Accidents of Providence

Written by Stacia M. Brown
Review by Cynthia McArthur

Set in England during Cromwell’s interregnum, Accidents of Providence centers on Rachel Lockyer, a glove maker’s apprentice accused of murdering her illegitimate child. After moving to London, Rachel and her brother Robert become acquainted with the malcontent society called the Levellers; they are unhappy that the war that should have freed the common people seems to have stopped with Cromwell. When Robert wants to join them, Rachel accompanies him and meets William Walwyn, a married Leveller with whom she begins an affair. When Rachel’s employer, Mary Du Gard, sees her sneak into the night, she follows Rachel and sees her bury a small bundle. Mary returns the next day to dig the bundle up, finding an infant. Was the infant stillborn? Did Rachel kill her baby? Who is the father? So begins the investigation and trial of Rachel Lockyer for the murder of her spurious issue.

The story follows Rachel, the accused; William, her lover; Thomas Bartwain, the tired investigator who can’t look away from the story; John Lilborne, the Leveller leader who looks to turn every death into martyrdom; and John’s wife, Elizabeth, Rachel’s closest friend and Leveller in her own right. All the characters are changed because of Rachel’s plight, and the author eloquently portrays the confusion ordinary people must have felt in the days of the Protectorate. However, I felt as though I was just thrown into the story as narrated by the author and never really got inside the heads of these complex characters; their personalities seemed only skin deep. The author has beautiful phrasing, however, and her sentences are often poetic and thought-provoking. With a little more character development, this would have been a truly engrossing novel. As this was the author’s first novel, it shines with potential, and I look forward to reading her next work.