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A Delightful Historical Romance - an Editorial Review of "By Sword and Fan"

Book Blurb:

Margaret is her brothers’ dependent. With her sister-in-law expecting another child and her younger brother soon to marry, Margaret will lose her home. When her former suitor offers her work as a governess, she accepts, despite misgivings.

Unable to marry his first love, Alasdair abandoned his home for a disappointing military career. When his dying brother begs him to return, he agrees. He must protect his brother, the children, and the estate from his brother’s wife and her greedy family.

While on his brother’s business, Alasdair meets his old sweetheart. Can love flare up again despite family chaos and fifteen years’ separation?

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Author Bio:

Kathleen Buckley has loved writing ever since she learned to read. After a career which included light bookkeeping, working as a paralegal, and a stint as a security officer, she began to write as a second career, rather than as a hobby. Her first historical romance was penned (well, word processed) after re-reading Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances and realizing that Ms. Heyer would never be able to write another, having died some forty years earlier. She is now the author of eight Georgian romances: An Unsuitable Duchess, Most Secret, Captain Easterday's Bargain, A Masked Earl, A Duke's Daughter, Portia and the Merchant of London, A Westminster Wedding, and A Peculiar Enchantment. While a ninth is in production she is writing the tenth.

Warning: no bodices are ripped in her romances, which might be described as "powder & patch & peril" rather than Jane Austen drawing room. They contain no explicit sex, but do contain the occasional den of vice and mild bad language, as the situations in which her characters find themselves sometimes call for an oath a little stronger than "Zounds!"

Captain Easterday's Bargain was an Oklahoma Romance Writers of America IDA 2019 finalist, Historical Fiction category.

Most Secret was an Oklahoma Romance Writers of America IDA 2018 finalist, Historical Fiction category, and a 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, Romance category.

Editorial Review:

Set in England in the mid-1700s, Kathleen Buckley’s By Sword and Fan is a richly woven historical romance that readers will delight in. After being widowed, Margaret MacGavin has been living with her brother but her situation is quickly changing as her sister-in-law prepares to give birth once again and her younger brother’s wedding looms closer and closer. Margaret will need to set out on her own and find a new home. As a single woman, this is best done through work. When her former suitor offers her a job as a governess in his household, Margaret has no choice but to accept. With his brother dying, Alasdair Falstone is forced to return home from his military duties to take of his brother’s estate and children. When Alasdair and Margaret’s stories intertwine again after more than fifteen years of separation, they must learn to navigate their new relationship and see if love can be rekindled.

He would have been less sanguine about their whereabouts had the scattered clouds not covered the sky by supper and commenced to weep a chilling rain. As boys, he and Sebastian had sometimes slipped out to revel in the dark and watch the comings and goings of nocturnal creatures, even when the night was chill and windy. Rain had kept them snug indoors: too hard to explain to Sallie in the morning how their clothes had become sodden and their shoes muddy.”

By Sword and Fan has a plot line that is very character-motivated. The relationship between Alasdair and Margaret is really what drives the storyline more than any action or events that take place in the plot. The author understands character-driven literature and does a great job developing characters to which the reader can relate. The fact that the characters are older and have experienced life more than many characters in romance novels makes them much more realistic. The characters have obvious flaws as well which makes them seem like people you might actually encounter. Buckley does a fantastic job developing characters and using a character-driven plot to engage readers and evoke emotions within the reader. The only downside to a character-driven plot is that it can sometimes feel as if the pacing is a bit slow for some readers.

She packed her ordinary clothing, except for what she would wear until she left, with no one the wiser. In the family home, the maid of all work might have noticed and spoken of it. The fencing academy maid came in for only half a day and had no one on the premises to gossip with.”

While the novel is not based on a major historical event, there are certainly references to the time period and to what life was like in England in the mid-1700s. The author does a fantastic job incorporating historical elements throughout the novel in a way that feels authentic. Most historical fiction fans should find By Sword and Fan to be a suitable and accurate representation of the setting and time period.

He was patient with his nieces and nephews, a surprise, given his demeanor was often stern. Whatever else had changed, she sometimes glimpsed a flash of the man she had known. The boys needed to learn how to be gentlemen, and with their father unable to provide his guidance, who better to teach them than Falstone?”

There is a romance element to By Sword and Fan that readers will find enjoyable. Buckley keeps her novels on the milder side when it comes to intimacy which many readers will appreciate. Readers looking for a sweet romance without graphic love scenes will find that is a prominent feature of By Sword and Fan.

This was the first day since coming to Scot Hall she had wakened looking forward to the day, rather than wondering about its challenges. She felt as carefree as she had in her youth for the first time in…months? Years? She was back in the north country, among gentry, familiar foods, and familiar accents, able to ride when she chose, not dependent on her brothers’ charity or her sister-in-law’s tolerance.”

The writing style in By Sword and Fan is not full of flowery language that can be distracting. Rather it is well-written in a simple and easy-to-follow style. It is not devoid of imagery and details but Buckley does not overdo it with these elements. It is simple enough that beginning casual readers will be able to understand and follow the story without being overwhelmed. The manuscript is also well-proofread and is free from grammatical and mechanical errors.

He wanted to see Margaret, though perhaps not until he had bathed, shaved, and put on fresh clothing. Few ladies would appreciate two days’ growth of beard, not if the possessor of the beard kissed them. Was he thinking of kissing her? His brain stuttered. Anything between them had ended years ago. She had married, happily, by her brother Rupert’s account. There was no going back.”

The intended audience for By Sword and Fan is most likely those who enjoy historical fiction or romance. Elements of family drama may also appeal to another set of readers. Buckley’s writing is almost soothing making it a good choice for those just venturing into the genre. At more than five hundred papers, By Sword and Fan is a hefty novel and casual readers might find it overwhelming.

Somehow she and Falstone had acquired the worries and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood without any of the benefits. Margaret considered this riddle, feeling herself blush at the thought of the advantages those entailed.”

Simple but effective writing, well-developed characters, subtle historical elements, and romance earn By Sword and Fan a four out of five rating. Some readers may find the pacing slow but sticking with the book offers a rewarding experience for readers. Buckley has done a great job with By Sword and Fan and her dedication to the story and characters is evident.


“By Sword and Fan” by Kathleen Buckley receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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