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A Just and Upright Man: 1763. Northeast England. A murder to solve and a girl's heart to win (The James Blakiston Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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From the Author
My offence was to write an historical romance/crime novel from the point of view of the people at the bottom of the social heap--the poor. Lizzie Greener and her family, as well as Tom Laws and his, should be beneath notice. Literature, whatever that is, should concern itself only with the upper classes. If some people of the past are invisible there is, it seems, a reason for that. They are not worthy of notice.
Well, I can't agree. I suppose I'm influenced by the fact that, if Lizzie Greener and Tom Laws had not lived in the northeast two hundred and fifty years ago then I wouldn't be here now, but it's more than self-interest. Those peasants and paupers whose every day was a struggle to survive make for better fiction than some spoilt princess.
Three Fox and two Foulmartens heads four and twopence
Who trapped and killed those foxes and martens so that they could claim the bounty? And what did they do with the money? Four shillings and twopence was a fortune at a time when they could also write:
To Hauxley Todd for 2 carts of coals & loading three shillings and eightpence
and when it cost the parish a guinea--one pound and one shilling--to keep Edward Scott in the Poor House for 14 weeks.
What about Richard Evans, imprisoned and sentenced to hard labour for being "a loose disorderly fellow of ill fame". Evans was convicted on no more than the oath of a churchwarden. Who is going to tell his story if not me? And what would that churchwarden have made of the man I saw sixty years ago trying to get the key into the door of his miserable cottage while concealing from this small boy the fact (actually quite unconcealable) that he was as drunk as a Lord? Why does this woman who abuses me by email and steals the fruits of my labors by reading and then not paying believe that the Lord's story would be more worth telling than the laborer's? Those shabby cottages were knocked down years ago--is every trace of the people who lived there to vanish?
Not if I have anything to do with it.
- ASIN : B00CZ5E7XO
- Publisher : Mandrill Press (January 14, 2014)
- Publication date : January 14, 2014
- Language: : English
- File size : 785 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 305 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #757,279 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The first chapter introduces the reader to the rape of a commoner by the son of Lord Ravenshead. The young girl begs him not to do so, but he forces himself on her at the edge of the woods, in the cold of winter, then tosses her a coin, as if that made every alright. Lizzie Greener is devastated and very bitter. Lizzie’s circumstances play a major role in the plot of this book. Her desolation changes the lives of herself and her family.
The second chapter opens with the fire that destroys the home of Rueben Cooper and causes his death.
These two events set the stage for much of what happened in the book.
Cooper was despised by the people in the community, and although it was suspected that his death was foul play, most felt he got what he deserved and would have ignored the flames in the middle of the night. However, James Blakiston had other ideas. He ran from door to door, rousting people out to pour water on the flames. Blakiston was the new overseer for Lord Ravenshead’s estate, and as such he was seen to have a lot of power in the town. Those who might have wanted to defy him, knew better than to do so, because he could have destroyed them if he chose.
Blakiston was new in town. Before anyone knew he had arrived, he had dressed like poor commoner, and walked into town to get an impression of what it was really like. He had met Cooper, who showed him kindness and gave him food. When he realised that Cooper was the man who had died in the fire, he vowed to find out if he had been murdered. If there was foul play, Blakiston vowed to bring the culprit to justice.
As overseer for Lord Ravenshead, he interacted with the farmers, cottagers and all the small holders on the nobleman’s estate. As he took care of Lord Ravenshead’s business, he took every opportunity to ask probing questions about Rueben Cooper and who may have wanted to see him dead.
Ugly secrets came to light, but the amateur detective struggled to find proof of what had happened. Blakiston had his own baggage from the past. He also struggled with his attraction to Kate Greener. As a man born of stature, he knew that a relationship with a commoner like her would never be accepted.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a twist of murder, mystery and love.
Blakiston proved himself to be a “just and upright man” as he dealt with the issues he was faced with.
I can't quite give it five stars for a few of reasons. One, there were too many characters and too many towns to remember who went with what. A map and list of characters would have been great. Second, Blakiston's mistakes were made obvious, so you knew right away when he missed something. I also found it slightly irritating that Blakiston kept saying he would "never" allow himself to do something, and his next line he is doing it. Either you have conviction in a belief or you don't (or maybe some (inner) dialogue on what changed would be good).
All in all, a great read and I will be looking at the next book.
Several things struck me here while reading this engaging story. First is the hypocrisy of the church as clergy set one code of conduct for their parishioners and the opposite for themselves. It's the pot calling the kettle black as standards go.
Next is the unbelievable idea that women are as children that have lesser mental capacity than men. Shows how stupid men were. Isabella, wife of the rector is great and I love her diary entrees, especially the ladies underpants entries. Priceless!
