Book review: M.J. Logue, An Abiding Fire

An Abiding Fire Blog Tour

Today, I’m delighted to be part of the tour for An Abiding Fire, and to be sharing an extract with you… 

An Abiding Fire

Extract

Russell turned his head to look at Thomazine as she walked in under the dripping arch of leaves and everything Thomazine’s mother had been fiercely telling her about comporting herself with dignity — about walking slowly, not loping like a dismounted cavalry trooper (she got that from her father), about behaving with a becoming shyness and grace on her wedding day — she forgot most of it in the sheer joy of seeing her own dear Russell standing at the altar.

Thomazine stood under the weeping trees with her mother’s hand under her elbow and felt the chill wind lift her loose hair. Loose, for the last time as a maiden, and she was quite looking forward to not being one. This was the crowning day of her womanhood, her bridal day. Oddly, she wasn’t frightened, not at all, not even when every eye in the church was bent on her and she heard the little catch of a collective intake of breath. She hadn’t turned out in borrowed plumes, either. In point of fact, both she and her mother had taken one look at the weeping grey skies and decided that a plain but decent birch-green skirt and bodice in a good warm wool were much more sensible than silks.

No, Thomazine wasn’t afraid at all. He was though, poor sweet. Even though that kind candlelight gave his pallor a slightly healthier colour than perhaps it merited, he was white to the lips and although he was facing in her direction she had the rather unsettling impression that he was beyond seeing her, or indeed anything at all.

“That lad,” her father said grimly down her ear, “that lad of yours is about to keel over, Zee. Go and poke him or summat.”

And all those well-meant instructions about dignity and deportment went out of her head and she went laughing to his side so hastily that the last candle in the aisle guttered and went out in a wisp of acrid smoke in the draught of her passing.

“Thankful!” she hissed, and he shook himself and a little life came back into his eyes.

“Thomazine?” — wonderingly, as if he had not truly thought she’d come, the silly man.

“You were expecting someone else?” she said, and he ducked his head and grinned, which was neither pretty nor seemly in this house of God, but which was reassuring.

His hand was cold on hers and his fingers squeezed hers much too tight, but she braced herself and said nothing because she suspected that her betrothed, who had been a soldier and a rebel and a leader of men, was depending on her to get through this day unscathed.

Thankful had managed to get through his entire marriage vows without taking a breath, so far as she could tell, and was now staring at her as if he’d forgotten how to do it.

“I, Thomazine Dorcas Babbitt, do take thee, Thankful —” she couldn’t say it, she was going to laugh, and she heard her father, who hadn’t known either, choke slightly at her elbow — “Thankful-for-his-Deliverance Russell, to my wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

And then his hands were shaking so much he dropped the ring and it went rolling away under the feet of most of the great and the good of White Notley. It was so still in the church she heard it tinkle — well, save for Joyeux’s exasperated intake of breath at her sister’s clumsiness — but by then it was funny and she forgot herself sufficient to stoop to pick it up at the same time as he did and they almost bumped noses, and the ring came to rest quite neatly under Uncle Luce’s foot, at the front of the congregation. And that was almost funny, too, until she met his eyes and then neither of them could look away from each other and the rest of the world ceased to exist. His eyes were intent and oddly shy for a man who had been so confident in the commission of his duties but was still so uncertain of himself as a lover.

She wanted to take his other hand and put her head against his chest and have him hold her against his steady beating heart and for them to take comfort from one another, but she could not, of course, not here, not now. She couldn’t do it, but the unscarred corner of his mouth lifted in a tiny smile of understanding and he dropped his eyes briefly. He knew.

Review

This is the first book I’ve read by M.J. Logue, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as she notes in the book, some of these characters have featured in previous novels, and I’m keen to learn more about their background. I really enjoyed the tale, although for the first two thirds of the book I found it more an interesting story of domestic life and politics of the period, rather than a thriller in the traditional sense. There is certainly something dark lurking in the shadows, but it isn’t until the final third when the thriller pace really kicks in. But by then, you truly care enough about these people that you want it to end well for them.

Thankful and Thomazine Russell find love in what’s considered an odd pairing to most of society, but as a reader it was refreshing to read about a couple who are happy from the off; no game-playing or misunderstandings. The scenes which feature just the two of them, in their rooms in London, were a joy, and his explaining situations to her didn’t feel false, or a mechanism by the writer to get information across to us, it felt genuine, something which isn’t always easy to pull off.

Overall, I would recommend this to readers who enjoy the period, and for those who like a hint of a mystery and thrill to their historical fiction.

About the author

M.J. Logue Author Image

M.J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.

Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.

After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.

Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.

Get in touch with MJ

She can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.

 


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