Autumn, 1643: England is descending into a bloodier Civil War. Laurence Beaumont, born a nobleman’s heir but with a shadowy reputation from his past abroad as mercenary turncoat and spy, has been hired against his will to be chief agent to the King’s new Secretary of State, the manipulative and unscrupulous Lord Digby. Still passionately in love with the bewitching Isabella Savage, Beaumont is sent by Digby into enemy-held London to track down his counterpart, Parliament’s spymaster, who nourishes his own, twisted desire for revenge. Already Beaumont suspects he can trust no one, not even Isabella, with her deep ties to Digby.
As Beaumont’s tenuous faith in the King’s cause is further eroded by deceit, subterfuge and petty ambition inside the Royalist camp, he becomes haunted by nightmares portending two deaths: of His Majesty and the Prince of Wales, for whom he cherishes a strong, protective bond. At home, his father’s health is weakening. Beaumont’s duty is to choose a respectable wife and carry on the ancient line, but to give up Isabella will devastate him. And yet worse trouble looms: a visitor from his mother’s Spanish past with a long-buried secret that could ultimately destroy the Beaumont family.
This second Beaumont novel, following on The Best of Men, blends history and fiction in a seventeenth century alive with intrigue, passion, violence and wit, from the embattled court of King Charles at Oxford, where poisonous rivalries fester among his counsellors, to country estates sacked and ruined, to the colourful underworld of thieves and whores. The title is drawn from Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon’s famous work, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England.