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Summary

A tale of war and witchcraft, plots and playhouses, love and loyalty....

Following his coronation in Scotland, Charles ll leads an army south to reclaim his throne, but the dream ends in a crushing defeat at Worcester, leaving no alternative but flight.  

With little more than the clothes on their backs, Ashley Peverell and Francis Langley manage to reach Paris, where Ashley, known to some as The Falcon, resumes his under-cover and unpaid work for the King.

Beautiful, stubborn, and street-wise Athenais de Galzain has risen from the slums of Paris to become the Marais Theatre's leading actress. Unfortunately, this brings her to the attention of the Marquis d'Auxerre - an influential nobleman of an unsavory reputation who is accustomed to taking what he wants.

While the Prince's Fronde flares up anew, and turns the city into a battle-ground, Francis is bullied into helping his sister, Celia, obtain a divorce from Eden Maxwell. Currently working as a cryptographer in the Commonwealth's intelligence service, Eden watches Cromwell creating a king-sized space for himself, and begins to question the cause to which he has devoted a decade of his life.

From first chance, Ashley and Athenais are drawn together with the unstoppable force of two stars colliding; a force which Ashley, lacking both money and prospects, and aware of the frequency with which he's required to risk his life, cannot deny, but resolves to conceal. He has only two priorities: His work for Charles ll, and his determination to protect Athenais from the Marquis. Both are to test him to his limits.

The King's Falcon follows the Cavalier's last crusade, and the bitter, poverty-stricken exile that followed it. There is danger, intrigue, and romance in this sequel to The Black Madonna and Garland of Straw.

©2014 Stella Riley (P)2022 Stella Riley

What listeners say about The King's Falcon

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Another perfect pairing

If you love Stella Riley's writing, you will love Alex Wyndham's narration of this book. The story is wide-ranging, from the battle of Worcester, which resulted in Charles II having to flee the country, and the loyal soldiers who risked all for his safety, culminating in their abject poverty and flight, through the intrigues of the court-in-exile in France, and the circumstances which lead to the main characters being thrown together through necessity. Parisian theatre plays a significant role and it is here that two heart-warming love stories are born. There is a wealth of accurate historic fact, coupled with intrigue and treachery, loyalty and friendship - and love. To all of this, Alex Wyndham gives all the characters -and there are a lot of them! - distinctive voices. I was so absorbed that I forgot that he was giving voices to women as well as men, from the highest to the lowest born, in different accents. To my ear, he even makes me hear 'noises off' [in my head!] when there is a big gathering of characters for certain scenes. Excellent performance - another winner from Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham.

5 people found this helpful

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Historical Fiction at its best

I really enjoy listening to audiobooks. When they are done well, there is an immediacy and intimacy that can create a special three-way conversation between the author, the narrator and the listener. This is one of those books. I was held spellbound as I listened to Alex Wyndham breathe new life into a book, I had already enjoyed reading. This was an excellent performance: from the battle scenes at Dunbar and Worcester, to the life of a Parisian theatre and through Ashley and Francis’s adventures on the edge of the English court in exile: every aspect was exciting and compelling listening.

While I am a huge fan of all Ms Riley’s stories, I had never completely connected with Ashley (the hero) and Athenais (the heroine). Though my head understood the beauty of their romance, my heart did not. However, through Mr Wyndham’s performance, I was able to appreciate in a new way, the depth of Ashley’s love for Athenais, his protective care for her and the personal cost of his self-control. I also understood better his feelings of unworthiness and his uneasiness about the effects his tasks for the English Court were having on him. He became a multi-faceted; rounded and fully formed character and I fell in love with him.

At the same time, I was also able to see Athenais in a new light. Through Alex’s presentation, I understood better the painful effect of past events on her current life and her horror at the Marquis D’Auxerre’s pursuit of her. This pursuit and its climax were so well-written and enacted that it shocked and moved me and left me thinking about it for days.

There is something about having a story read to me that does make me think about it in a different way. I realised again, how complex, deep and rich this story is. There is so much historical background: the progress of the Civil War; witchcraft; and the life of the theatre; the life of the court in Exile with all the machinations of people in high places working either for the good or the downfall of King Charles II. Yet all this action and history is counterbalanced by the compelling human stories at the heart of the novel. I adored Francis and Pauline’s romance and loved seeing Eden Maxwell begin to live again and particularly enjoyed the interludes with Cyrano De Bergerac. The author has a way of weaving the historical backdrop and the personal stories together so seamlessly that the reader is fully invested in both. This is my favourite kind of novel and the King’s Falcon one of the best. I just loved it.

