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Summary

The marriage of a well-bred Royalist lady and an illegitimate Roundhead Colonel is less a match made in heaven than a union doomed to hell. Unfortunately, Sir Robert Brandon's last will and testament leaves Venetia Clifford and Gabriel Brandon with little choice in the matter - deeply though they both resent it.

Their tempestuous relationship is reflected in the stormy events buffeting the nation as England slides inexorably into a second Civil War. Gabriel continues to serve in the New Model Army whilst, behind his back, Venetia engages in clandestine activities on behalf of the King; and the lives of both of them are further complicated when Gabriel's half-brother - to whom Venetia was formerly betrothed - returns from exile.

While the Army and Parliament argue over the fate of the King, Gabriel realises that he has a dangerous enemy and Venetia finally begins to see the man rather than the Roundhead Colonel. As events gather pace, bringing the King to trial, the tangled web of danger and deceit surrounding both Gabriel and Venetia slowly tightens its grip.

Set against the compelling times which led to the execution of Charles l, Garland of Straw is the story of a seemingly impossibly love an also provides further chapters in the lives of characters previously encountered in The Black Madonna and A Splendid Defiance.

©2013 Stella Riley (P)2020 Stella Riley

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It is just so good!

I loved reading this book and was patiently (but not really that patiently) waiting for Alex Wyndham to get his sweet voice back in the recording room so I could listen to Gabriel and Venetia’s story. It did not disappoint. I am unsure if it was just my brain losing the thread after 20hrs of listening, but I think there was a subtle change in Gabriel’s voice. Not a problem just a random observation. Because when he first speaks at the will reading in Ch.1 he almost sounded like a mixture of Rockliffe and Sherbourne which I was totally not expecting but SUPER down for. Then by the end he sounded more like Max Brandon (if you are reading this and unfamiliar with who I refer to, please do read Stella Riley’s other works or listen to them, she is brilliant and can do no wrong). But, this was more what I expected from AW’s interpretation of Gabriel’s character, so it was fine. Venetia’s cutting no-nonsense voice was perfection itself. As always the narration as wonderful. Altogether this was as much, if not slightly more, of a joy to listen to as it was to read. The twist at the end, which on the page had taken me totally by surprise, was much more obvious in the Audiobook. I also found following the complexities of the lead up to King Charles’s execution much easier to follow by listening. I loved hearing Justin and Abigail’s voices again, though I’m still annoyed about Justin’s stupidity that led him back into the story. Sam and Bryony’s story was also lovely and adorable. It is always a pleasure catching up with previous characters. For those of you who haven’t read Garland of Straw. Be not afraid, it is a wonderful story—But not for the faint of heart! Then again, this series isn’t in general. It is nowhere near as light hearted as SR’s 18th century world. Also, I am not sure what it is about Stella Riley’s conflict love stories (The Mésalliance and A Splendid Defiance are my favourites and very volatile love stories) but I love them. The turbulence of this story is a rollercoaster but that much more rewarding as a result. I’ve read critiques of a crucial scene after a certain’s someone’s appearance at Brandon Lacey causes a massive argument (you will know THAT part once you listen). If you happen across these criticisms I would ignore them. For me, I always thought it was an interesting and suitable choice for this story not to mention the time period. AW did a stupendous job narrating all the emotionally fraught moments in the story. But then again, he never disappoints. For those unfamiliar with SR’s 17th century universe, I highly recommend it. Start with a Splendid Defiance (it happens during Black Madonna but came out before and is a stand-alone) then work your way through the subsequent series, then read Marigold Chain because it is even more rewarding seeing Prince Rupert and Charles II again, but older. This is my favourite in the Roundhead & Cavaliers series, so I knew I’d love the audio version. Can’t wait to travel to Scotland and then France with Ashley and Frances in book 3. Hopefully it comes out.... well, not a year from now (Black Madonna was forever ago!) but sooner!! Yay for more Riley/Wyndham collabs.

7 people found this helpful

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Wonderful, just wonderful!

Garland of Straw is my idea of a perfect historical novel. It has a central, compelling love story between two finely drawn characters set against a vivid and detailed historical backdrop. These are supported by a host of wonderful characters, lively dialogue and intriguing plotlines that are woven together into an immensely satisfying story. When this is sensitively narrated by an accomplished performer such as Alex Wyndham, then I am in reading and listening heaven. Gabriel and Venetia are characters that linger in the mind long after the story is finished. Thrust into a marriage of convenience at the very beginning of the novel, the proud and cold Royalist and the base-born colonel in Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army get off to the worst of starts. Though her reaction to being manoeuvred into an unwanted marriage is understandable, it is hard to warm to Venetia at first. She is rude and disdainful and makes life as difficult as possible for Gabriel. He, on the other hand, hides his dismay at this turn in his fortunes under a clipped brusqueness. However, his stoicism and sense of honour are already clear to see and I loved him at first sight. I really enjoyed the almost forensic examination of the enemies to lovers trope that is so often used (and loved) in romantic fiction. As Venetia and Gabriel gradually get to know each other they move from mutual dislike and distrust to respect, liking and physical attraction and on to desire, admiration and deep abiding love. It’s just gorgeous. The historical backdrop to this novel is extremely complex but I was fascinated to learn in more detail the steps that led to the beheading of Charles 1 and the rise to power of Oliver Cromwell. This is such a pivotal moment in our history and the author portrays the confusion and complexity of the times very well. I really like the way that both the Cavalier and Roundhead viewpoints are shown through Venetia and Gabriel and the way that their views develop and adjust in response to the events they live through. The author balances the opposing viewpoints very well. I felt empathy for and sympathy with Charles 1 as he is portrayed in the story but also frustration that he did not help himself and he could have made things so much better for his nation if he had but bent a little. I also empathised with Gabriel’s growing discomfort with the increasing power of the New Model Army at the expense of an elected parliament. I really enjoyed the sections concerning John Lilburne and the Levellers. Through Sam and Briony’s interactions with them, we learn how far ahead of their times the movement was in promoting universal suffrage. Like all good novels, this historical background made me want to research the period and events further- real food for thought. While this detailed backdrop is undoubtedly meaty, it was lightened by the wonderful characters that populate the novel and by the immersion in everyday life that made me feel that I was a bystander observing these very same events. It was lovely to meet old friends from previous novels: Justin Ambrose and Samuel Radford (A Splendid Defiance) and Eden Maxwell and Francis Langley (The Black Madonna) among others. However, I also loved the new characters, especially Briony and Phoebe who are delightful and I have a special soft spot for curmudgeonly Wat Larkin. I also loved the suspense plotline that runs through the story. Who is trying to kill Gabriel? Interesting in itself, this thread also gives plenty of opportunity for the development of Gabriel and Venetia’s characters and helps move them along in their relationship. It adds richness, depth and a sense of jeopardy that enhances the novel. The denouement of this element of the story is also very satisfying. I really enjoyed Alex Wyndham’s performance of this audiobook. His voice is very easy on the ear and he clearly understands the author’s intentions. He has good differentiation between the various characters and portrays each very well. I especially liked the section when King Charles was on trial. Mr Wyndham highlighted the sense of urgency and depicted skilfully both the impatience of the prosecution and intransigent plaintiveness of the king. In conclusion, I am a great fan of all Ms Riley’s novels. However, as much as I love her Georgian romances (and I really do love them) I think it is in her Roundhead and Cavalier quartet that she really excels. Her grasp and exposition of historical events combined with compelling love stories, fascinating plotlines and truly engaging characters are second to none. Garland of Straw epitomises each of these elements and I loved every minute of it.

