The Master of Measham Hall

Written by Anna Abney
Review by Sally Zigmond

1665: Charles II has returned from exile and is now king, but the Civil War still casts its long, dark shadow, intensified by the plague now raging throughout the land. Young Alethea Hawthorne lives in London, away from Measham Hall, her beloved ancestral Derbyshire home, eagerly awaiting the king’s pardon so her elder brother William can return from exile abroad.

When, by accident or design, she finds herself thrown out on the streets, Alethea plans to make her way north, facing many barriers and unexpected detours along the way. She is rescued from disaster by Jack, who is not evil but a law unto himself. Although she is a Roman Catholic, Alethea and Jack find refuge in Epping Forest, living and working with a group of dissenters. She is soon beguiled by their way of life and is infatuated with their charismatic leader, Samuel. When disaster strikes, she is even more determined to return home and take possession of Measham Hall any way she can.

Right from the very first lines of this novel, I was totally gripped. Alethea is a delightful combination of youthful naivety and strong determination. She is not perfect but soon becomes a force to be reckoned with. She has every right to be the Master of Measham Hall.

This is the first book in a promising series based on the author’s own ancestors. I can’t wait for the next volume. With a rich cast of characters, not only are the plot and narrative replete with twists and turns, but the turbulence of the 17th century is closely observed. I thoroughly recommend what I hope will prove a stunning series and a new author to celebrate.