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The Licence of War

by Claire Letemendia

Five years after the release of her first novel, The Best of Men, Claire Letemendia resumes the story of the dashing Laurence Beaumont’s political and romantic intrigues. It is 1643 and civil war is wracking England, dividing the country between the stalwart Royalists and upstart Parliamentarians. Battles erupt across the country as the two sides vie for control of land and resources. It is a time of plotting, treachery, and betrayal, when no one can be trusted.

A skilled spy in the service of King Charles I’s ruthless secretary of state, Lord Digby,  Beaumont risks his life repeatedly amid the machinations of war. Representing  the gravest danger to Beaumont is Clement Veech, a spy for Parliamentarian John Pym and, later, Oliver St. John. The mysterious and bloodthirsty Veech is hungry for revenge for the debilitating injury Beaumont inflicted on him.

Between dodging death and doing Digby’s bidding, Beaumont manages to find time to associate with a host of colourful characters, from the bawds and innkeepers he befriends in London to his beautiful and enigmatic lover, Isabella Savage. At the insitence of his family, Beaumont is forced to give up Isabella and take a more appropriate bride, but their connection persists and seems likely to resurface in a future book.

Letemendia’s crisp, polished writing and ability to tightly weave together multiple storylines while maintaining a steady pace carry the reader through occasionally dense passages of battle description. The author’s fascination with the history of the English Civil War is evident, as is her affection for her hero.

The print version of this review mistakenly identified the publisher as Random House Canada. Q&Q regrets the error.