Category: FIC027050

The Master of Measham Hall

1665. It is five years since King Charles II returned from exile, the scars of the English Civil Wars are yet to heal and now the Great Plague engulfs the land. Alethea Hawthorne is safe inside the walls of the Calverton household as a lady’s companion waiting in anticipation of the day she can return to her ancestral home of Measham Hall.

But when Alethea suddenly finds herself cast out on the plague-ridden streets of London, a long road to Derbyshire lies ahead. Militias have closed their boroughs off to outsiders for fear of contamination.

Fortune smiles on her when Jack appears, an unlikely travelling companion who helps this determined girl to navigate a perilous new world of religious dissenters, charlatans and a pestilence that afflicts peasants and lords alike.

The Master of Measham Hall is the first book in a page-turning historical series. In lyrical prose, Anna Abney portrays the religious divides at the heart of Restoration England in a timeless novel about survival, love, and family loyalty.  

 

PRAISE FOR THE MASTER OF MEASHAM HALL

‘It’s rare for a historical novel to feel so timely.’ Jo Baker, Sunday Times bestselling author of Longbourn

‘Impeccably researched and wonderfully atmospheric, with a heroine you can’t help rooting for.’ Frances Quinn, author of The Smallest Man 

‘Exciting and immersive. It took me straight into the heart of Restoration England in all its rich and vivid detail. I was gripped! Such beautiful writing too – Anna is a stunning new talent.’ Nicola Cornick, international bestselling author of House of Shadows

 ‘A thoroughly engaging romp… By turns entertaining, surprising and thought-provoking, this is an impressive debut.’ Jane Johnson, author of The Sea Gate

‘A gripping depiction of what people will do to survive, the long-held beliefs and scruples questioned and cast aside as well as the unexpected kindnesses and unusual alliances made. In elegant prose, this enthralling novel puts a human face to the trials, terrors and enduring hopes of the plague years.’ Catherine Meyrick, author of The Bridled Tongue

‘A thrilling and original tale of reinvention! Death in a time of plague is expected. What happens to Abney’s heroine Alethea is not. The Master of Measham Hall  is a vivid and extraordinary journey of survival, and ultimately an exploration of what we gain and what we lose as we pass through this world.’ VL Valentine, The Plague Letters

‘A powerful and engaging story, full of good characters, satisfying plot turns, and excellent scene-setting. With all the details and insights on offer, it feels like a rich and rewarding panorama of English culture in the 1660s. The transformation of Alethea was wonderful to read, and genuinely gripping.’ Richard Hamblyn

Queen of Heaven

The White Tower. A terrible vision. Her home invaded and precious documents stolen.

Lady Isabelle must flee her pursuers, posing as a young male scholar in the New College of St Mary in Oxford. But when she learns she is with child it won’t be long until she is discovered amongst their ranks. Can she bring herself to love an infant conceived in evil? And will she ever be reunited with her beloved Richard, or will Sir Henry Lormont’s dagger find him first?

This deftly plotted 15th century novel traverses the well-trodden pilgrimage routes from Oxford to Rome encountering lepers, assassins, sea rovers and historical figures Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor along the way. Superbly researched by a scholar of the period, Clover blends history with the riveting story of a woman who overcomes the restrictions placed on her sex to create a page-turning novel.

Ike and Kay

Acclaimed author and managing director of The Times Literary Supplement, James MacManus, creates a compelling historical novel that brings to life an unbelievable but true love story set during the Second World War. In 1942, Cork-born Kay Summersby’s life is changed forever when she is tasked with driving General Eisenhower on his fact-finding visit to wartime London. Despite Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie, the pair takes an immediate liking to one another and he gifts Kay a rare wartime luxury: a box of chocolates. So begins a tumultuous relationship that against all military regulation sees Kay travelling with Eisenhower on missions to far flung places before the final assault on Nazi Germany. She becomes known as “Ike’s shadow” and in letters Mamie bemoans his new obsession with ‘Ireland’. That does not stop him from using his influence to grant Kay US citizenship and rank in the US army, drawing her closer when he returns to America. When the US authorities discover Eisenhower’s plans to divorce from his wife they threaten the fragile but passionate affair and Kay is forced to take desperate measures to hold onto the man she loves…

From the fogbound streets of London reeling from the Blitz, acclaimed author James MacManus, conjures a compelling historical novel based on the true story of the secret love affair at the heart of the Second World War.

