A Novel of Elizabeth Murray,
Lady Tollemache, Countess Dysart
and Duchess Lauderdale,
from Claymore Books
Royalist Rebel brings to vivid life the perilous days of the English Civil Wars, when the families who had been the most loyal to the crown had the most to fear. Elizabeth Dysart is an engaging heroine, and our blood thrills with hers as she looks danger in the eye and meets every challenge with courage. Anita Seymour skillfully recounts one of the most tumultuous periods in Britain’s history, and her novel is a great addition to the heartbreaking story of those times.
Gillian Bagwell, author of The Darling Strumpet, The King’s Mistress (U.S. title The September Queen) and Venus in Winter.
Jen Black, Historical Fiction Author
Elizabeth Murray is a force to be reckoned with as she strives to protect her beloved Ham House, the Jacobean mansion on the banks of the Thames, from the hands of marauding soldiers. Brought up to support Charles I and his Catholic Queen, she helps her Scottish father, William Murray, once the boyhood friend of the king, as he tries to secure the king’s throne. with Murray sharing the king’s exile at Oxford, Elizabeth, her mother and three sisters must endure the privations of life with dwindling food supplies, cold houses and the increasing humiliations of the Parliamentary officers of Cromwell’s New Model Army. She watches with mounting fury as crude soldiers are billeted at Ham House.
In spite of the social unrest of the period she forms a quasi-friendship with Oliver Cromwell which to some extent relieves the worst of the pressure on her family. She marries a rich baronet, enters into the politics of the Civil War and witnesses the horror of Charles I’s execution. She also conceives a great passion for a rebel Scottish earl.
Elizabeth is documented in history and while her looks would not be thought remarkable today, she was also acknowledged as one of the beauties of her age. Aware of her looks, intelligence and position in society, she is no man’s simpering moppet; indeed, some might think her hard, even cruel, in her dealings with her sisters and servants. But through the eight tumultuous years between1643 and 1651, her strength and resilience are the weapons she needs to survive and protect her family and her home.
The author had conveyed the horrors of a country at war with itself in her own graceful style and created a character who will live long in the minds of her readers. It is an excellent read.
The Joys of Critiquing: by Vicky English
One of the great things about being a member of a critique group is you get a sneak preview of books before they come out. In my case, it was Anita Seymour’s Royalist Rebel. This historical novel, due to be released on the 17th of January is based on the early life of Elizabeth Murray, a fascinating woman who managed to walk the line between being one of King Charles’s most loyal supporters and maintaining a friendship with Charles’ enemy, Oliver Cromwell.
The trouble with blurbs is that, although they give you a glimpse into the challenges the characters face, they fall short when it comes to revealing the author’s style. And in Anita’s case, the style is positively delightful. She has a gift for finding the precise world-building detail that brings you right back into the seventeenth century and at the same time adds a layer of meaning. While giving you a chuckle or two along the way. Her characters are multi-layered. The conflict within Elizabeth ’s family is as compelling as the struggle between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. Anita’s research is thorough and deep and she’s put a lot of thought into making sense of Elizabeth ’s motives and actions. By the time you’ve finished reading Royalist Rebel, you can see why Elizabeth had the love and admiration of the men in her life, including the leader of the cause sworn to undermine everything she stood for.
The good news is the Royalist Rebel is only the start. Anita’s already at work on a sequel and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Vicky English, Historical Fiction Author
Review by Maggi Andersen, Romance Author
I don’t read many books based on real-life historical characters, and was pleasantly surprised at how ROYALIST REBEL kept me turning the pages eagerly until the very last sentence. Anita Seymour makes an excellent job of bringing to life Elizabeth Murray’s dangerous life as the daughter of Royalists. Elizabeth’s extraordinary parents acted as spies to bring about the return of Charles I to the throne during the English Civil Wars.
Families who were loyal to the crown had much to fear from Cromwell and his followers. Times became hard and cruel as Elizabeth Murray’s life changes from one of luxury and privilege to difficulty and despair when she’s in danger of losing everything. But Elizabeth is up for the challenge, a wily heroine not without flaws, but I admired her and was caught up in her story, finding it at times thrilling and at times heartrending, as she deals with what life throws at her with immense courage and intelligence.
Well done, Anita Seymour, for so skilfully recounting Elizabeth’s life during one of the most tumultuous periods in Britain’s history, and as Lady Tollemache after her arranged marriage, when she has little power, plots and plans to keep her beloved home, Ham House, a Jacobean mansion built on the River Thames at Petersham.
Seymour has converted me to reading more stories about actual historical figures. I wait with anticipation to her next release.
Maggi Andersen is a writer of historical romance and romantic suspense. Her latest release is the first in Spies of Mayfair Series: A Baron in Her Bed.
Historical Novel Review Blog - Mirella Patzer 29th January 2013
Royalist Rebel is a biographical novel about the tumultuous life of Elizabeth Murray, the Countess of Dysart, and later, the Duchess of Lauderdale. Born into a noble family and staunchly loyal to King Charles, their livelihood is threatened and daily life turns perilous when civil war breaks out. Elizabeth’s royalist father works secretly for his monarch while the women of the family suffer sanctions and live in near destitution in Ham House. Rebels are everywhere and they are under constant suspicion. Faced with difficult decisions and torn between duty and love, Elizabeth strives to do what is best for those she loves.
Written in first person present tense, the feeling that you get when reading the novel is one of immediacy and clarity. Elizabeth’s character is beautifully depicted with all her virtues as well as her faults. This is due to the fact that Anita Seymour lived near Ham House and walked its corridors, its garden, its pathways. Her first hand knowledge of the scenery, décor, and locale make the story extra sharp with detail, lending it great credibility.
I believe that behind every great woman is a great man. In Elizabeth’s case, two great men – Baronet Lionel Tollemache, her loving husband of several decades, and her true love, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale. Both men are depicted insightfully through Elizabeth’s eyes.
Extremely well-rounded characters and their individual dreams, ambitions, and plights pepper each page of this fascinating novel. Most importantly of all, King Charles’ execution is written with poignancy and respect, and remains one of my favourite parts of the book.
Royalist Rebel is a novel of survival in desperate times and the ability of one one woman to overcome adversity in a period when women had little rights and were nothing more than chattel. A beautiful story with eloquent prose that truly brings the era to life! Historical fiction at its very best.
Mirella Patzer is a writer of biographical historical fiction.
Historical Novel Society
Elizabeth Murray, an actual historic person, was the eldest daughter of a fiercely Royalist Scottish family. Her father was a courtier, and her mother passed messages to Royalist spies. In this novel set between 1643 and 1651, we follow Elizabeth’s development from a 17-year-old beauty through marriage and motherhood during the trials and dangers of the Civil War. Her beloved home, Ham House, is occupied by Parliament’s soldiers, and the family lives under constant suspicion. However, Elizabeth’s charms win over Cromwell as well as her rich first husband and also Earl Lauderdale, her second and her great love.
This is a novel without much plot. Instead, it is a well-drawn picture of the Royalists’ struggle to exist and serve the king under Parliamentary rule. Because Elizabeth, confined to Ham House, is the narrator, the battles must take place off-stage so they are reported by gossip and rumour. The king’s execution is the only event she witnesses (which seems unlikely), but it makes dramatic sense. Seymour is excellent on the stress and the depredations as normal life disintegrates. No one can be trusted. Domestic and social details are convincingly in period; so are Elizabeth’s snobbery and arrogance. She is reputed to be a beauty with great charm, but in her first-person narrative she comes across as self-centred and snappish. In this long novel, Seymour has created a three-dimensional character although one who is hard to like.
Highly recommended for Civil War buffs.