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Sunday, 31 July 2016

‘Birthright’ by David Hingley

Published by Allison & Busby,
21 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2032-3(HB)

The reign of King Charles II is usually characterized by pleasure and plenty after the grim, puritanical years of Cromwell’s Protectorate – but there was also war, internal conflict and fallout from before the Civil War.

It is this aspect of the period which David Hingley has chosen to explore in Birthright, the first in a two-book series featuring feisty gentlewoman Mercia Blakewood, and the author’s first venture in published novels.

Mercia’s father has been executed and her family home confiscated by her uncle, who is also threatening to take her small son away and put him in the care of her in-laws. Mercia is determined to hold on to her son and recover his birthright, and a coded message left by her dead father offers her the means to solicit the newly re-established King’s help.

A collection of paintings, believed destroyed by Cromwell’s thugs, is the key; with the help of her friend and neighbour Nathan Keyte, Mercia follows a trail of clues which she hopes will enable her to restore the artworks to the King and gain his favour.

Her quest takes her to London, the coast and eventually on a three-month sea journey to America, where the King’s representatives aim to wrest the colony of New Amsterdam from the Dutch and claim it for England. Along the way she crosses paths and swords with lecherous sailors, perfidious nobles and other more honourable characters, and finds depths and qualities in herself and in others which she had never dreamed were there.

The historical background feels right, as do the details which colour Mercia’s experiences on the ship and in New Amsterdam; Hingley has clearly researched the period thoroughly.

It’s not perfect, but most of the issues stem from the author’s inexperience; the most evident are some overwriting, and a tendency to mix modern idiom a little uneasily with attempts at historical-sounding dialogue. But the narrative romps along at a high old pace all the same, and the denouement comes as a complete surprise, in a perfectly credible way.

The story is a great adventure and a promising debut. I look forward to part two of Mercia’s adventure.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

David Hingley was born in the English Midlands. After a Spanish and Russian degree at the University of Manchester, he headed south to London to work for a decade in government. In 2013 he moved to New York, where he wrote his debut novel Birthright. He has also lived in Paris, on the literary Left Bank. In addition to his love of history, he has a passion for travel, most recently a number of road-trips through over forty American states. He has now returned to England and is writing his second book.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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