Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift


A family divided by fortune.  A country divided by faith.

London 1609…

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.

Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary – determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . .

A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.

Pan MacMillan | October 23, 2013 (UK) | 528 pages

My Review

Deborah Swift's latest novel, A Divided Inheritance, transports the reader back to early 17th century London, England and Seville, Spain.  The story opens in London, where Elspeth Leviston lives with her father, a lace merchant.  Believing that she will carry on the business after her father dies, Elspeth's assumption is put to the test when Zachary Deane, a man claiming to be her cousin, shows up at her home and is taken under the wing of her father.  While Elspeth's father is determined to teach Zachary everything he needs to know about the lace trade, Zachary doesn't prove to be the most dependable of pupils.  In  an effort to force him to mature, Elspeth's father sends Zachary on a grand tour of Europe.  Soon after Zachary leaves, however, Elspeth's father suddenly passes away, leaving her with an uncertain future and tying her to Zachary in a way she never imagined.  Determined to force Zachary to give back what she feels is rightfully hers, Elspeth sets off for Spain to find her cousin.  But life in Spain proves to be more demanding and dangerous than either Elspeth or Zachary imagined, and they soon find themselves caught up in events well beyond their control. 

One of my favourite things about this novel is that it is rife with historical detail. It is obvious Swift put a good deal of research went into the writing of this book.  This research is never just dumped into the story; it is skillfully woven into the narrative.  As a result, the detail enhances the reading experience and helps to make the reader feel as if they are living events of the novel right alongside the story's protagonists.  The novel's characters are another strong point.   All characters, whether they be primary or secondary, possess significant depth.  Elspeth and Zachary in particular, the novel's principal characters, are well-drawn and developed.  While it is obvious from the outset that Elspeth possesses a quiet strength that will serve her well in troubled times, Zachary initially comes across as an irresponsible and uncaring young man.  Yet, despite his faults, Zachary isn't unlikeable.  This ensures that the reader's sympathies don't lie solely with Elspeth.      

Complementing the novel's main plotline is one that ties into the religious turmoil of early 17th century Spain.  This component of the narrative focuses on the Ortega's, a family of Moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity), whose lives and livelihoods are endangered by the rising threat of expulsion from Spain.  Linking directly to Zachary and Elspeth's story, the plight of the Ortega family showcases the intolerance and destructive power of the Spanish Inquisition.  Not being overly familiar with this period of Spanish history, this element of the book was not only interesting to read but also highly educational.  

Despite coming in at over 500 pages, A Divided Inheritance doesn't feel long.  Swift's prose is fluid and the narrative never drags, making the book difficult to put down.   While A Divided Inheritance is the first of Deborah Swift's novels I've had the pleasure to read, it definitely won't be the last. 

Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in Jacobean England and/or Inquisition-era Spain. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Divided Inheritance is currently on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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