The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

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The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A thrilling, gripping, and moving historical fiction novel, The Silvered Heart is an astounding success that had me hooked from page one.
Buy? YES Borrow? YES
Pages: 448 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472204240

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Katherine Ferrers is a young orphan – growing up in the turbulent period of the English Civil War; she has little choice but to marry for the sake of her family and to trust her considerable inheritance into the care of her husband. As the war comes to an end, and those who supported the losing King are punished severely, Katherine finds herself with no money, few friends, and a house that has become a prison. Wishing for a life away from her cold, oft absent husband, Katherine meets a man who changes her life, with Katherine choosing to join him in a life that provides her with the excitement she craves – and yet may prove all too dangerous…

Lady Katherine Ferrers was a real person – one whose stories have become rooted in myth over time. The myth that endures is that she was a highwaywoman – holding travellers at ransom and taking their money, and referred to as the Wicked Lady. No-one knows if it’s a true tale or not, although the old rumours of Lady Katherine using a secret tunnel at her old home to hide her comings and goings as a highwaywoman were given new life by the discovery of a tunnel at the house during a period of refurbishment in the 1800s. Various books have been published on the legend of Lady Katherine, and several films have been made – although both versions of The Wicked Lady, seem somewhat exploitative and don’t appear to get under the skin of a character as fascinating as Lady Katherine.

Thankfully, author Katherine Clements has no such problems. She brings Lady Katherine to vivid life, and makes her feel like a living, breathing character – one who the reader roots for from the very beginning, and comes to know intimately. In fact, all characters in The Silvered Heart are well drawn, from Katherine’s vile husband through to the rugged Rafe. There is a pace and urgency to the plot that doesn’t let up, and the evocation of the period is spot on. In fact, I was pleased to learn more about private lives in the period of the Civil War and the republic that followed. I was aware that the Civil War divided families and that reforms in the Interregnum caused misery to many, but I had little idea of the financial penalties imposed on those who opposed the roundheads, and no idea of the suffering that occurred as a result.

Instead of the rather one dimensional Lady Katherine who has been portrayed in film, one who chooses to be a highwaywoman due to petty jealousies and lust for jewels, this Lady Katherine makes the decision in order to keep her home standing and her servants fed, but finds herself increasingly excited and swept away by the freedom the lifestyle represents. Considering the huge amount of pressure placed on women of Lady Katherine’s status in this period, a period in which women were solely intended to marry, to look pretty, to bear heirs, and to run a house - it is a decision that makes a lot of sense, and that that made me think that there may be more to the legend of the Wicked Lady than just myth. Lady Katherine is not just given an outlet to engage her intelligent mind in something other than housekeeping, she is given a purpose, goals, drive, support, and the ability to make a difference, and to contribute to her house's financial upkeep. It is little wonder she comes to enjoy being a highwaywoman. I was also pleased by how independent Lady Katherine remains throughout. She consistently confronts and provokes her pig of a husband, and despite falling in love later on, she still maintains a steely streak of independence, rather than swooning and falling into submission as can happen in some historical fiction.

This is a captivating, gripping book – perhaps the most engaging I have read in some time. The opening chapter starts with a shock, and the pace is relentless from then on out. The twists and turns come thick and fast, but are never out of the blue – all are cleverly seeded and make perfect sense, making this a seamless ride of a novel. I started this on the train to work, spent my lunch hour engrossed in it, then in the evening left a party with an open bar (those who know me will be aware that that is not something I do lightly…), in order to come home and read more. Katherine Clements has crafted a masterpiece of historical fiction that is stuffed full of heart, fantastic characters, and a tragic heroine. An engrossing read – prepare to be swept away by the wonderfully descriptive prose, and spend an evening by the fire in the welcome company of the Wicked Lady

Huge thanks to the publishers for the copy – I will be seeking out the author's back catalogue pronto!

For further reading – I was initially reminded of Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt – a book about people driven to very different extremes by the English Civil War. The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn also suggested itself – a piece of wonderfully drawn historical fiction that depicts yet another woman making difficult and dangerous decisions in order to survive. You might also like Sealskin by Su Bristow.

Booklists.jpg The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements is in the Top Ten Historical Fiction Books of 2015.

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