Orphaned when his father is convicted and hanged for treason against Charles I, Luciano Falcieri Del Santi and his sister Gianetta leave England and return to their uncle’s household in Genoa. Gianetta is raised as a pampered daughter while Luciano is apprenticed to learn the gold trade. When older, Luciano is still bent on vengeance against those who lead to his father’s death and he returns to London as a master goldsmith and money lender. His path eventually crosses with that of Richard Maxwell of Thorne Ash, his wife Dorothy and their brood of children – including the not-quite-mature Kate.

As Civil War between King and Parliament begins Luciano and Kate find them in the midst of war, treachery, and conspiracies everywhere. Can Luciano keep Kate safe from those desperate to destroy him before he can uncover the truth? Luciano’s search for the truth culminates in a final showdown with his prey in a nail biting finish as Cromwell besieges Basing House. Will Luciano and Kate make it out alive? Or will his search for the truth destroy them all? Hate to say it, but I am not telling.

Luciano was one of the best flawed hero I’ve come across in quite a while (I think I’m in love), his knife wielding Turk bodyguard Selim was a hoot and as for Kate – she was a perfect foil – intelligent, independent but without being so OTT with it that she’s grating on your nerves as well. No TSTL heroine here. I loved the Maxwell family and their brood of children, and my heart just broke for eldest son Eden and what the witch of a Royalist wife put him through. It was also fun catching a glimpse of Justin Ambrose from A Splendid Defiance, the second in Riley’s Civil War trilogy.  4.5/5 stars.

Riley’s books are quite rare and virtually impossible to find without paying an arm and a leg but don’t give up hope. Scour your used book stores and keep watch on the online sellers – especially over at the UK. Don’t bother for an ILL, I already tried it and not one to be had in the US and I only lucked out by a very generous friend offering me the loan of her copy – a very big thank you. As best as I can ascertain the series order is,

The Black Madonna
A Splendid Defiance
Garland of Straw

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