? Have you listened to her Rockliffe series?

    • That’s such a compliment coming from another ECW writer, Alison! I hope you’ve entered the giveaway because Mr.Wyndham is the perfect narrator – he’s simply nailed it!

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