The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters (review)

Encompassing the political and the personal, Minette Walters introduces a strong heroine in Jayne Swift as she portrays the brutality of the times. As a practicing physician in the 1640’s, Jayne treats all levels of society. When circumstances introduce her to Lady Strickland and put her in company of that lady’s footman, William, the war soon begins to impact Jayne and may even put her neutrality to the test.

William is a puzzle from the start, both for Jayne and the reader, as his identity and loyalties seem to shift with each encounter. As the years pass, they become more familiar with each other’s families and the conflicts within them, while Jayne experiences more of war and division as she defies the expectations of society to forge her own path. 

The Swift and the Harrier is a riveting saga of war, family bonds, and a slow burning romance. The story spans the years of the English Civil War, with much of the middle seeming like a montage of character interactions against a background of historical events.

To my mind, the best historical fiction evokes a time and place, while telling a compelling story. It may also leave me at a loss to adequately describe it. With The Swift and the Harrier, Minette Walters does just that, while also creating memorable characters. This is one for the reread shelf, whether it is to revisit Jayne Swift or to re-experience this unfamiliar and brutal piece of history brought to life around her.

Highly recommended.

This review refers to a temporary digital galley I voluntarily read via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own.

About the Book

A sweeping historical adventure set during one of the most turbulent periods of British history—featuring a heroine you’ll never forget …

Dorset, 1642.

When bloody civil war breaks out between the king and Parliament, families and communities across England are riven by different allegiances.

A rare few choose neutrality.

One such is Jayne Swift, a Dorset physician from a Royalist family, who offers her services to both sides in the conflict. Through her dedication to treating the sick and wounded, regardless of belief, Jayne becomes a witness to the brutality of war and the devastation it wreaks.

Yet her recurring companion at every event is a man she should despise because he embraces civil war as the means to an end. She knows him as William Harrier, but is ignorant about every other aspect of his life. His past is a mystery and his future uncertain.

The Swift and the Harrier is a sweeping tale of adventure and loss, sacrifice and love, with a unique and unforgettable heroine at its heart.

About the Author

Minette Walters is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers and has sold over twenty-five million copies of her books worldwide. She has won the CWA John Creasey Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and two CWA Gold Daggers. The Swift and the Harrier is her third historical novel. She lives in Dorset with her husband.

ˆThe Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters | Blackstone Publishing, July 2022 | ebook, 464 pages