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HFC Editorial Review of "The Rippon Spurrier" by C. J. Richardson

Author Bio


I live in a small village in North Yorkshire with my husband. This is the second time around for both of us and we have six grown up children and fifteen grandchildren between us.

I started writing when I retired in 2008. Firstly joining a beginners class and then forming a writing group with some fellow students. We meet regularly to share our work and also to critique and help each other.

I have studied A215 and A363 with the OU and gained a distinction for my year three A363 course in Creative Writing. I completed my studies with the OCA and gained a BA (hons) in creative writing in 2020.

I released my debut novel NORTH SEA SHELLS in May of 2016 and you can find a link for it on the website if you would like to know more.

I released my second book HOME TRUTHS in 2018 and am currently working on a new historical novel set in 16th century England.

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Editorial Review

By Jesu, Robert. You are an excellent spurrier and silversmith,” said Richard. “I have not seen this quality of workmanship outside of London. You will make Rippon famous.” He turned to Thomas, adding, “And you, my nephew, will wear spurs charged with Catholic spirit when we ride out. We cannot fail in our noble task now.”

Talented spurrier Robert Gray has always admired his late father Alfred for taking part in the Pilgrimage of Grace many years ago, so he jumps at the chance to march alongside his own master in a rebellion against the heretic Queen Elizabeth in the autumn of 1569. As a staunch Catholic, taking part in this holy war would be a dream come true. He did not expect that dream would put his wife Catherine and their unborn child in mortal danger.

This novel is proof that there is never enough books about the Tudor era, and a plethora of hidden characters waiting to be revealed on the page. As the rebellion begins in Northeast England against Queen Elizabeth the First with the goal of re-establishing the Catholic faith and placing Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne, a talented spurrier, Robert Grey, joins the cause. Both he and his wife, Catherine, are faithful Catholics, swearing loyalty to support the faith even at the risk of their own lives. Following in the footsteps of his own father who fought against Henry VIII’s break from Rome, Robert’s determination brings his wife, his unborn child, and himself close to danger as the threats mount.

The story unfolds, and betrayal surfaces when Robert’s lifelong friend turns against him; and secrets of the past involving his father’s death bubble to the surface causing great distress and many a sleepless night for Robert. Yet, even in this, he is determined to reveal all, even as the one person in opposition to him shows the same determination to keep them hidden.

In a fight for survival of their family, of friendships, and of honour, Robert and Catherine bind together to ensure their very lives... and all as the repercussions of Henry’s rejection of the Catholic church come full force upon nobleman and commoner, alike.

Robert, like the majority of English Catholics of 1569, supported Mary’s claim to the throne and viewed her as a way to restore the faith to England. In Northern England, several powerful nobles such as Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, held fast to their Catholic faith and vowed an uprising against Queen Elizabeth. Robert joins in the rebellion, the same as his father before him had joined in the Pilgrimage of Grace against Henry VIII in 1536. Mary became their beacon of hope against the heretic.

There is so much vivid detail in this book that you are immediately drawn into the past, reliving a time when loyalty is tested and ‘windows’ are made into men’s souls – Catholic against Protestant, and vice versa. With each decision made or side chosen, the shadows lurk ready to betray those who hold fast to their Catholic leanings, those hiding their rosaries in secret places and holding mass with whispers.

Yet, Robert and Catherine’s love and strength, supporting each other through this time as they stand united in their convictions, is a nod to the beauty and courage of unshakeable faith, even with the heat of betrayal breathing down their neck.

Without giving anything away, I must say that the world-building and the author’s gift of story-telling is astounding and transports the reader to the stage of sixteenth century England and Scotland with very believable characters and natural dialogue befitting the time period. So meticulously researched and words chosen with finesse to create this story of their lives so as to immerse the reader in a world which, even though we know what happens from history, we find ourselves rooting for the main characters.

As relayed from the viewpoint of Robert and Catherine, the tragic events of October 1569 to January 1570 unfold. Robert, whose flair for metal work, especially his artistry for forging beautiful spurs in his village of Rippon; and his wife Catherine whose partial blindness does little to hinder her wide view of the events around them, even as she is labelled a witch, see their common life evolve as some of the key figures in the rebellion come into their life – Anne (also pregnant) and Thomas Percy (one of the leaders of the rebellion). Robert’s master and patron, Thomas Markenfield, is first to join the conflict and Robert follows him, pledging loyalty and service to the Earls of Northumbria and Westmorland, while Catherine becomes a servant to Anne, Thomas’s wife.

While history gives us the larger details of the rebellion, C. J. Richardson focuses the attention on the intimate way such conflicts change people’s lives, and she does this in quite a skilful and sensitive way. What begins as excitement and the hopeful prospect of bringing back their former way of life develops from triumph to the ultimate failure of the uprising and the need for Robert to protect his family.

Some of my favourite vivid passages to give an overview of the author’s artistry:

“The fog had lifted, and the winter sun tried to deceive us into thinking its rays cast warmth upon us, but its bright face served only to light up the ice on the rutted road and the newly formed icicles hanging from the boughs of the trees... She saw only the beauty of the landscape instead of feeling the bitter bite of the air around us. I knew it was because she was thinking about home in Rippon.”

“There was a commotion outside. I could hear screaming and shouting. I got up and went to the window. The crowds were thick. Soldiers. Mary, Mother of God. The soldiers were rounding up men by the score and tying their hands together, using a rope to join them like a string of onions, then marching them to the obelisk on the market stede.... I looked down on the helmet of a soldier who had a taut rope fastened to his saddle, a limp body trailing through the dirty street behind him.”

Vivid imagery worthy of the “Highly Recommended” award from The Historical Fiction Company and five stars!! Congratulations to the author for this fine work of art of the Tudor era.


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