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  5.0 out of 5 starsRaised in a strict Puritan household with an abusive father, Silence learned at a young age to keep her emotions locked tightly inside her. Married at twenty to older widower Simon St. Barbe, London raised Silence struggles to fit in with Simon’s children and his tyrannical mother. Nine years later Civil War breaks out between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians and Simon leaves to join the army leaving Silence and her children in relative peace – that is until a troop of Royalist soldiers arrive to take possession of Wintercombe in the King’s name. Leading the troop is the ruthless Colonel Ridgeley who has no pity for the wife of a “traitor” – and Wintercombe is soon invaded by drunken, carousing soldiers.

Always keeping a mask over her emotions, Silence withstands the horrendous abuses committed against her family, home and servants – although she finds sympathy and friendship with Captain Nick Hellier who tries his best to nullify the abominations committed by Ridgeley. Does Nick harbor stronger feelings for Silence or is he just amusing himself during his tenure at Wintercombe? Can Puritan raised Silence resist the love she finally admits for Nick or will she commit the great sin of adultery? Can anyone stop Colonel Ridgeley and his horrifying abuses or will he destroy Wintercombe and the St. Barbe family?

Despite the appearance of being a romance novel, do not let that stop you. What *romance* there might be in the story between the two (and I’m not letting on) is well towards the end of the book – what this book is about is characters and family and how they are affected by war as their home and lives are taken over by brutal, ruthless soldiers – and let me tell you there are some terrifying scenes in this book. There is a lot of family interaction and details of daily life in 17C England, as well as seeing the conflict from both sides. Belle really brings the period and people to life, and I especially enjoy how she writes children and pets.

This might be a bit slow paced at times for readers looking for an action packed read, but if you enjoy a more character driven plot and want to see the affects of war on the women, children and their daily lives I would recommend an immediate trip to your library or your favorite used bookseller. This is the first of a four book series and continues the story of the St Barbe family through the reign of Charles II and the Monmouth rebellion. In order,

Herald of Joy
A Falling Star
Treason’s Gift