It is 1942, and war-battered London plays host to the imposing figure of General Ike Eisenhower on a vital mission for the US army. Kay Summersby, an ambulance driver who survived the horrors of the Blitz, is chosen to be his aide, a role that will change her life forever. Charmed by Ike’s affable and disarming nature so different from the stiffness of British military convention she accompanies him during the North African campaign against Rommel and the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. Amid the carnage a secret affair unfolds between the General and Kay but rumours of Ike’s infidelity reach across the ocean to Washington – and worse yet, to his wife. In a time where scandal and war threaten to break them apart, can Ike and Kay hold on to their love?

Ike and Kay is a thrilling tale of wartime romance, brimming with love, duty, sacrifice and heartbreak, set against the backdrop of the most tumultuous period of the twentieth century.

Beautiful Fools

Beautiful Fools reimagines the relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; a lyrical portrayal of an intense romance that ultimately destroyed them. Their standing as one of America’s most debonair couples is tarnished by alcoholism, debt and Zelda’s increasing instability. But they endure, both unaware that Scott’s sudden death will soon end their love story once and for all. Spargo gives us a touching vision of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage and the man who penned The Great Gatsby.

Dead Men

‘Fascinating.’ Telegraph

Birdie Bowers is a woman with a dead man’s name. Her parents had been fascinated by Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, one of Captain Scott’s companions on his ill-fated polar expedition. A hundred years after the death of Bowers and Scott, she sets out to discover what really happened to them… The discovery of Captain Scott’s body in the Antarctic in November 1912 started a global obsession with him as a man and an explorer. But one mystery remains – why did he and his companions spend their last ten days in a tent only 11 miles from the safety of a depot that promised food and shelter?

Dead Men tells the story of two paths. One is a tragic journey of exploration on the world’s coldest continent, the other charts a present-day relationship and the redemptive power of love.

Black Venus

In nineteenth century Paris, the young bohemian Charles Baudelaire roams the streets. Dressed impeccably – thanks to an inheritance that is quickly vanishing – and lost in the decadences of alcohol and opium, he is about to meet one woman destined to change his life forever: the beautiful Haitian cabaret singer, Jeanne Duval.

Inspiring Baudelaire’s most infamous poems – leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity – Duval becomes Baudelaire’s muse, the catalyst for a legacy spanning centuries. Their volatile and passionate affair explodes through the Parisian literary scene but, as the ever-more fractious world catches up with them, the strength of their love will be tested to the end.

Unfolding among the bars and salons during revolutionary times, Black Venus is an intoxicating story of love and betrayal in which drugs, absinthe and lust prove the making, and the destruction, of a great poet.

Sleep in Peace Tonight

It is January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low and tube stations have become bomb shelters. As the U.S. maintains its sceptical isolationist position, Winston Churchill knows that Britain is doomed without the aid of its powerful ally. As bombs rain down over London a weary Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor, is sent to London as his emissary and comes face to face with the Prime Minister himself and an attractive and determined young female driver who may not be what she seems. In Sleep in Peace Tonight, a tale of loyalty, love, and the sacrifices made in the name of each, James MacManus conjures to life not only Blitz-era London and the behind the scenes at the White House, but also the poignant lives of personalities that shaped the course of history during Britain’s darkest hour.

Midnight in Berlin

Berlin, 1938. Newly-appointed military attache Noel Macrae and his extrovert wife Primrose arrive at the British Embassy. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less so. Convinced Hitler can be stopped by other means than appeasement, he soon discovers he is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy and finds that some senior officers in the German military are prepared to turn against the Fuhrer. Gathering vital intelligence, Macrae is drawn to Kitty Schmidt’s Salon (a Nazi bordello) and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein-a favourite of sadistic Gestapo boss Reinhard Heydrich. Sara is a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets. Does she hold the key to thwarting Hitler or is Macrae just being manipulated by her whilst his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact, Florian Koenig? In James MacManus’ absorbing new novel the author evokes a time and place when the personal and political stakes could not be higher and where the urge for peaceful compromise conflicts with higher ideals and a vicious regime bent on war. As loyalties are stretched to the limit and Europe slides towards another war, could just one act of great courage and sacrifice change everything?