Written in Their Stars

Fiction - Historical - Personage
384 Pages
Reviewed on 12/16/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite

Written in Their Stars by Elizabeth St. John is the third book in a trilogy that recounts the earlier history of her own family. It begins when John Hutchinson signs the execution order for the death of Charles I. Luce and John are closely related to Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley, both ardent Royalists. While Frances and her husband Allen cross the channel to the court in the Louvre to support Charles’ son in exile, Nan heads up a network of spies providing safety and comfort for Royalists who attempt to reinstate the Royal family in London. While family ties are both strong and loving, their political views set them on opposing paths. But Charles’s invasion fails and Cromwell begins to act more king than parliamentarian, earlier beliefs are shattered, and the lines of loyalty become blurred. Old grudges are brought to the surface as Charles II is welcomed back and new stars rise as old influencers fade.

I was delighted to find this book to review as it brought to life many things I did not know about the Stuarts in exile and I wish I had read the first two books in the trilogy. Elizabeth St. John’s characters are vivid, the dialogue realistic and the reader is transported to London, Paris and rural England in the mid 17th century. It’s the product of extensive research and attention to detail. I was especially fascinated to learn of the court in exile, which was neither glamorous nor comfortable. Without giving away any spoilers, the latter part of the book and the trials endured by John Hutchinson were particularly heartrending and the machinations of the women of the era who utilized every skill at their disposal in a time when they had no official representation were superb. You can’t help but admire their tenacity, their wit and their intelligence. These characters are real people who lived and whose story has been faithfully told. They will live with me for a long time. A fantastic book that I will read again. Five stars from me.

Kathryn Bennett

Written in Their Stars by Elizabeth St.John takes the reader back in time to London in 1694. Crowds of horrified onlookers see King Charles beheaded and their world is turned on its head. Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley, loyal royalists, hatch a plot to return the dead king's exiled son to the throne of England. Plots are never easy, however, and the cousin of the royalists, Luce, is married to the man who killed the king, and she is rejoicing in England’s new republic. Which part of the family will come out on top? Or is there ever really a winner when family is pitted against family in a bloody political battle?

I love books that are firmly based in truth, and I have to say Written in Their Stars fits that bill all the way. The time of Cromwell and the republic in England is one that has always fascinated me for many reasons, so digging into a family at the center of these events was fantastic. The writing is so evocative and intriguing I had to remind myself several times this was a fiction work, even if based in fact. That is how much this story resounds. My favorite part is the focus on the women who fought the fight. Too often people think the only ones who fought in this time were the men, openly on battlefields. However, almost anyone who truly studies the past will tell you women were able to wield far more influence they are credited for. We see that displayed expertly in the way that Nan, the Countess of Rochester, uses her rank and her knowledge to establish a spy network.

All the players in this book are well fleshed out, but for me, Nan was my favorite, the standout. She is an expert manipulator and isn’t afraid to flout Cromwell any chance she gets. If you love a historical novel that has a good pace, great characters, and wonderful writing, this book is for you. Pick it up and get ready to jump back in time.

K.C. Finn

Written In Their Stars is a historical work of fiction written for adults, and was penned by Elizabeth St. John. The book is part of the Lydiard Chronicles series of novels based on a true story, set during the period of unrest in England following the conclusion of the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles. The divide between Parliamentarians and Royalists leads to a world of opportunity for the women of the novel to pursue their own agenda in restoring the monarchy to the throne, through the use of espionage and defiance of the governing Protectorate led by the usurper Oliver Cromwell.

Whilst we see so many historical tales that tell of the battlefields of the Royalists fighting the Parliamentarians, author Elizabeth St. John has tapped into a hidden but very real niche of history to tell this enchanting tale. Nan and Frances are two Royalists whose sex keeps them off the battlefield, but the ladies take it upon themselves to use their status and power with excellent effect. The character development is deep and engaging, whilst it’s also really skillful to see a feminist style tale of strong, empowered women woven into a convincing episode of history where everything is still very real and accurate to the time period. The authenticity in the description is also excellent, making for a fully rounded, atmospheric and clever plot as a whole. Overall, I would highly recommend Written In Their Stars to fans of historical fiction, women’s fiction, and political conspiracy.