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Excellent historical romance spiced with mystery

This is another gripping historical romance from Stella Riley with Alex Wyndham’s wonderful rendition. The second part of the “Roundheads and Cavaliers” series takes the listener back to the time of the second act of the English civil war in 1647 with lots of historical details of the events of this tormented period in English history. Many of the characters were already introduced in the “Black Madonna”, the first part of the series; and a few of them in “Splendid defiance”, the story of the siege of Banbury. However, the novel is understandable and enjoyable even if one has not read or listened to the above mentioned novels. If this is the first of Stella Riley’s books that comes into your attention, you can still enjoy Venetia Clifford and Gabriel Brandon’s story and I am sure you will want to read or listen to the other novels. I prefer listening to audiobooks because Alex Wyndham’s velvety and smooth voice and the way he portrays the characters with different voices adds something extra to the enjoyment of the story. For someone who is not a native English speaker like myself, and learnt English history in school in small bits incorporated in lessons about Western European countries, it is fascinating to find out more about the English Civil War at the detailed level of political intrigues and individual battles in a well-researched novel. Fictional characters participate in the events with real participants in the Civil War, and their stories are interwoven with the tumultuous political and military events of the period. This mixture of history and fiction makes the novel fascinating and gives it a feeling of authenticity. But it is not an easy listen because of the successive and complex historical events that play an important part in the almost 20 hour long novel. Stella Riley’s characters are never one faceted, they are always flesh and blood people with good treats and flaws as human beings always are. After the first chapter when the two main characters, Venetia Clifford, a convinced royalist, and Gabriel Brandon, an illegitimate son and a colonel in the New Model Army find out that they are bound to be married by a strange testament, I thought that it will be a kind of “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth and Darcy relationship between them. Soon it became obvious that it wouldn’t be like that, Venetia, the protagonist of the novel is prejudiced against Gabriel but on a very different foundation than Elizabeth in Jane Austen’s novel: that of social standing, origin and political views. She is also rude, aggressive, unfair, obstinate and impulsive. She is a very complex character but also negative and annoying in more than half of the novel. She is definitely not one of my favourite female characters from Stella Riley’s novels even if she has many positive traits I admire in women living in an era when social, political and economic life was male-dominated: she is brave, enterprising, committed and has spirit of initiative. Even Gabriel is ready to trust her with running the estate while he is away. Change in her opinion and attitude towards Gabriel starts to happen about the middle of the story and will progress slowly. Gabriel Brandon, emotionally stable, in control of his emotions, a good soldier and organiser, principled and honourable, forms his opinion of Venetia based on her behaviour and not on prejudices. He is the illegitimate son of Sir Robert Brandon and was raised by foster parents involved in trade; has forged himself a military career and doesn’t let his illegitimacy define who he is. The main romance line of the novel follows the evolution of the relationship between these two characters. Among the secondary characters there are adorable persons and scoundrels. And sometime those of whom Venetia had good opinion prove to be completely undeserving. I especially liked the character of Phoebe Clifford, Venetia’s younger sister, who, not blinded by social and political prejudices befriends Gabriel from the very beginning and she has the courage to confront Venetia regarding her biased views on her husband’s character and actions. A wonderful secondary romance story develops between Samuel Radford already known from “Splendid Defiance”, an adept of Free-born John and Bryony Morrell, the daughter of Gabriel’s foster brother. To all this events, add a mystery story entitled “Who wants to kill Gabriel Brandon?” and you have an exciting historical romance and mystery audiobook to listen to with a rendition that is more than simple reading of the novel: I feels like listening to a radio play with as many actors as the characters in the story. I am looking forward to the third volume of the Roundheads and Cavaliers series, hopefully in Alex Wyndham’s interpretations.

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Storytelling at its best

The combination of Stella Riley’s prose and the velvet tones of Alex Wyndham has brought to life the dark days of the Second Civil War, with unforgettable characters. I bought this book as a paperback in the ‘90s and have read it a number of times since, this audible production has added an extra dimension. I found myself going back to re-listen to a number of chapters to make sure I hadn’t missed any detail and also found myself looking into growing flax, researching Colchester and looking at Knaresborough Castle. Meeting new characters and renewing acquaintance with some from previous novels was delightful and the descriptive elements of buildings and landscape shows in-depth research. I will leave it to other reviewers to précis the plot and discuss the characters, suffice it to say that I loved this and did not want it to end. Alex Wyndham’s rendition is sublime but he did have a wonderful book to work from. If you are looking for a longer novel to listen to which is historically accurate with a good plot line then I would recommend Garland. Enjoy!

