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Sunday, February 11, 2024

Review: The Secrets of Crestwell Hall

Title: The Secrets of Crestwell Hall

Author: Alexandra Walsh

Publisher: 24th January 2024 by Boldwood Books

Pages: 386 pages

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Historical Fiction | Women's Fiction

Rating: 4 crowns


‘A king adorns the throne… He has no subtlety, no grace but he does not deserve to die in the way that has been planned and this is why we shall stop them, our men, our kin and save us all.’


Bess Throckmorton is well used to cunning plots and intrigues. With her husband Sir Walter Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she and her family in a constant battle to outwit Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the country who is determined to ruin her, Bess decides to retreat to her beloved home, Crestwell Hall. But there she is shocked to hear talk of a new plot to murder the king. So, unbeknownst to their menfolk, the wives of the plotters begin to work together to try to stop the impending disaster.

Present Day

Isabella Lacey and her daughter, Emily, are excited to be starting a new life at her aunt’s home, Crestwell Hall in Wiltshire. During renovations, Isabella discovers an ancient bible that once belonged to Bess Throckmorton, and to her astonishment finds that it doubled as a diary. As Isabella reads Bess’s story, a new version of the Gunpowder Plot begins to emerge - told by the women.

When Emily’s life is suddenly in terrible danger, Isabella understands the relentless fear felt by Bess, hundreds of years ago. And as the fateful date of 5th November draws ever closer, Bess and the plotters’ wives beg their husbands to stop before a chain of events is set into action that can only end one way…

My Thoughts

I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Alexandra’s books. If you love English history, particularly the Tudor/Stuart era, then this is most definitely the author for you. The Marquess House series was an extraordinary feat in reimagining aspects of Tudor history. This time, Alexandra tackles the infamous Gunpowder Plot of the 17th century which is also inclusive of a contemporary timeline.

‘We must persuade them away from the horror of this plot. They are good men who have become misguided. In the misery of the past years with the plague and the disappointments of King James’s Catholic policy, they’ve forgotten that their lives are happy and there are people who love them.’

In a nutshell Alexandra considers whether the wives of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 knew what was going on? Guy Fawkes is the name most associated with this event, however, Elizabeth (Bess) Throckmorton (wife of Sir Walter Raleigh who was being held in the Tower of London) is who Alexandra shines the spotlight on.  There are plots swirling around her and Bess must look to protect those she loves from being implicated to rid England of its unpopular King. In the present day, Isabella discovers Bess’s diary and faces a mysterious modern day/contemporary danger herself. It proved fascinating reading but be warned, it is an intriguing and complex read. For those who love a good conspiracy theory look no further.

‘…breathing in the atmosphere, imagining she could hear snippets of conversations from centuries gone by as she perambulated through the rooms …. Bess is giving me an entirely new perspective on the Gunpowder Plot,’

The dual narrative once again works well as the author has really done her research in an attempt to make the whole plot appear plausible! Love it! On the flip side however, there are A LOT of details, names and places and you really had to be thinking straight with the large (and I mean large) assortment of characters (all real though - which is actually mind blowing when you think about it). However, sometimes it did read a little like a history text book of ‘who’s who’ from the period. The book is about history, mystery, and romance, with a twist on the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

‘Do you think we women are deaf?’ she hissed, anger giving her courage. ‘Or that we are fools? We have known for months that the men of the family have been plotting a heinous crime and we have done our best to save you from yourselves.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.


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