By July 1639 England has become a simmering cauldron of discontent and the uncertain times are reflected in the lives of both the Maxwell family and that of master-goldsmith and money-lender, Luciano del Santi.
From his seat in the House of Commons, Richard Maxwell watches the quarrel between the King and John Pym escalate into Civil War; his eldest son, Eden, takes up his sword for the Parliament and struggles to save his marriage to Royalist-bred Celia; and his eldest daughter, Kate, vows to hold their home against both Cavalier and Roundhead.
A spirited red-head, Kate is more than equal to the challenges posed by a war-torn land. The only thing she finds impossible to handle is her growing attraction to the clever, magnetic and diabolically beautiful young man known to London as The Italian.
When he was twelve years old, Luciano del Santi’s life was ripped apart, leaving him with only one souvenir of both family and childhood. The Black Madonna … a small statue of carved obsidian. At the age of twenty, this relic of his past becomes the key to his future.
Though intrinsically worthless, the Madonna is of great sentimental value to both Luciano and his wealthy Genoese uncle. And thus this simple artefact becomes the security for the massive loan Luciano needs to found a successful business in England and also finance the revenge quest which has taken him back there. Failure to repay his uncle will result in the loss of the Madonna and financial ruin. The vendetta, he soon learns, may cost him the girl he loves – and possibly his life.
From the power-struggle within Parliament to the battlefields of a warring nation, The Black Madonna is a historically-detailed story of passion, intrigue and love in a time when England was lost in a dark and bloody conflict.
5 star reviews from Amazon:
“An intricate story of revenge set in the years leading up to the English Civil War … funny, provoking and dramatic.”
“Luciano is one of the best flawed heroes I’ve come across in quite a while, his knife-wielding bodyguard, Selim, is a hoot and as for Kate – she is intelligent and independent.”
“Murder, revenge and, above all, romance set against the backdrop of the English Civil War. The dialogue is well-written and the plot is fast-paced.”
“Stella Riley describes the political turmoil of the 17th century well and isn’t afraid to use her historical knowledge of the period to lend authenticity; but most of all she makes the romantic sparks fly with heart-wrenching and poignant flair.”
“The story is wonderful. Stella Riley has done meticulous research on the politics of the war but avoids the common pitfalls and stereotypes. This is a true period piece.”
The marriage of a well-bred Royalist lady and an illegitimate Roundhead Colonel is less a match made in heaven than a union doomed to hell. Unfortunately, Sir Robert Brandon’s last will and testament leaves Venetia Clifford and Gabriel Brandon with little choice in the matter – deeply though they both resent it.
Their tempestuous relationship is reflected in the stormy events buffeting the nation as England slides inexorably into a second Civil War. Gabriel continues to serve in the New Model Army whilst, behind his back, Venetia engages in clandestine activities on behalf of the King; and the lives of both of them are further complicated when Venetia’s former fiancé – who is also Gabriel’s legitimate half-brother – returns from exile.
While the Army and Parliament argue over the fate of the King, Gabriel realises that he has a dangerous anonymous enemy and Venetia finally begins to see the man rather than the Roundhead Colonel. As events gather pace, bringing the King to trial, the tangled web of danger and deceit surrounding both Gabriel and Venetia slowly tightens its grip.
Set against the compelling events which led to the execution of Charles I, Garland of Straw is the story of a seemingly impossible love … and also provides further chapters in the lives of some old friends from The Black Madonna and A Splendid Defiance.
5 star reviews from Amazon:
“These stories are so far above what is being offered … Ms Riley is a truly talented writer.”
“A wonderfully written and very skilful blend of history and fiction which has, at its core, a tumultuous romance between opposites.”
“Boy, can this lady write. The historical detail is consuming and the characters draw you in.”
“Stella Riley writes with authority and historical accuracy. Her characters are believable and have depth.”
War and witchcraft …plots and playhouses … love and loyalty.
Following his coronation in Scotland, Charles ll leads an army south to reclaim his throne but the dream ends in a crushing defeat at Worcester, leaving no alternative but flight. With little more than the clothes on their backs, Ashley Peverell and Francis Langley manage to reach Paris where Ashley, known to some as The Falcon, resumes his under-cover and unpaid work for the King.
Beautiful, stubborn and street-wise, Athenais de Galzain has risen from the slums of Paris to become the Marais Theatre’s leading actress. Unfortunately, this brings her to the attention of the Marquis d’Auxerre – an influential nobleman of unsavoury reputation who is accustomed to taking what he wants.
While a recurrence of the Prince’s Fronde turns the city into a battle-ground, Francis is bullied into helping his sister, Celia, obtain a divorce from Eden Maxwell. Currently working as a cryptographer in the Commonwealth’s intelligence service, Eden shares his Cheapside lodgings with an alleged witch and a Catholic Royalist – both of whom he rescued at Worcester. And as he watches Cromwell creating a king-sized space for himself, he begins to question the cause he has been serving for a decade.
From the first, Ashley and Athenais are drawn together with the unstoppable force of two stars colliding; a force which Ashley, lacking both money and prospects and conscious of the frequency with which he is required to risk his life, cannot deny but is determined to conceal. He has only two priorities; his work for Charles II and his determination to protect Athenais from the Marquis d’Auxerre. Both are to test him to the limits.
The King’s Falcon follows the Cavaliers’ last crusade and the bitter, poverty-stricken exile that followed, whilst also taking us behind the scenes at Paris’s second theatre. There is danger, intrigue and romance in this sequel to The Black Madonna and Garland of Straw.
Praise for The King’s Falcon:
“Two devilishly attractive characters for the price of one – it doesn’t get much better than this!”