5 people found this helpful

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Superb

Beautifully written, extremely well researched and perfectly narrated. Can hardly wait for another instalment of the Riley/Wyndham partnership.

4 people found this helpful

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Another stunner

I'd already read this but loved Gabriel and Venitia so much I had to experience it again with Alex's incredible performance in my head. Such a great story, such a great narrator. All the voices, all the feels... those two leads will stay with me for some time - their journey to love is filled with strife and danger but they are both so strong-willed it's a delight to follow along. Amidst heartbreak and personal growth these two form a very special bond. Thank you Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham for many hours of pure bliss.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent.

I came late to the Cavalier and Roundheads series, after listening to the Rockliffe series, so it was interesting to go back a hundred years or so to read about their forebears during the Civil War. I won’t go into detail of the synopsis as others have already done so, and they can be read elsewhere. It took quite a while for Venetia to grow on me. She was rude, arrogant, aggressive and thoroughly unpleasant. Gabriel’s toleration of her behaviour was almost saintly. It was interesting to see over the course of the book how she gradually began to develop both an understanding of her husband and her realisation of how mistaken she had been both of his character and others. I enjoyed the gradual unfolding of the growing closeness between them as difficulties and misconceptions were ironed out. The mystery of who was attempting to kill Gabriel, I sussed out fairly quickly, but not the reason why. The narration by Alex Wyndham was as always, superb. What more can I say? I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one.

4 people found this helpful

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An Absolute Triumph!

Garland of Straw is my favourite in Stella Riley's Roundhead & Cavaliers series of books and having read this first on my Kindle in 2014 I had hoped that eventually there would be an audio version to accompany the book. I was therefore delighted when Audible recently released 'Garland' and have loved listening to Alex Wyndham's narration of this stunning book. I feel that I really must commend him on the brilliant way in which he gives each character such an instantly recognisable voice, ensuring that at all times the listener knows who is speaking, it makes immersing oneself in the plot a total joy. His transitions are seamless and his voice could best be described as an audible version of warm chocolate. For anyone new to Ms Riley's work, this is an excellent book to both read and listen to. It follows on from The Black Madonna, although it can also be read as a stand alone in its own right. I won't go into the plot and spoil the book for newcomers, but I would say that the historical detail in the book is most impressive and the way in which the lives of Ms Riley's characters are woven through with real characters and historical events is sublime. You reach the end of the story having learnt so much about a period of our history that is very much overlooked in our schools and Ms Riley's wonderful writing, so rich in knowledge and detail, makes this complex period of English history come alive. A stunning book, beautifully performed, bravo Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham, an absolute triumph!

4 people found this helpful

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  • F
  • 26-08-20

Another Stella Riley Triumph

What a book! After 19 odd hours, I have finished Garland of Straw and can't believe how those hours have flown by. Sometimes with a long audiobook, there are times when I find myself wanting to skip through 'padding' to get on with the story, but this is absolutely not the case with any of Ms Riley's books. they are so skilfully crafted that every part of her writing is vital to the overall story.....and what a story it was - I was glued from the first. I had read & then listened to The Black Madonna, but I hadn't yet read Garland of Straw, as I was waiting for it to come out in audio form which is my preferred mode of reading a book. Together, Alex Wyndham and Stella Riley are the perfect partnership. The English Civil War was something that was skirted over briefly at school, and, having read & loved Ms Riley's Georgian Rockcliffe series, I searched for other novels that she had written, which is where I found myself immersed in the English Civil War. My initial thought was one of dread, as my knowledge was poor and the subject seemed daunting, but once I started to read her books, I have absolutely loved learning about a part of English history which was rich in detail, and bloody in battle. Her knowledge of the period, and her attention to detail is impressive. I feel like I have not only listened to an excellent book but also gained a huge amount of historical knowledge in the process. If only S.R had been my history teacher at school, I might have liked the subject more. The story picks up after the Black Madonna, and this time focuses on Venetia Clifford and Colonel Gabriel Brandon. Venetia is the feisty daughter of a (Cavallier) Yorkshire landowner, who's near neighbour was a wealthy landowner named Brandon, now deceased. His illegitimate son, Gabriel (a roundhead Colonel in the New Model Army) has been favoured in his will with the bulk of the estate, leaving a much smaller bequest to his natural son, Ellis (Venetia's betrothed), believing that his illegitimate son will make a better fist of things than his more flamboyant and less reliable son, The fly in the ointment is that Venetia Clifford can't have her portion of the will (retaining her family home) if she doesn't marry Gabriel, and he can't inherit Brandon Lacey if he doesn't marry Venetia, The two main protagonists dislike each other instantly at the will reading, due to Venetia's appalling behaviour towards the illegitimate son Gabriel but after 6 months, with no other choice, she very reluctantly agrees to marry Gabriel. Sparks fly as she is loyal to the King and Gabriel is a career soldier in the New Model Army and supports the work of the army though isn't particularly political and doesn't seem overly enamoured with Cromwell. Over the course of this most fascinating and gripping book, their hatred turns to mutual respect, Venetia realising that Gabriel has strength of character, generous with his time on the Brandon Lacey estate, and honourable. In turn, Gabriel realises that not only is Venetia the most beautiful woman who he wants to bed, but that she is brave and not afraid to face facts. Into the mix comes Ellis, the ex-fiancé and bitter loser in his father's will. Initially Venetia, a fellow supporter of the King, is happy to help Ellis in his endeavours, but in time recognises him for the selfish man that he always was. However, through wrong assumptions Gabriel suspects Venetia of seeing Ellis in the romantic sense, and that is when things start to heat up between Gabriel and Venetia, Alongside all the above is a would-be assassin, the political machinations of the deposed King's potential execution, Gabriel's paid job of Colonel, his foster brother and family, his army friends, Venetia's old Court friends and family, and the delightfully vacant aunt Sophie. The plot gallops along at a cracking pace with numerous attempts on Gabriel's life, bringing our two protagonists ever closer to each other. The story oscillates between Yorkshire (home of Brandon Lacey) and London where Gabriel has his army duties to fulfil. The historical detail in the book regarding the lead up to the execution of the King is vast, Ms Riley's knowledge and research is impressive. It was such a fascinating time in history and is almost unbelievable that a King, in England, could have ever been beheaded. The author weaves fictional characters into those of real life characters which makes the storyline thrilling. I have loved listening to The Garland of Straw, made more enjoyable by the professionalism of Alex Wyndham. His talent for creating an extra dimension with the books that he narrates is impressive. I love his Yorkshire accents (coming from Yorkshire, I can confirm their accuracy) and how he makes each voice separate and apart so that the listener knows exactly who is speaking is such an art, and makes it a joy to listen. Congratulations once again to Alex and his talent. If you haven't yet listened to this book or the previous Black Madonna, you are in for a treat. If you enjoy a well-researched historical novel that has a cracking storyline, read by an outstanding performer, then you have just struck gold. Enjoy

4 people found this helpful

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Glorious

I have read the book many times and really enjoyed the audible version. Alex uses his voice so well and I was pleased that he more or less used his own voice for Gabriel. My only criticism is that I would have preferred it to have been the original version of the book and not the own produced for Kindle. This is just a personal viewpoint and does not impact on my review

4 people found this helpful

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  • Cate F.
  • 15-08-20

Sorry when it ended

Stella Riley kept me tethered to my phone and gripped by this story. I’ve read all her books more than once but Alex Wyndham’s interpretation makes each one new again. It deserves every minute of its length for the many layers of lives and love story. I confess that the politics and actions of the time only interested me as ways of moving the tale forward. During those passages I let myself drift along with Wyndham’s luscious voice, paying just enough attention to keep the thread of the story going. The quality of Riley’s writing eliminated any jarring anachronisms and meant the creation of multiple characters with depth and vivid personalities. Disclosure: I received an early copy of this audiobook in exchange for my promise to write a review. This in no way affected my reading pleasure and honest reaction.

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  • Beth B
  • 14-08-20

Stella Riley continue to write remarkable stories

This is a wonderful story, full of history and rich in characters. Gabriel and Venetia’s story is set in one of the most significant and politically charged periods of English history and it does not disappoint. This book delves into that history and gives personalities to the names of men who changed history. Within that background we see the struggle of a marriage arranged for two strong characters who seem as widely divided as possible. One is a Colonel in the Roundhead army, the other a passionate monarchist and spy for the King. As we meet again other characters from her other books, we see how destructive this civil war has been, pitting friends against friends and splitting families to pieces. Each person in their own right is struggling with years of conflict and then the aftermath of an uneasy peace. There is push and pull tension throughout this book, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and anger. In the end the history is gripping, but as we follow the course of Gabriel and Venitia’s marriage, we are immersed in their struggle to find the peace they are both looking for Venitia is a strong, independent woman, who naturally takes charge of situations and follows her own beliefs and decisions. Gabriel equally is a commanding presence so sparks fly, misunderstandings arise and tempers flare. A strong cast of supporting characters round out the narrative. Stella Riley’s gift for rich characters and intricate stories continues to shine. Her well written prose and meaty plots make you just want more. As always Alex Wyndham shines in his powerful and compelling narration, giving life to both the era and the people. He is a master story teller and again leaves you wanting more. This is truly a perfect union

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  • noagnes
  • 02-09-20

Turbulent love in turbulent times

This is the second book of Stella Riley’s Roundheads and Cavaliers series, featuring the turbulent period of the English Civil War era through a series of romances. This novel describes the story of Venetia Clifford, daughter of a Royalist family, forced to marry Gabriel Brandon, a colonel in Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. To add insult to injury, Gabriel is the illegitimate half-brother of Venetia’s previous betrothed, Royalist Ellis Brandon, now a fugitive, and receives the inheritance that should have gone to the legitimate son as well as the bride. The relationship starts off badly, with mutual dislike and disdain at first sight – and only goes downward for quite a while. In spite of the conflict, the integrity of the Roundhead officer is starting to impress even rigidly prejudiced Venetia, but the machinations of Ellis and certain mistakes by the heroine result in a catastrophic conflict (I must say I had a hard time forgiving Gabriel, and some readers may find his actions disturbing) between the protagonists – and then it is time for Gabriel’s unreasonable emotions to be changed by the demonstration of Venetia’s loyalty and integrity. While they work towards resolving their personal difficulties, political conflict culminates in the trial and execution of King Charles I, and Gabriel is pursued by a mysterious enemy who tries to harm him by every possible means. Besides the usual great points in Stella Riley’s favour (a passionate and deep romance, vivid and well researched historical background with even the complexities made understandable through the characters’ eye, believable and complex character descriptions) I especially enjoyed in this book the fact that there are decent people on both sides of the political conflict – and they are able to turn toward each other with respect and try to mitigate the cruelty and vindictiveness of the extremists on each side. Alex Wyndham’s talented storytelling brings out the drama and the turbulent feelings in the story, displays the diverse set of characters and their feelings faithfully and gives the listener a vivid and gripping experience.

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  • CHW
  • 21-08-20

You cannot go wrong with this book.

