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Stella Riley gave me a rare gift. She wholly enveloped me in the world she created, so much so I returned to my own with a jolt, finding it hard to believe Justin and Abigail were not real, and their comrades in the Banbury garrison my friends.
A Splendid Defiance offers so much. A realistic and expertly drawn setting based in a real place and time. Laughter, sorrow and exquisite joy. Most of all, a slow-building, believable romance that never felt contrived. It may have been the most touching romance I've ever read.
Like Justin, I wanted to put my arms around Abby to protect her from the familial bullies who made her life a living hell. I rejoiced to see her blossom under his friendship and caring. As for Justin, I wanted to shake him to make him realize what was happening right in front of him. But I could forgive his obstinacy, because I saw, like Abby, the honor and decency in him. I mourned for the security and warmth he lost in childhood, and cheered him as he learned to let down his guard and welcome love.
I am so glad to have experienced this story on audio. Alex Windham did what the best narrators do: Used a sympathetic understanding of the characters and text to bring them vividly alive.
Justin and Abigail will forever live in my heart, and I know I will return to this book time and time again. The chance to become lost in a fictional world is one of the most important reasons I read, but it is the rare author who can sweep me away so completely. Stella Riley is a writer to cherish.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
The slow unrolling of this love story was perfect for the coming together of two very different individuals. While I am a lifelong history buff, I have never paid much attention to the period of the British Civil Wars. They make an exciting backdrop and add depth to the tale of the obstacles encountered by Abigail and Justin on their path toward HEA. I was completely engaged by A Splendid Defiance. Stella Riley's intelligent and perceptive book was interpreted perfectly by the brilliant narrator, Alex Wyndham.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I have loved this book for over thirty years and am over the moon it's now available in audio format. Alex Wyndham is one of the finest narrators around, and he does an absolutely superb job!
The story is set during the English Civil War, at Banbury Castle, a Royalist stronghold, and tells the story of the small garrison of men there who held out against a Parliamentary force of more than ten times their size. Many of the characters in this book actually existed; the author's knowledge of the history of the era is considerable, and her research impeccable. She expertly brings to life the day-to-day routine of the people living within the castle walls, and their awkward relationship with the town of Banbury which was staunchly pro-Parliament.
The real heart of the book is found in the slow-burn love story between a cynical Royalist captain and the sister of a Puritan shopkeeper; it's beautifully written and developed (there's no insta-lust here!) and the two central characters are fully-rounded and three dimensional. Justin Ambrose is ambitious and resents kicking his heels in Banbury when he wants to be out there doing something; Abigail Radford lives under the control of her puritanical brother and has little to look forward to other than a life of drudgery and duty. Their initial meetings are inauspicious and, for Justin, unmemorable, but from there springs an unlikely friendship that gradually turns in to more in a way that feels realistic and unhurried.
If you are a fan of historical romance that puts an emphasis on the "historical", then this is a book for you. If you’re also looking for a richly detailed story, a beautifully developed romance and a compelling, devastatingly attractive and unforgettable hero, it’s all here.
Add to all that the superb narration by Alex Wyndham, and you've got a real winner. Mr Wyndham never disappoints; he's a highly skilled performer and vocal actor who is able to make a listener forget they're listening to only one person. All the characters - and there are quite a few - are easy to distinguish from one another and he is able to perform the females convincingly and without resorting to falsetto. I can't praise him - or this audiobook - highly enough.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
It’s no secret that I have been a fan of Stella Riley’s work for many years and was delighted last year when she finally went into audio by having her Rockliffe series narrated by the amazingly talented Alex Wyndham. I was even more delighted when I discovered that one of her best novels, ‘A Splendid Defiance’, would also be transformed by Mr Wyndham.
I have said before that Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham are a true ‘tour de force’ and this book confirms my belief.
Ms Riley’s ability to write dialogue and to make her people live off the page is well known. Add this to narration by the brilliant Alex Wyndham whose characterisations are phenomenal and the result is an outstanding audio.
Mr Wyndham’s transitions are flawless. Whenever there are a number of people having a conversation, he changes seamlessly from one to another leaving the listener in no doubt as to who is speaking. His performance is the perfect partner to Ms Riley’s words.
The siege of Banbury Castle in the English Civil War is little known but what happened there was reflected elsewhere throughout the land during those unhappy times. Once again, Stella Riley handles the storyline adroitly, bringing a mix of real people into the picture along with her own creations.
I first read this book many years ago and return to it often because it is unique. Now it’s in audio, I will be able to submerge myself in a world where excellent writing comes together with superb narration. I can’t recommend this audio highly enough. It is absolutely ‘Splendid’.
Well done the Riley-Wyndham Team. I look forward to your next collaboration.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful