At a time of huge divisions and distrust between Protestantism and Catholicism, Francis Trenowith, heir to an earldom, falls in love with the wrong girl. He is loyal to the king, Charles II, but also anxious to prove his anti-Popish sentiments as he participates in a pope-burning procession while a student at Oxford. 1680 is a particularly volatile time as the question of Exclusion – removing Charles’s Catholic brother James from the succession – is hotly debated across the land. Conspiracies, treason, secrets and lies abound and Francis, the unwitting pawn, becomes embroiled in a plot that may well bring him to the gallows.
One of the more powerful parts of the novel is that which deals with Francis’s inner turmoil and attempts to remain stoic in the face of terrible loss and suffering. The musical reference in the title comes from Francis’s deep love of music, and Purcell, the famous English composer, becomes a good friend of his. The two central strands of music and treason do not, however, seem to fully blend together, apart from music being a comfort to Francis in his times of trouble. Because the music seems to be a side issue, one wonders regarding the choice of title. All in all, this is a pleasant read which offers an interesting view of some of the key issues of the day.