Lastly, the idea that persons are born to a certain station in life, the majority only to serve the minority, is so absurd that I am totally resolved, after finishing the book, that the idea came about from a man. It was bad enough for women to have zero authority of their own lives, but to have a so-called baseline man feel subservient to another is ridiculous. But then being male, power and rich is still the norm by which our world turns today no matter the disastrous outcome.
The murder investigation itself lends itself to so many interesting side stories it was hard to put this book down. As in most great murder mysteries, though, the long way around made it all worthwhile reading. And a bit of romance to boot!
A gem of a book! I plan to read more by this author and recommend to readers of historical fiction. No boring moments and good, solid writing. Thumbs up!!
Top reviews from other countries
The majority of the Church were younger sons of the gentry and aristocracy, who had the choice of the army or the church as a career, therefore for most there was probably no real 'calling' or care for their parishoners; it was just a job for which they were paid and had a decent house to live in. Lynch evokes the scene very well in this novel and it is very informative.
Where it falls down, and the reason I only gave it 4 stars and not 5, is that Lynch is very mixed up in his aristocratic titles and initially completely confused me as to why a Baron's son would have the title of the Earl of Wrekin. Lynch later states that the boy's mother brought the title with her to her marriage to the Baron. Sorry, but that would not be possible in England and Wales. Titles pass through the male's side of the family only, so if an Earl died without a son then the title would pass to the nearest male of the male line in the family e.g. a male cousin or nephew on the male side. His daughter would not be able to pass the title on to her son. Also, the Rev Thomas Claverley, was the son of a Marquess, therefore he would have the courtesy title (not to be inherited by his son) of Lord Thomas Claverley, not Sir Thomas as Lynch states. Claverley's wife would be addressed as Lady Thomas, not Lady Isabella. Sons and daughters of Earls, Marquess and Dukes would have the courtesy titles of lords and ladies (as stated above); whilst the sons and daughters of Barons and Viscounts would be Mr's and Miss's (Honourables).
I did however, enjoy the book very much. If Lynch intends to carry it on as a series, he just needs to tidy it up re. titles.
The book works well on lots of levels: an intriguing murder mystery that keeps you guessing throughout, fascinating and well-told historical detail that is a real education without ever feeling like one, political and class issues explained in a sympathetic yet unsentimental manner, plus appealing will-they, won't-they love stories woven in amongst it all. We are not spared the horrors of the era, from the exploitation and callousness of the Enclosures, to the hypocrisy of what the upper classes do supposedly in the name of religion, the sickening details of public hangings and deportations for negligible offences, but at the same time Lynch explains very well the mindsets of the different classes that made it possible for these acts to take place. All of the characters are very well-drawn, and many are feisty free thinkers that fight back against the expectations for their era and their social standing.
I read this on my Kindle, and haven't seen the paperback, but I must say it was one of the most elegantly presented ebooks I've ever seen, which added to the pleasure of reading it.
In short, a cracking good read that I couldn't put down, and well deserving of the awards it has already received. It really deserves to be much more widely read. This is one of those books that I know I shall be recommending to others for some time to come, and I'm delighted that it's one of a series. Roll on, Book 2!
As if Blakiston doesn't have enough to contend with in his duties to his master, (his lordship), a rape and murder occurs in one of his lordship's villages, which James must initially investigate as part of his working remit. But rumour abounds of hidden treasure spirited away, and what at first seems a simple case of murderous revenge, becomes a far more complicated puzzle to solve. Undaunted, Blakiston sets out to unravel the mystery of a man everyone despised: including the deceased's own children. Such is no mean task for Blakiston hails from the lesser landed gentry, being that of a squire's son. While subjected to sideways mistrusting glances from many, others benefit from his fair-minded policies. One young lady, below his rank, sees him for what he is, a lonely young man at heart. Little does Kate Greener know that Blakiston has a past he's ashamed of, and although she stirs lust from within, he is what he has made of himself: A Just and Upright Man.
Blakiston treats Kate with respect, and while beating his heart into retreat, she too knows her place in the overall scheme of what is socially acceptable. But can social divide keep them apart, or can love overcome all obstacles set by society? J. R. Lynch has brought to life the country folk from up north, and that of the era in which they exist. This novel is on a par with Thomas Hardy's meaty offerings of country life and the hardships of the less well off: those beholding to the super-rich of their day. The men who could make or break a family with one word: eviction. Although there's a large cast of characters, the author introduces each with clarity through the eyes of Blakiston. A Just And Upright Man, is nothing short of a very enjoyable and worthwhile read. As this is Book 1 of a series, I can honestly say I'm looking forward to reading book 2.