3 people found this helpful

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Perfection Personified

The King’s Falcon, Stella Riley’s 3rd book in her R&C series, has always been one of my favourites. With impeccable research, a well-constructed plot and a wealth of outstanding characters, it brings both fact and fiction together in the period following the end of English Civil War and prior to the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

However, Alex Wyndham’s outstanding performance has transported this excellent novel to a new level.

Mr. Wyndham handles all the characters adroitly, whether male or female, young or old, English or French. His pace, transitions and sense of feeling throughout are perfect plus his myriad of both English and French accents is superb - and at times, beyond my comprehension.

From the battle of Worcester and escape of Charles II plus Riley’s two male leads, Ashley and Francis, one is drawn into the complexities of those troubled times. Escaping to Paris we follow the trials and tribulations of Ashley (known as ‘The Falcon’) and Francis as they try to make a living in order to survive. While there they meet the two leading ladies of the book Athenais and Pauline who complement each other so well. I especially liked Pauline who has a razor-sharp tongue and does not suffer fools gladly.

And so, in Paris the scene is set, the leading players take their place, the curtain is raised and the story proceeds with twists and turns throughout.

Ms. Riley’s fictional characters interact with real ones including Cyrano de Bergerac who is instrumental to the clever plot.

Back in London Eden Maxwell, still suffering from the break-up of his marriage to Celia in 'The Black Madonna' immerses himself into the world of cryptography while serving in Oliver Cromwell’s unpopular administration and finds himself becoming disillusioned by the situation.

And thus, the denouement brings together the protagonists in a finale that is both satisfying, rewarding, uplifting and very moving especially just before the Epilogue.

The pace Alex Wyndham sets is perfect throughout and his delivery is faultless.

I’ll not add anything further but I highly recommend you relax and immerse yourself into the world of 'The King’s Falcon'. You’ll not be disappointed.

I can find no other words to describe this outstanding Audio book so I’ll finish by saying thank you Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham, ‘Perfection Personified'.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent as always!

Having re-read (and listened to) all of Stella Riley's books many times, the Civil War series is still my favourite and, as usual Alex Wyndham's narration is spot on.

3 people found this helpful

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Absolutely captivating story of love and intrigue

Fantastic novel brilliantly narrated by Alex. The ups and downs of the two couples have been captured so vividly I lived it with them. more more more please

2 people found this helpful

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Download, listen and enjoy!

This is the third book in Stella Riley's Roundhead and Cavalier series. I would thoroughly recommend reading them all and listen to the audio versions, wonderfully narrated by Alex Wyndham. At over 19 hours long, you may wonder if you will find the time, but let me assure you, that you will. You will be transported to first Scotland, England and then France in the 1650s. In fact you will make the time to listen that bit more to the characters' plights and stories.

Stella Riley has an amazing talent of introducing you to characters and story lines that you care about and that interweave with factual events and each other. I always find it so satisfying when well loved characters from previous books pop up in the new story and you catch up with their progress.

The King's Falcon focuses on 2 love stories, the 'heroes' are English Cavaliers (Ashley and Francis) in Paris who, whilst kicking their heels trying to help the exiled Charles II, find themselves the fortunate recipients of board and lodgings with Pauline and Athenais. Suffice to say that with court intrigue, French theatre, spying, quite perfect retribution, witchcraft and the action moving between France and England you will be taken on a wonderful journey.

Alex Wyndham does an amazing job of all the accents, I had wondered how he would get on with the large cast of characters, but once listening to the story, I didn't even contemplate it again as the different voices took shape in my head.

I joined up to Audible so I could listen to Alex read Stella's stories, and I hope that gives you an insight into my recommendation! I have also found that if you purchase the stories on your kindle then the audio stories seem to be reduced in their purchase price. Always handy to know.

Grab yourself an absolute gem of a story that will transport you back in history and by listening to the story it takes on a different dimension and you become part of their world. You may even find yourself taking the longest journey home, just so you can listen to a few minutes more at a time.

2 people found this helpful

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So good I listened twice

I enjoyed this book so much I listened to it twice in a row :-)

2 people found this helpful

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Thank you Ms Riley and Mr Wyndham for creating the best listens!

I can never wait for the next Riley-Wyndham killer combo to come out. When’s the next one. Wonderful plots, gorgeous characters, casually historically spot on - plus the vocal brilliance of Alex Wyndham - how can a voice be SO gorgeous? the Netflix guys need to bag these tales - move over Bridgerton - can you imagine if they got televised? Our TVs would blow up! (With Mr W as the narrator of course).

2 people found this helpful

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19 hours of excitement and delight

The third volume of the Roundheads and Cavaliers series leads us into the Civil War following the coronation in Scotland of Charles II. We encounter old acquaintances from the previous two volumes fighting either for the King or for Cromwell. New characters come to the scene of war and we can follow their destiny through the battles and then in exile in France. Fictional characters mix with historical ones in the battle scenes and in Charles II entourage in exile. We also get a glimpse of the witch trials in England and the Parisian theatre life, especially at the Théâtre du Marais.

