London 1654: Kit Lovell is one of the King’s men, a disillusioned Royalist who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.
Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything. Terrified, in pain and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.
Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.
Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his master and King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life.
Publisher and Release Date: Escape Publishing Sept 2015
Time and Setting: London, 1654
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Wendy
The English Civil War is a period of history I have only recently become interested in, largely thanks to the superb novels set during that time by the British author Stella Riley, who is, in my opinion, one of the best historical fiction/historical romance writers out there. Alison Stuart wasn’t previously on my radar, but now I’ve read The King’s Man, I’m definitely going to seek out more of her books.
Christopher Lovell – Kit to his friends – is disenchanted, disillusioned and fed up with life and the seemingly endless war he is covertly fighting. He appears to his cohorts to be The King’s Man. However, he is playing a nefarious double game not of his making, which involves him risking his life on a daily basis. Captain Lovell fought bravely, heroically and loyally at the Battle of Worcester on the side of the crown; and when seriously wounded and at a very low ebb, he is coerced into spying against his comrades by John Thurloe, Cromwell’s spymaster and Secretary of the Council of State. Kit’s reasons for capitulating do not become apparent until fairly near the end of the story, but suffice to say that he turns traitor against Charles Stuart (later King Charles II) who is now living in exile in France. Kit is a charismatic, handsome, devil-may-care character and very attractive to the ladies. Alison Stuart has done an excellent job in her characterisation of this man who apparently lives without scruples, lives off his attractive young mistress, cheats at cards and betrays his fellow cavaliers; and yet I still found it easy to like and admire him and to hope for his triumph over adversity.
Thamsine Granville, a gently bred young lady and heiress is running away from the cruel, sadistic man that her dying Father was browbeaten into betrothing her to. Desperate to evade her pursuer, Thamasine is saved from a potentially fatal situation by Kit, after which they go their separate ways only to meet again later that day, apparently by accident. Thamsine really has hit rock bottom and is in the process of prostituting herself in her desperation to survive, when her knight in shining armour saves her again. Kit takes her to a friend’s inn where he arranges for her to work for bed and board. Thamsine is grateful, as Kit planned she would be, and is already a little in love with him; he however, is working under orders from John Thurloe and has been instructed to reel her in and set her up for use as another unwilling spy.
The ensuing story is rich in detail and intrigue as it also charts the growing of an unlikely love between the two main protagonists. Thamsine finds the barely visible, honourable side of Kit Lovell, hidden beneath his cynical, couldn’t-care-less, exterior. Her innocent goodness is his salvation and I liked how she helps him to care again and also to achieve redemption.
There are brutal scenes of attempted rape, downright wickedness, high drama, anguish and tender love. Alison Stuart paints a richly eloquent picture of the seedy backstreets of London, the Tower of London – where both Kit and Thamsine spend time as inmates – then across the channel to the court of the exiled Charles and back again, culminating in a shocking and dramatic conclusion that I did not see coming. As far as Kit and Thamsine are concerned, after their tumultuous roller coaster of a ride, they do at least get their HEA but the story is then left hanging and I can only suppose, without adding a spoiler, that this slightly unsatisfactory ending will be the subject of the next book in this series. I enjoyed The King’s Man on the whole although it is a story that leaves the reader feeling slightly emotionally exhausted. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to the next in the series and will read it as soon as it is available.