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A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower by Patricia Bernstein: A Book Review

A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower 
Author: Patricia Bernstein
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: History Through Fiction 
Release Date: March 7, 2023

Pages: 266

Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: A Noble Cunning is a novel based on the true story of persecuted Catholic noblewoman Winifred Maxwell, who rescued her husband from the Tower of London with the help of a group of devoted women friends in 1716.


     A Noble Cunning is a novel based on the life of Winifred Herbert Maxwell (1680-1749), who became the Countess of Nithsdale in 1699.

    Set amidst the 1715 Rebellion against England’s first German king, George I, the novel depicts the ruthless persecution of Catholics and the relentless determination of protagonist Bethan Glentaggart to save the life of husband Gavin after he is captured and condemned to death. Bethan faces down a mob attack on her home, travels alone from the Scottish Lowlands to London through one of the worst snowstorms in years, and petitions an indifferent king for her husband's mercy. As a last resort, Bethan and her friends devise and execute Gavin's escape from the tower, donning disguises and foiling his jailers.

    Rich with historical gossip and pageantry, Bethan’s story demonstrates the damage that politics and religious fanaticism can inflict on the lives of individuals.

     My Review: A Noble Cunning is a historical fiction novel inspired by the real life of Winnifred Maxwell, a Catholic noblewoman who rescued her husband from the Tower of London. One night while her husband, Gavin, is away, a group of Protestants invade Bethan Glentaggart’s home and assault her because she is Catholic. A few years after the attack, Queen Anne dies and George I becomes the new King of England. However, Gavin is displeased over England’s new choice of king. He decides to rebel against George I and install King James II’s Catholic son on the throne of England. However, Gavin’s rebellion fails, and he is arrested and thrown into the Tower of London. He also receives a death sentence. With the help of her sister and female friends, Bethan schemes to save her husband from execution.

     Bethan Glentaggart is a very strong and compelling figure. She is spirited, passionate, and strong-willed. She is also stubborn and impulsive which could put her into harm’s way. However, I admired her courage because she is not afraid of risking her life for her husband. I also admire her steadfast faith in God because she believes that God will eventually find a way to save him. I also respected Bethan’s intellect and her cunning scheme to save her husband. Her plan was not perfect and held that much could have gone wrong. However, she managed to succeed. Therefore, Bethan was an engaging and admirable character.

    Overall, this novel is about faith, friendship, and rebellion. The message of the novel is to always trust in God, and that with God anything is possible. I found all of the characters, especially the females, to be likable and endearing. There were a few times where I thought that the writing style relied more on telling and not showing. However, it was a light and riveting read! I was enthralled from the first page! I did not want this novel to end and wished that it was longer. I do wish there was another novel about Bethan’s adventures before she rescued her husband. This is because I really adore Bethan! A Noble Cunning also opened my eyes to Winnifred Maxwell. Before I read this book, I did not know anything about her. After finishing it, I did more research on her. I found her to be a very intelligent and colorful heroine that would be the epitome of great novels. I also wondered why there were so few books on her. Hopefully, with the publication of A Noble Cunning, there will be books about her in the future. I recommend this novel for fans of The Freemason’s Daughter, White Rose Rebel, and The Pretender’s Lady! A Noble Cunning is an enthralling tribute to a little known yet extraordinary woman!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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