I like Stella Riley’s historical novels because they are well researched and the fictional characters are fully integrated into the stream of historically documented events. For me, it is like learning English history bit by bit in a very pleasant way. The detailed descriptions of battle scenes, the passionate love between the main characters presented in a sensual but delicate way, the attention to details convaying the atmosphere of the mid-17 century's Paris often create the feeling of watching a film and not listening to an audiobook. Alex Wyndham’s talent in portraying the different characters with adequate voices only enhanced this experience.

Wonderful main characters facing a variety of challenges putting to a test their character and integrity, interesting and multi-faceted supporting characters, some capable of change for a good cause, and of course, a very devilish villain are populating the stage of the novel. Plus, a surprise character: a French writer and poet who became famous and it is still known and remembered not because of his work but because he was made the main character of an evergreen play.

I hope you will have as much pleasure and joy as I had in discovering this story of war, love, theatre, oolitics, spying and intrigues with unexpected twists that make The King’s Falcon an addictive listening.

2 people found this helpful

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Perfect pairing

This final part of the Cavaliers and Rroundheads continues the story from the crowning of young Charles in Scotland, defeat at the battle of Worcester and escape to France with barely the clothes on their backs. The exploits in Paris at the poverty stricken court-in-exile of both Francis and Ashley (the Falcon) include involvement with the Parisian theatre and a dastardly Marquis and for Ashley, the resumption of his undercover work for the King. Back in London, Eden gradually becomes more and more disenchanted with Cromwell.

As for Alex Wyndham, he is a pleasure to listen to. His range of accents, both French and English is excellent. My only very minor quibble is his Scots accents. As a Scot myself, I found myself wincing a time or two, but I think most people wouldn't notice.

Once again, Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham make the perfect partnership.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn
  • 19-03-22

Stayed up all night to finish

Magnificent narration for an historical novel that is exciting, vivid, sensuous, and touching. What a remarkable experience. Riley brings 17th century Paris and London to life and recreates the interlocking worlds of French theater at its glittering apex, deadly British politics around the King in exile, Cavaliers living on the edge of starvation as they try to find lives in a foreign land, and the fast sinking dreams of freedom in England quickly perishing under Cromwell's emerging military dictatorship. Three wonderful new heroines, and several irresistible dashing men from previous books...it's no wonder I couldn't stop listening. Oh - significant plot furthering appearances by King Charles II and Cyrano de Bergerac added dash and panache. Great fun, high adventure, and an unbeatably surprising and romantic last chapter. Total satisfaction.

3 people found this helpful

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  • CHW
  • 19-03-22

19 hours of bliss.

I knew I would enjoy listening to this book as I had already read the book. I was not disappointed. Alex brought this magnificent story alive. He gave each character the right tone and nuisance that brought one into the story and kept the listener firmly put. The story is well told, interesting, historically accurate and well worth a credit or member price to listen.

This book is about Francis and Ashley. Both are cavalier soldiers exiled in France trying to make a life for themselves and finding love and adventure in the process. I will not recount the story, it is not necessary in this review, however, it is full of all that those of us who love Stella Riley's books enjoy and was well worth the agonizing wait. Now we must all wait again for the Lord of Misrule, book four in this series....I will be impatiently waiting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Beth B
  • 22-03-22

Everything you want in a novel and so much more

Stella Riley is such an amazing story teller, weaving individual, personal stories into the rich tapestry of her Roundheads and Cavaliers series. This series is also entwined with her Civil War series as many of the characters appear in both. The large cast of characters are in and out of each others stories, at different times during the conflict, giving you a binocular view of singular points of the war and individual struggles, whilst collectively presenting the conflict as a whole. I am frankly amazed at how Stella manages to keep all these stories and details straight between the two series and ends up with a cohesive story, but she does. Personalities are skillfully revealed in each instalment and the secrets gradually come to light. At the end of The King’s Falcon the structure of English society is starkly changed by religious fanaticism and the desire for control and power, disguised as social improvement, which ultimately improves only the lives of a few at the expense of the many.

