Saturday, 24 May 2014



Publisher -- Headline
Published -- 27 Mar 2014
Pages --  352
Genre -- Historical Fiction


May Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it's in the Poole household that she finds refuge.
Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie's world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie's radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country's conflict, to the trial of a king.

Beauty and brutality: with the vibrancy of Sarah Dunant and a gothic touch, Katherine Clements conjures the extraordinary women you never knew about in the turbulent years of the English Civil War.


In The Crimson Ribbon debut author Katherine Clements links the real figures of Lizzie Poole and Oliver Cromwell with Ruth Flowers, fictional narrator, whose life is turned upside down when a tragic and brutal incident involving her mother forces her to leave her old life behind and flee to London.

Finding work in the Poole household she meets and becomes beguiled by Lizzie, the master's daughter, who has the loveliest face Ruth has ever seen.

The novel deals mainly with the close and complex relationship between Ruth and Lizzie, particularly of Ruth's obsession with Lizzie.

Joseph Oakes, Army deserter, who met Ruth when they were both travelling to London, is smitten with her but her bonds to Lizzie are strong

This was a time of unrest and suspicion, the people were fearful of the plague and of witchcraft, witches were being hunted and hanged weekly. Their king is on the run from Parliament's New Model Army (who's General was Cromwell), and no-one knew who to trust.  Pamphlets are freely distributed with all the gossip about the king.  Gossip is not just reserved for the king, Lizzie is also being talked about and not in a kindly way due to her radical views.

I liked Ruth enormously, she grew in confidence and had more strength than she thought she had, she knew her own mind, was observant and clever, with the ability to suss people out.   A skill she needed at times.

This was an interesting read, seeing a different side to Oliver Cromwell, well-researched, well-written and held my attention from the first dramatic chapter to the last.  Thoroughly recommended.

Source:  Thanks to the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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