Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review: Catching the Eagle by Karen Charlton

Catching the Eagle by Karen Charlton
historical fiction
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Received from the publisher for an honest review

Easter Monday, 1809: Kirkley Hall manor house is mysteriously burgled. When suspicion falls on Jamie Charlton, he and his family face a desperate battle to save him from the gallows. When £1,157 rent money is stolen from Kirkley Hall, it is the biggest robbery Northumberland has ever known. The owner sends for Stephen Lavender, a principal officer with the Bow Street magistrate's court in London, to investigate the crime. Suspicion soon falls on impoverished farm labourer, Jamie Charlton, and the unpopular steward, Michael Aynsley. Jamie Charlton is a loving family man but he is hot-tempered and careless. As the case grows against him, it seems that only his young brother, William, can save him from an impending miscarriage of justice. But William is struggling with demons of his own. Desperate to break free from the tangled web of family ties which bind him to their small community, he is alarmed to find that he is falling in love with Jamie's wife. Set beneath the impenetrable gaze of a stray golden eagle whose fate seems to mirror that of Jamie's, Catching the Eagle, the first novel in the Regency Reivers Series, is a fictionalized account of a trial that devastated a family and divided a community.
Catching the Eagle is a nice light, quick read. Set during the Regency period, this story follows the lives of those in the middle and lower classes. Set in northern England, the story has us meeting the Charlton family, of whom one of the eldest sons is accused of stealing from the local estate. To me, this was a unique point of view, for a novel set in this time. The Charltons, and most of the people we encounter in the book are all working people. The Charltons are farmers or perform odd jobs around the region. Most of the novels I've ready that are set in this time are ones that mostly deal with the people in the big houses, or those in their social circles. What makes it more interesting, is that these are real people. Jamie Charlton is an ancestor of the author's husband, who was tried for the robbery that is the basis of the novel.

While it was a fun and light mystery novel feel, and it had a good ending that tied things up, it was not the most satisfying ending to a story. Although, I suspect that is largely related to the nature of the crime and what was known when the events took place. However, this is the first novel of a series based on the border reivers (robbers or raiders along the Scottish border, according to the author), so I hope we get to see more of the Charltons in the next one.

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