By Love Divided

Written by Elizabeth St. John
Review by Janice Ottersberg

This is the second book in the Lydiard Chronicles, covering the years 1630-1646 and the English Civil War. It immediately follows the first book, The Lady of the Tower (1603-1630). Read the series from the beginning to get to know the St. John family, specifically Lucy St. John and Sir Allen Apsley.

Sir Allen has died, leaving the family destitute. Heavy debts were incurred while he was in service to King Charles, and the King promised reimbursement but hasn’t honored his warrants. Widowed Lucy fights to get what is rightfully hers but encounters numerous obstacles. She is tricked into marriage with a cruel, extremist Puritan, Sir Leventhorpe Franke, by promises that he will intercede on her behalf. Instead, Franke plans to profit should her money be recovered. Lucy’s and Sir Allen’s adult children, Allen and Luce, become the focus of this second book. While the family struggles with their new poverty, Allen studies law at Trinity and Luce marries John Hutchinson. The love story of Luce and John is beautifully told. The complex politics of the time and the civil war come to the forefront of the story as many families are torn apart over differing opinions and forced to take sides. When war breaks out, Allen joins for the King and Luce takes up the Parliamentarian cause, creating a fierce divide within the Apsley family.

It is evident that Elizabeth St. John has done extensive research in writing this book based on her own family’s experiences during this time in history. The language she uses is so authentic. Her writing engages the senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of 17th-century life. Her world and characters are so real I wanted to remain there. I loved this book, and the Lydiard Chronicles are now on my list of all-time favorite historical novels. A fantastic read.