January 30, 1649, was chosen to be King Charles’ death day. Among the sober observers were tall, flaxen-haired Gideon Jukes, musketeer and spy for Cromwell’s New Army, and lovely Juliana Lovell, the still loyal though seemingly abandoned wife of a Cavalier officer.
Rebels and Traitors by Lindsey Davis
Juliana has criss-crossed wartorn England and now lives in London on the brink of starvation with her two young boys. She has a lady’s manners but has had to develop cunning to survive her years alone while her husband serves in the King’s army. Her path crosses with Gideon’s when they both flee the Tower in the aftermath of the King's execution.
Their lives before the war were so very different. Gideon, rebellious son of a wealthy merchant, nonetheless was cheerfully apprenticed to a printer of many things, including seditious literature. When the call came to join Parliament’s cause with the London trained bands, he quickly volunteered, eager to get away from a strange and unpleasant marriage. Without family and in need of a protector, Juliana had wed a trickster, a lesser noble, who fascinated her and kept her true to him despite their years apart.
Rebels and Traitors is a massive novel—nearly 750 pages—set in a time most Americans know little about. But they should and this story is an engrossing way to immerse oneself in a time every bit as exciting and compelling as the American Civil War or the French Revolution. Those who enjoy James Michener’s historical sagas and Bernard Cornwell’s military tales of the British past should find summer solace in this lengthy tale. The pacing fluctuates between battles and sackings of towns--punctuated with periods of domestic normality, friendships, love, and even humor.
Cavaliers and Roundheads drew their supporters from all classes of people. Significant differences in religion and politics—those two forbidden topics of polite conversation—were the motives behind the madness, transcending all social circles. This conflict was critical to our own American history. The English Civil War took place more than 100 years before our colonial rebellion against the King. The Americans’ Bill of Rights echoed their British ancestors’ Petition of Right which called on King Charles to set aside taxing the people without Parliament’s consent (taxation without representation), arbitrary arrests, forced housing of troops, and a demand for due process. A later English Bill of Rights (1689) would encompass even more demands to curb the excesses of the monarchy.
Gideon Jukes fights for a fledgling ideal of freedom from royal tyranny while Juliana's husband, Orlando Lovell, fights at least in part to support the Divine Right of Kings to rule exactly as they wish. Lindsey Davis does not water down the politics or the battle scenes. This will fascinate lovers of history but may leave those wishing for more purely romantic fare mired in detail.
The author’s Web site has audio of the author reading from her work, an interview with the BBC, and curious facts unearthed during her research. Lindsey Davis has also written a very enjoyable series of shorter historical mysteries featuring Roman imperial agent Marcus Didius Falco.