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A Fight to the Death - an Editorial Review of "Resistance and Revenge"

Book Blurb:

Rural England, 1941 and Louisa Carmody is trapped in a dirty war of resistance as her country struggles under the heel of a brutal invader. In the dilapidated local village, trust is in short supply and the need to survive trumps all loyalties. From the crumbling mansion that is her home a ragtag resistance group pits its meagre forces against the might of the invader. 

Hunted by the enemy and betrayed by informers paid in blood money, the resisters know they cannot win. But they can exact a bloody revenge and it is this that drives them ever harder. Louisa can feel herself change because she too seeks revenge ...Resistance and Revenge is the story of a village in the grip of occupation and of those who have the courage to fight back. It is also the story of ordinary people, of people damaged by war, but determined to win back their freedom, no matter the cost. But in this war within a war, the cost may also involve sacrificing their own humanity. 

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Editorial Review:

Resistance and Revenge by Catherine McCullagh tells the story of Louisa Carmody. The year is 1941 and England is in the grips of war and occupation. Louisa and Tom married before the war began but in their short marriage, Tom has fought in the war and returned to their crumbling estate injured and is dealing with the effects of PTSD. Louisa finds herself thrown into caring for her husband and his family’s manor while also catering to the occupiers who often come around demanding food. Resistance movements are growing and Louisa isn’t sure who she can trust but she knows that she must do whatever is needed to protect those that she loves. The village is filled with a cast of characters that will engage the readers and highlight the wartime drama of rationing, hardships, living under occupation, mistrust, and more. Full of action, emotion, betrayal, and more, readers will find Resistance and Revenge impossible to put down.


No matter how depressing the weather, how demoralising the news from the city and how draconian the edicts of the occupier, Billy could always lighten her mood. Every now and then, Louisa would contemplate stealing him away from Peter and employing him on her own estate, just to keep her spirits up. Now Billy stood beside her, stroking Birdie’s nose and murmuring to the horse which whinnied softly and nuzzled into him, trying hard to lick his face. Louisa beamed as she watched him work his magic.”


McCullagh’s writing is wonderful and is, thus, a joy to read. It is well-developed and full of details that draw the reader in. The details and imagery she utilizes throughout the book make the story come to life and readers feel like they can easily picture the scenes and characters that she describes. The book has also been well-proofread and edited. It is free of grammatical and mechanical errors which also enhances this reading experience.


Inside, the kitchen was warm, the pot bubbling on the range emitting a soft, rabbity aroma, while the wholesome scent of baking bread filled the room. Grace Ledbetter was a solid country woman at the best of times, but given her current circumstances, her customary heartiness had been overtaken by a thin, gaunt look, her ruddy cheeks pale and slightly hollow. Her clothes hung loose in places, attesting to a substantial loss of weight, and she carried an air of grim determination edged with despondency. Louisa thought she looked worn out.”


War time era books are a dime a dozen in the genre of historical fiction but Resistance and Revenge stands out from similar books and that is because of the research and effort that the author has put into the story that she has produced. Readers will appreciate that she depicts small-town life under occupation rather than focusing on the mainstream wartime events that are often the focus of historical fiction novels. The author has clearly put in a lot of research and understands the experiences of the average person during this time period.


Even the strengthening wind and the steadily building rain clouds that hung ominously above the horizon could not dent his sunny demeanour. The village postmistress, the wafer-thin, perennially severe Mrs Norris, emerging from the butcher’s with her meagre ration, eyed the new arrival with pursed lips and a disapproving look on her long countenance. This man looked decidedly flashy and she sniffed as she assessed how ill-suited he was to a country village full of ruddy-faced farmers and their sturdy, no-nonsense wives.”


The characters are the real treasure of the Resistance and Revenge. While the storyline is well-plotted and developed, it is the characters that represent and depict what it was really like to experience wartime in a small village. It is the characters that the readers connect with as well. They are emotional and flawed which makes them relatable to readers. They seem like real people that you would know, love, and sometimes dislike. One of the things that McCullagh does beautifully is broach the subject of disabilities with her character Billy. She depicts him and people’s reaction to him in a beautiful yet honest way and readers will definitely appreciate this element as it is not one you often see in novels.


Eve Huntley strode into the office with the confidence of one who has done her duty and expects to be rewarded handsomely. She presented a stylish picture, her dark hair newly coiffured and glistening under a pert lemon pillbox hat. She wore a figure-hugging lemon suit and matching heels, a dainty lemon handbag dangling from a finely gloved wrist. A deep red smudge of lipstick drew the eye to her heart-shaped face, powdered and rouged as if in preparation for a photographic fashion shoot. She smouldered slightly and Louisa realised immediately that, in seeking to use her latent sensuality to appeal to the occupier, she had vastly overstated her case. One glance at the expression on the Oberst’s solid face with its upturned mouth and vaguely ridiculous monocle was sufficient to confirm that suspicion. Louisa preserved her own dignified countenance, conscious that her printed jersey dress, clearly expensive and smart in its day, but now sadly dated and pilted in places, her faded overcoat with its faintly furred edges, her plain navy scarf and worn brown gloves, pulling apart a little at the seams, represented a very different look altogether.”


The intended audience for Resistance and Revenge are those readers who enjoy World War II historical fiction. Those who enjoy character dramas will also find this story to be riveting. It looks closely at human nature and experience in a beautiful and well-crafted way. The writing makes it easy to read and engage in so it would be a great choice for those just getting into the historical fiction genre will find this book to be a good place to start that reading journey.


The men raced over to untangle the rolling, flailing ball of thrashing, contorted limbs and seize Joey’s pistol, visible in one hand as the tangle of men rotated on the floor. Paul’s reflexes proved the sharpest and he darted cat-like, towards the outstretched hand that gripped the pistol, stamping a heavily booted foot on it and pinning it to the ground, eliciting a bellow of pain from Joey. The pistol fired, the round ricocheting around the solid stone walls of the house and grazing Louisa’s arm as it passed, leaving a furred track in her woollen sweater before embedding itself in the polished wooden door that led to the dining room. By now Tom had also reached the fighters and began to pull Joey away as Paul prised the pistol from the pinioned hand.”


A great story, wonderful writing, and stunning character development earn Resistance and Revenge by Catherine McCullagh a five out of five rating. It is a beautifully done narrative that breaks away from the typical wartime narrative of this genre and allows readers to see a more personal and inside look into the experiences of those not caught up in the mainstream events found in history books. It is a wonderful read that will be hard for readers to forget.



“Resistance and Revenge” by Catherine McCullagh receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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