*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
2019 B.R.A.G. MEDALLION HONOREE
Blurb: Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth. When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family farm, she is sold into slavery. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world of depravation and heartbreak. Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity. Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced indentured labour in the unforgiving cane fields. As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her. With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each other’s arms. Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives. Together they fight to survive; together they are determined to escape.
Severed Knot is a sweeping historical romance that takes the main characters from the UK to Barbados via the human trafficking of war prisoners as indentured servants. Whether it also brings them home safely is a different matter!
We meet both Mairead (Irish) and Iain (Scotland) when their fortunes are already at a low ebb. Poor Mairead has just discovered that the man she thought loved her has been dallying with her cousin and appears to have no plans to marry either of them. Iain is even worse off, as we meet him in chains – a war prisoner of the English after fighting against them and losing in the English Civil War.
When the English also descend on Mairead’s family’s farm, things get dramatically worse quickly, and it isn’t long before she and her cousin find themselves joining Iain, and what is left of his men, in the hold of a ship bound for the plantations in Barbados. They’ve been sold as indentured servants.
From the very beginning, Mairead and Iain are both impossible not to love. Yes, they have flaws (Mairead can be quite uncharitable in her thoughts about other women and Iain, understandably, grouchy and morose), but these only highlight their overall honesty, loyalty and strength as they face the challenges of abuse, enforced servitude and the unforgiving combination of a hot climate, poor rations and hard work.
As their friendship and mutual respect gradually warms to something more, the reader really feels for their impossible situation, as they strive not only for freedom, but to return to their respective, separate, homelands, whilst still clinging to each other.
Although it stands completely alone, those who read the author’s previous novel, Traitor’s Knot, will spot the continuity as that novel’s main character makes something of a cameo appearance here.
Fans of historical fiction and romance will be swept away by this story, full of courageous action and hardships endured, and romance, of course!
Iain knew this song. An old Scottish ballad, one of his favourites. It called to mind the longing of home. It had been the song that he had sung to himself during the gruelling journey from England.
How was it that she stood there playing that very song?
The melody had always stirred him, providing comfort during all those times he had been away on campaign, far from home. But Mairead’s rendition added layers he had never heard. The mournful tone of the violin spoke of the wind in the firs and smoky twilight clinging to the mountains. A flight of swallows darting in a cold twilight sky and the cry of terns riding a lonely sea breeze. It called to memory swiftly flowing burns bordered with purple heather, and the hope of love reunited.
As she played, the lyrics flowed through his mind: An’ what will be the love-tokens that ye will send wi me . . . A kiss, aye, will I twae an’ ever she come to fair Scotland . . . I the red gold she sall gae . . .
Iain felt it deep in his bones. Each note ripped through his defences, stone and mortar. Everything melted away. He forgot the crowd, forgot his situation and the harshness of the sugarcane fields. Only Mairead and her song remained.
– Cryssa Bazos, Severed Knot
Severed Knot is available on Amazon right now!