There are two authors that I must say are the absolute best writers of historical fiction, Stella Riley is one of them. There has not been a tale by her I have not throughly enjoyed and with Alex Wyndham as the narrator of her rich writing, I never think twice about buying the audio. Now to the review: Garland of Straw is another tale set during the English Civil War. Charles I looses his head in this book and Ms. Riley places the characters amidst the doings in this very real and bleak time in English history. The rich history told in this book is compelling and is a very nice backdrop to the unlikely romance of the H/h. Ms. Riley describes how love develops between two unlikely characters ( a staunch supporter of Charles I and a Roundhead). Get prepared for biting commentary, witty repartee, and the voice of Alex Wyndham. Venetia, a royalist snob and Gabriel, a roundhead colonel are forced into marriage by circumstance. I think Ms. Riley hit just the right note with both characters. Each were stubborn, fully committed to their beliefs and fiercely intelligent. While I enjoyed the undercurrents between these two, I would have liked more open communication between them once they both realized that they loved one another. However on the other hand some of rich historical notes would have been lost. This book is lengthy but not boring or drawn out to no purpose. In fact, I was sad to hear the end and am anticipating the next story. I used a credit to purchase this book and to be honest I would have paid member's price for it.

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  • LollyB
  • 14-08-20

So enjoyed!!

Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham team up again to bring another great installment in the Black Madonna series!! I love the development of the characters in each of Riley‘s books and I especially appreciated the insight into the English Civil War. I truly look forward to hopefully hearing Alex Wyndham read the next two books in the series soon!!

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  • PennyLou
  • 14-08-20

Excellent historical romance

Stella Riley is one of my favorite historical authors. She writes with such detail that the listener becomes engrossed in the story. Stella is just as talented in character development.....even to the point of developing characters, so aggravating that you want to strangle them. Venetia is one of....but not the only one....of those characters. Venetia comes across as stubborn, selfish and down right mean. The other characters are so strong and likeable that Venetia's personality appears even more obnoxious. Alex Wyndham is the absolute best narrator I've ever heard and he's perfect for Stella's books.

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  • Laurie S
  • 16-10-20

Another excellent story

Can’t go wrong with this author/narrator combination. My favorite of the series is The Marigold Chain, but this is a must read to continue the series and hear about some of the previous characters. Aside from a scant handful of anachronisms in this series, Stella is an outstanding researcher and writer—far above the crowd. Her storytelling, characters, and relationships are all well-developed and interesting. I’ve read all her works. This book is a page turner with a slight lull midway while it focuses on new main characters that were smaller players up to that point and catches us up on new political and battle updates. I started missing the H/h interactions and progress. SPOILER: I was frustrated by how many hours (half of them) it takes for the heroine to start growing. END SPOILER. Another minor frustration was the narration. Alex is a stellar narrator. Especially with atmosphere, mood, setting. He reads the intent of the scenes superbly. No question there. What I notice, especially in these long books, is that character voices start melding together and sounding the same. He absolutely has a wide range, but he often defaults to repetition of two to three cadences and tones. Even between men and women. And characters sometimes change voices. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to have a voice for dozens of characters and keep track of them for twenty hours, but more variation between characters and consistency for each main character would be helpful. Otherwise, well done—these nuances are easy enough to overlook for the joy of listening to such a phenomenal book, rich with history and excellent writing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • 🌟CW_214🌟
  • 13-10-20

Dynamic Duo

Stella Riley never ceases to pull me into her stories and appreciate every solitary word. Each time I’ve completed one of her beautifully written historical treasures, I come away thinking it’s a new favorite. Garland of Straw in audio with the talented Alex Wyndham does not disappoint and meets every expectation and more. As usual the writing is loaded with meticulously - researched historical content with zero “filler” type fluff. Each sentence has meaning and characters come alive in my mind with poignant description and bookmark-worthy dialogue. Though I cherish Stella Riley’s entire library, I also look forward to escaping into Alex Wyndham’s stunning performances as one of my favorite narrators; making it a dynamic duo. I will continue to enjoy her books for years to come and look forward to any new material as well.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Daydream Queen
  • 23-08-20

Everything you could want in HR!!

Stella Riley has fast become my favorite HR author! Her amazing storytelling coupled with Alex Wyndham's irresistible narration is everything I long for in this genre. I just wish all her books were were on Audible already!