“Sexy, clever heroes; spirited, resourceful heroines; danger, tragedy, intrigue and obstacles to be overcome; this novel is like an intricate dance with the move executed to perfection …”
“Highly engaging characters with beautifully researched historical detail. Highly recommended!”
“A novel for people who love historical romance which is full of history and clever, complex characters”
Still tied to his desk in the Intelligence Office, Colonel Eden Maxwell has become increasingly disenchanted with both Oliver Cromwell and his own daily existence; and with the advent of new Royalist conspiracies, he despairs of ever getting away.
Then a brick hurled through the window of a small workshop sets in motion a new and unexpected chain of events. After all, who would want to hurt Lydia Neville – a young widow, giving work and self-respect to maimed war veterans considered unemployable elsewhere? But when the assaults in Duck Lane escalate, threatening the life and remaining limbs of some of Eden’s former troopers, finding the culprit becomes personal.
At their first meeting, Lydia finds Colonel Maxwell annoying; by their second, having discovered that he had arrested and questioned her brother in connection with the Ship Tavern Plot, she mistrusts his motives. On the other hand, it swiftly becomes plain that she needs his help … and has difficulty resisting his smile.
Solving the increasingly hazardous mystery surrounding Lydia is not Eden’s only task. Between plots to assassinate the Lord Protector and a rising in Scotland, he must also mend the fences within his own family and get to know his son. Life suddenly goes from mind-numbing boredom to frenetic complexity.
With reckless Cavaliers lurking around every corner and a government still struggling to find its way, Lords of Misrule is set against a time of national discontent and general failure. But readers of the previous books in the series can look forward to catching up with old friends as well as meeting new ones … while, against all the odds, Eden and Lydia find danger and reward in equal measure.
Praise for Lords of Misrule …
“This is one for history buffs, but as always with this author the writing is polished and the characters vivid. Great story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“Ms Riley has a unique voice and the quality of her storytelling is unparalleled.”
“This book has in equal measures what so many historical fiction/romance novels lack today; a solid plot, character development and historical background, well researched.”
A Splendid Defiance is a companion novel to the Roundheads & Cavaliers series, linked by characters and taking place at the same time as The Black Madonna.
A dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love set against the turmoil and anguish of the Civil War, A Splendid Defiance is also the true account of one English Castle and the men who defended it.
In the summer of 1644, Banbury is a potential powder-keg. The Royalists hold Castle, the Parliament would like it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans.
Captain Justin Ambrose, having been sent to the Castle garrison as a punishment, loathes the place and, deprived of action, is bored, irritable and resentful. Abigail Radford has been taught by her fanatically religious brother, Jonas, to be modest, submissive and obedient – so when Captain Ambrose crosses her path she finds him as alarming as he is intriguing.
When the Parliament sends a large fighting force along with a huge artillery train to re-possess the Castle, Justin gets the action he has been craving and Abigail finds herself playing hostess to the Roundhead Colonel while the fourteen week Great Siege takes its toll on both sides.
Against all odds, Justin and Abigail secretly develop a covert friendship and, out of a spirit of devilment coupled with a deep dislike of Jonas Radford, Justin sets out to nurture seeds of insurrection in Abigail. But what begins as a few innocent acts of defiance gradually becomes something rather different, bringing danger in its wake. Both of them know that any future relationship is doomed – the gulf between them is so wide it is unbridgeable. For Abigail, this is due to her appalling brother; for Justin, it is an uncertain future and a shadow from his past that he can no longer keep hidden when it threatens both Abigail’s life and the security of the Castle. But when the Parliament embarks on a second siege and surrender looms large on the horizon, the feelings that Justin has not sought and knows he has no choice but to deny become stronger and more painful than any blade or bullet.
5 star reviews from Amazon:
“If you’re looking for a gripping story, richly-described historical detail and an against-all-the-odds romance that features a flawed, brooding, devastatingly attractive and unforgettable hero, then this is definitely the book for you.”
“If you love history and romance, you will enjoy this book. The research that the author must have done is amazing.”
“I’ve now devoured all her books, every one of which is beautifully-written with strong characters and fascinating historical settings. This is by far and away my favourite.”
“A beautiful love story but also a serious historical novel set during the English Civil War. Stella Riley really does have a talent for lyrical language; few write prose as elegantly as she does and I agree with other reviewers that this is one of those novels that stays with you. She is a master storyteller.”
For Chloe Herveaux – twenty years old, half-French and practical – marriage to wild, unpredictable Alex Deveril offers escape from a home she hates. For Alex, it is a refuge of a different kind. But while the marriage remains in name only and both, for reasons of their own, agree to seek an annulment, other forces are gathering.
England is once again at war with the Dutch and Prince Rupert, now commanding the Royal Navy, suspects that sabotage is at work within the fleet. Instructed to find the arch-traitor, Alex enters a dark labyrinth of intrigue – where no life is safe and nothing is what it seems.
Chloe, meanwhile, navigates the malice and scandal of Charles II’s licentious Court and plots a course of her own aimed at financial independence. But as the surprising facets of Mr Deveril’s personality are gradually revealed to her, the long-awaited annulment becomes a double-edged sword.
Absorbed in his search for a traitor, Alex spares little thought for his bride – until a hot June night on the Falcon Stairs when he and Chloe stand united by tragedy.
As the flames of the Great Fire sweep over London, Alex and Chloe face their ultimate test. Their world is at risk … their choices may save it.
5 star reviews from Amazon:
“Brilliantly brings the world of Restoration London to life. The characters are witty and engaging and the plot so richly-detailed and fast-paced that you are swept along.”
“The characterisation in this book is superb. Alex is splendidly witty, charming and clever but has a tongue that can wound at twenty paces.”