Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin

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Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A Tudor hist-fict packed with gasp-worthy excitement, the lives of the everyday people (ok, perhaps not so every day) and a touch of the Thomas Hardys. All we need to do is grab our tear mop of choice and indulge ourselves!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 326 Date: January 2016
Publisher: Romaunce Books
ISBN: 978-1861515452

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Hazel, an orphaned peasant during the 16th century has had a tough time to say the least. Therefore when she comes across Black John, an outlaw about to be hanged she sees her chance. By proposing to him she'll save his life and, marrying him, her own. At least that's Hazel's theory but the fates will make it a bit more of a struggle.

British author Rhona Martin gave up a secretarial career to write novels, Gallows Wedding being the first (and very popular) first fruit of the experiment. Initially published in the late 1970s, it went on to win the first Georgette Heyer award for romantic historical fiction.

This story of a witch-marked, witch-chased peasant and the man she married for convenience is a marmite creation but those of us who love it continue to remember the events and people within its pages with a dewy eyed affection. Dewy eyes? Ok, to be honest I blubbed buckets!

Rhona's style is character-led and event-filled rather than a romantic bodice-ripper. In her writing we witness the effects of history through the lives of the everyday people (albeit one of whom has a nubbin in this case). For instance we see some of the results of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries via Hazel's eyes and we fear the superstitions of the era by watching them wrack those we've come to care about. When it comes to love and marriage, we learn of the varying attitudes from the various couples we encounter, not all of whom are exemplary examples of matrimonial harmony.

Strong-willed Hazel's ideas of wedded bliss aren't too different from our modern day expectations with respect to monogamy. Even though she doesn't start off loving John, once she falls for him she expects him to reciprocate but opens herself up to a world of emotional pain by misinterpreting his actions. That's not an anti-John rant though; Rhona ensures we love, understand him and plump for his survival as much as we do for Hazel's. He's a lot older and so is on a different emotional page to the youngster who plucked him from the gallows. He's also had a tougher life than we realise - just wait for the revelations once they all come pouring out!

For me the whole book had a touch of the Thomas Hardy about it (in such a good way), from the wonderful suitably rustic supporting cast, (especially in that great scene around the Abbey) to the marriage of convenience under odd circumstances, the crone in the woods, right down to the probably unwitting tribute in the baby's name. Then there's that Hardyesque ending which the book blurb declares harrowing – bit of an understatement is that. Yet I wouldn't have missed one beautifully written, heart-stoppingly-fearful moment.

The qualifications for being on the love side of the marmite jar with this one would include an affection for romantic fiction without graphic clothes off bits and an urge for authenticity and high adventure generated by a pair of heroes, one of whom behaves like a bloke. If you're nodding along with that and you know where you can find a big box of tissues, then Gallows Wedding awaits to enthral.

(A gulped but sincere thank you to Romaunce for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you enjoy historical fiction daubed with romance, we also recommend Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien. If you like the idea of history seen through the lives of the everyday folk, rather than through royals, try Book one the KingMaker Trilogy by Toby Clements]].

Buy Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gallows Wedding: A dark novel of witchcraft and forbidden love set against the backdrop of religious upheaval in Henry VIII's times by Rhona Martin at Amazon.com.


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