A lot of historical novels fall into particular types. There’s the story of an adventurous hero, full of action and excitement. And there’s the family saga. Tales of royalty and real life historical figures abound. There are stories of plots and intrigues. And, of course, there are historical romances.
Some books cross over from one area to another, but The Best of Men covers the lot!
First there’s the hero.
In 1636 Laurence Beaumont wanted to escape the responsibilities of his role as heir to his father’s estate. And so he escaped to Europe. Over the following six years he has been a soldier, a spy and a cardsharp, and he has seen the best and the worst of human nature.
Stories of his adventures unfold through the book and go some way to explaining the man he became. He is a fascinating hero. A handsome and charming man, fundamentally good but with a dark side and some fairly fundamental flaws.
In 1942 he returns to England.
And so to the family story.
Laurence’s father is keen for his son to resume his responsibilities, and his mother is equally keen to find him a suitable bride. His sister is soon to marry and welcomes him. But Robert, his younger brother, does not. He resents his older brother – a classic case of the prodigal son. All of the characters and relationships are well drawn – particular the troubled relationship between the two brothers.
There’s more than enough already to sustain a story, but that’s only the beginning.
There is still royaly and much intrigue to come.
The relationship between the King Charles I and parliament has broken down, The situation seems irretrievably, and England is on the brink of civil war.
Laurence comes into possession of a cache of coded letters outlining a plot to assassinate the king. Soon the conspirators – one of whom is among the most powerful men in the kingdom – are on his trail, and he needs to make his case aginst them before they catch up with him. The Secretary of State’s ruthless spymaster looms, and laurence finds himself walking a fine line, with the prospect of imprisonment, torture or worse if he makes a single wrong step.
The story twists and turns, encompassing a large and diverse cast of characters.
And there is romance along the way too.
Laurence faces the prospect of matrimony, becomes entangled with a notable lady who may or may not help his cause, and a number of other ladies fall at his feet along the way.
If there is a weak link this is it. There’s just a little more detail than necessary, and the occasional lapse into cliche.
But, as a whole, The Best of Men works extremely well.
The many strands, characters and settings are expertly woven together. The pages are packed with vivid detail, dialogue and action. It all adds up to a wonderful story, and it is very well told.
A first novel ten years in the writing, Claire Letemendia has clearly put in a great deal of time researching and planning her first novel. It was time well spent!