Tuesday, June 16, 2020

#BookReview: Shame the Devil by Donna Scott

Historical Fiction

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England, 1643. The Civil War has created a great divide between those who support King Charles and those who would rather see his head on the block. Young Scot Colin Blackburne finds himself caught in the middle when he witnesses Parliamentarians murder his mother because of his father’s allegiance to the king. As further punishment, the family is sent to Yorkshire as indentured servants.

Mistreated by his master and tormented by a Parliamentarian soldier, Colin vows to take up arms for the king and seek vengeance against the men who killed his mother. The only bright spot in his life is his unexpected, and forbidden, friendship with his master’s daughter, Emma Hardcastle.

With her father constantly away on campaign and her mother plagued by madness, Emma is drawn to Colin and his brother, Roddy. She introduces them to her troubled neighbor Alston Egerton, who has a clandestine relationship with Stephen Kitts, the soldier out for Colin’s blood.

As they all become entangled in a twisted web of love, jealousy, desire, and betrayal, the war rages on around them. Resentful at being forced into servitude and forbidden from being with the woman he loves, Colin puts his plan for vengeance into motion, though it will have disastrous consequences for all of them.

Secrets are revealed and relationships are torn apart. With the country teetering on the brink of ruin, Emma fights to survive, Alston is forced to confront his demons, and Colin must decide whether his burning desire to fight for justice is worth sacrificing a future with the woman he loves.

I owe my discovery of Donna Scott’s Shame the Devil to its cover designer. Historical Editorial featured the title in one of its social media announcements, and I was immediately sucked in by the imagery. It had been a minute since I had read a novel set in the Stuart period, and the prospect of returning to the era tickled my imagination.

In looking at my library, I would have no trouble shelving Shame the Devil alongside Stella Riley’s A Splendid Defiance. I think Scott’s handling of the politics lighter than Riley’s, but consider her gentle manipulation of the material appealing and easy to follow, even for those unfamiliar with the details of the English Civil War. I came to the novel expecting the conflict to play a more significant role in the story than it does, but once I adjusted my mindset, I grew to appreciate how Scott used the history to frame the dramatic events of her story.

Shame the Devil has a large cast, and I am not above admitting I liked some more than others. I enjoyed Colin, Roddy, and Emma well-enough, but I was genuinely attached to Alston. He’s got a bit of a Sydney Carton thing going on, but I was captivated by his arc and thought his story the most dynamically compelling. Stephen, repugnant though he is, also deserves a shout out as a fabulously layered antagonist. 

The latter chapters of the novel were a little too drawn out for my tastes, but I enjoyed the time I spent with this piece overall and look forward to reading the author’s next release.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Unlimited
Read: June 9, 2020

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