Monday, January 06, 2020

Written in Their Stars by Elizabeth St. John, her newest English Civil War family saga

Spanning fifteen years, from the height of the English Civil War to after the Restoration, Elizabeth St. John’s third volume of her Lydiard Chronicles is the most complex yet. It continues to add new shadings of personality to her ongoing cast of characters while homing in on three women from her family tree whose actions strongly influenced their times, and vice versa.

Luce Hutchinson, daughter of Lucy (St. John) Apsley, heroine of the first book, The Lady of the Tower, sits firmly on the side of Parliament and yearns for a world without oppressive monarchical rule. As one of the signers of the warrant for Charles I’s execution, Luce's husband Colonel John Hutchinson, a well-known Puritan leader, makes a mark on history that can’t be undone.

With that action, John further alienates Luce’s brother, Allen, a fervent Cavalier who chooses to go into exile in France rather than remain in Cromwell’s England. With him goes his wife, Frances, and young daughter, Isabella; they risk being called traitors for joining the court of Charles I’s queen in Paris, but Allen has his eye on the long game, planning to bide his time and working toward the restoration of Prince Charles. Their cousin Nan Wilmot, the intelligent and crafty Countess of Rochester, does what she must to survive the tumultuous era, playing both sides to ensure her sons’ inheritance is kept intact. Nan sits at the heart of a spy network and enlists Frances in her secret mission to re-establish the monarchy.

For readers most familiar with the English Civil War though its accounts of battles and prominent men, this evocative saga will shift your impressions. St. John has based her novel on family memoirs, and their stories are worth knowing. She also weaves in other little-known facets of history, such as the unsung role of Susan Hyde (sister of the Earl of Clarendon, the future James II’s father-in-law). Barbara Villiers looms large in history as Charles II’s favorite mistress, but in Written in Their Stars, readers also see her as the lissome St. John cousin who comes to play a surprising part not just in the royal court but in her family’s future.

Despite the political leanings that divide them, the characters remain emotionally close to each other as family—a delicate balance evoked well in the writing. The relationships between three sets of spouses are also a highlight. While this novel can stand alone, I recommend reading the previous two books first to fill in all of the background to the characters, and what led them to the paths they chose.

Written in Their Stars was published by Falcon Historical in November (ebook and paperback, 384pp).


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two signed copies of Written in their Stars! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on January 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Written in Their Stars


  1. Thank you for such an insightful review. It was really fascinating to weave these women's stories and first hand accounts into a known (and perhaps inaccurately remembered over the centuries) period of English history. I'm so glad you enjoyed.

  2. It's been a pleasure to read and review the full series. Enjoyed them all!

  3. Thank you for this fabulous review, Sarah! We appreciate you hosting Elizabeth's blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  4. Sounds like an interesting series!

    1. It is. I was glad to get the opportunity to see these characters depicted in fiction. I hadn't heard of most of them beforehand.

  5. Thank you or dusting off the roles of women in wartime. Sadly historians go from battle to battle and overlook the heros in the vital support roles -- but your heroines were in the thick of it, just as they would have been at the time.

  6. This is my favorite way of learning history, and my favorite place to learn the history of. Sorry to end a sentence with a preposition (I think-just missed the years of intensive grammar education!).

    1. HF is a favorite way of mine for learning history, too!