Title: Shadow on the Highway
Author: Deborah Swift
Genre: Historical Romance
England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years.
The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.
Abigail Chaplin, a young deaf girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause.
But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household - the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.
Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate.
The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.
Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks?
How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded?
And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Silent Highwayman?
‘Shadow On The Highway’ is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in ‘The Highway Trilogy’.
Abigail Chaplin was deafened at the age of nine by the measles. Now, at fourteen Abigail must make her own way in the world. She has found a placement at Markyate Manor as maid to the young Lady Katherine Fanshawe. Abi can read lips and speak clearly enough, but she still feels disadvantaged, especially around the harsh master, Mr. Grice. Abi and Katherine form a bond. Katherine has talked Abi into letting her dress up in maid's clothing and accompany Abi to her brother Ralph's Digger meetings. Katherine and Ralph begin to fall for one another and tension's rise as Mr. Grice leads the Fanshawe household in one direction for the War and Ralph leads the Digger community in the other. Also, as Mr. Grice begins to sell items off in the Fanshawe household, some of the items begin to reappear after Abi notices that Lady Katherine disappears in the middle of the night.
Set during the turbulent English Civil War, the legend of the 'Wicked Lady' or the 'Highwaywoman' Katherine Ferrers is brought to light. I didn't know a lot about this time period and I knew nothing of the legends of the HIghwaywoman. I was glad to learn that Katherine Fanshawe and Ralph Chaplin were both real people that the legend bloomed from. Told through the eyes of Ralph's fictional sister, Abigail, a different picture was painted of the young woman who would be later known as the 'Wicked Lady.' Abigail's character was wonderful, given her disability she was still a strong character, although not without faults. I could feel her pain when she misunderstood directions. Through Abi, Lady Katherine is not always seen as the best or brightest person, but as their relationship grows, Katherine's true spirit shows. Towards the end, the action picks up and a lot of events happen. It is very exciting, but I felt like some continuity details were missing in regards to bigger events, such as how the events at Markyate fit in the Civil War? and what ended up happening to the Diggers? As the first book in the trilogy, these questions might be answered later.
About the Author:
Deborah Swift lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District. She teaches classes and courses in writing, and is the author of three other historical novels: ‘The Lady’s Slipper’, ‘The Gilded Lily’ and ‘A Divided Inheritance’. You can find out more about her on her website, www.deborahswift.co.uk.
Endeavour Press is the UK's leading independent publisher of digital books.
UK link Amazon
US link Amazon
Author Website: www.deborahswift.com
Lady Katherine arrived after I had lit the fire and the rush-lights, and just as I was smoothing out the bed. I was proud of the way I had the jug of hot water already standing by.
‘Unlace me.’ She stood in front of me and turned, obviously expecting me to undress her, but my mouth was dry at such a prospect. I did not dare to touch her with my rough, chapped hands. Her hair fell in soft coppery tendrils over the eyelets of her bodice.
I unlaced her as she fidgeted. I helped her out of the bodice and the skirt, noticing how she shivered with the cold. She pointed at the basin and I fetched it over with the linen cloth, but I stood there, not knowing how to wash her. Which parts should I wash?
She turned and snatched the cloth from my hand. ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.’ She rubbed vigorously at her neck and her face, then her arms. As she scrubbed, the back of her chemise gaped open and I saw faint criss-crosses of white scars. That was shocking enough, but down below there was a big purpleish bruise across her back. I gasped. I had done that. To Lady Katherine Fanshawe. I was horrified.
She swung round. ‘What’s the matter?’
I wiped gently, and saw her wince. She turned and pulled the cloth from my hand. ‘Not like that. You’re too clumsy.’
‘There’s a bruise m’lady.’
‘It’s nothing. I’ve suffered worse.’
I lowered my eyes and she threw the cloth back in the basin. She confused me, this child-woman with the arrogant look. And she was never still, full of a strange restlessness. There was a trunk in an adjoining dressing room and I rummaged inside, glad to find a dry cloth and a clean nightdress.
I held out the cloth for her to dry herself but she shook her head. Her foot tapped on the floor and her eyes showed she was thinking of something else. ‘When my husband Thomas is home, you will sleep here,’ she announced.
She seemed very young to be married, but I curtseyed to this order and bunched up the nightdress for her to put her arms through the sleeves. ‘You can bring your bedding down,’ she said. ‘And you are to help me move that chest against the door.’ Her hands fluttered as she talked.
There was another door in the wall opposite the dressing room, and she saw me look to it.
‘Yes, that’s his room. My step-father has the key.’
Her face showed she did not like him. I tied the strings at the front of her gown in a bow.
‘Both doors,’ she said, looking into my eyes. ‘We’ll secure both doors.’