If I were to focus on what is most important to me in a novel, I would definitely say that the characters need to be vivid, intricately formed, witty, often but not always wise, multi-layered people I would love to spend time with. The King’s Falcon excels at this and presents you with fascinating, complex people, who are trapped in conflict that is beyond their control, whether through war or poverty or social position. We step back to a time where ancestry, social status and wealth are everything and women are confined and often powerless. Poverty is a character flaw and women of the stage are prostitutes and valued only for their beauty, toys to be taken, played with and then tossed aside. In this novel we focus on two Cavalier soldiers, involved in the last battles of the war, weary of loss, killing and forced to flee to France to escape imprisonment and to support Charles the deposed king. They have little money, almost no occupation and are separated irreparably from the life they lived before the war. Ashley (Ash) is a second son, an out of work soldier and a sometimes spy, whose brother supported Cromwell and married the women Ashley was to wed . At first he is almost unknowable having erected a barrier that keeps people at a distance. Francis becomes a Viscount on the loss of his father, his lands have been confiscated, and is largely estranged from his remaining family. He (one of my favourites} is witty, easy going, a bit of a rake but kind hearted and who has grown to be a much deeper person because of his experiences in the war and the friendships formed with other soldiers. Both are well educated and of the nobility , but living below the poverty line, barely scraping by. Paris life for them is restless, aimless and frustrating after years of brutal battles and heartbreaking losses. As dreary as it has been, they miss the action and adventure and camaraderie of the war. Forced to change lodgings for financial reasons, they move into shared housing with a beautiful actress, Athenais and her friend and mentor Pauline. These woman are from a totally different social structure and status. Athenais is just starting her career while Pauline, once a very famous actress who withdrew from the stage after an accident that left her with a facial scar and a limp . Pauline is practical, jaded by life and keeps her emotions rigidly in check while Athenais is naive, somewhat self-centred and often on an emotional rollercoaster. There is an immediate attraction between Athenais and Ash, but only coolness and distrust from Pauline to both men. As friendship and love grow and change their worlds, a sweet, poignant story unfolds with many twists and turns, further tragedy and an intrigue that will sweep you into the narrative. I love that Stella never rushes through her books or her character development and adds a wealth of historical facts to her outstanding plots. . I have read all of her books multiple times and they are so packed with content that each time I am entranced and learn new things. When I started these series I had only the foggiest recollection of this period of English history, the events leading up to it and its aftermath, but now I almost think I could teach a class on it. Stella’s research is so detailed and accurate that you are able to soak up the sights and sounds and smells and feel a part of it. Stella’s writing style, plot lines and characters are so compelling that you become invested from the very start.

Add to this the incredible narration of Alex Wyndham who literally inhabits her people and you have a must listen, stop all other activities experience. I have found that no matter how good a book is, a mediocre narrater can ruin it. Stella and Alex are a literary match made in heaven. Alex brings such passion, nuance and yes downright sexiness to the party that you will never be disappointed and never want to leave. Do not miss out on the experience, but a warning, one book and you will be hooked.


1 person found this helpful

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  • Cate F.
  • 21-03-22

Once the battles were over, I loved it

Stella Riley always pulls me into her stories with vivid characters and gripping plots. The mellifluous Alex Wyndham interprets the words and accents in a way that enhances this listener’s pleasure. I’ve never been intrigued by battles or wars and my mind wanders at the descriptions. However, I love Riley’s writing so much, I stick with with those scenes knowing the stories are complex, thrilling, and fun.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 08-06-22

Great performances on and off stage👏👏

Like of the other books in the series, I was sorry for it to see it end. History, romance coupled with mystery and suspense in a nice bundle. And of course Alex Wyndham’s narration made it all the more enjoyable.

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  • Barbara Lay
  • 01-06-22

Weak story line

Not up to previous books. Characters were not well developed and women were portrayed as weak and helpless or hard and unbending. Disappointing as Alex Wyndham is such a gifted narrator

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  • noagnes
  • 23-03-22

Love and intrigue in the English Civil War era

I love Stella Riley's historical series set during the English Civil War. In each book, the love story between strong and honorable if sometimes flawed characters intertwines with the historical reality: political intrigue, military campaigns and sieges, friends and families split by the political and religious conflicts. This book is set after King Charles I’s execution, as King Charles II tries to regain his kingdom but so far, he fails and lives in exile. The hero, Ashley Peverell, is a soldier involved in secret intelligence work who was introduced in Book 2 (The Garland of Straw). The heroine is Athenais de Galzain, a young actress in Paris. The secondary couple in the series is Francis Langley (also known to readers from the beginning of the series) and Pauline Fleury, another actress and Athenais’s mentor. Ashley gets involved in more and more secret intelligence work for the King,, Athenais is threatened by an evil Marquis who doesn’t take no for an answer, Francis, disturbed by his war experiences and by his family’s shattering (his extremely selfish sister Celia causes much pain before she gets her comeuppance) finds a new vocation in the theatre and tries to woo Pauline. Int he end, they all become embroiled in foiling an attempt on King Charles’s life. During these adventures, two shining and strong love relationships are formed which triumph in the end, after much suffering.
I especially enjoyed seeing beloved and honorable characters on both sides of the conflict (Ashley, Francis and their friend Nicholas among the Cavailers and Eden Maxwell on the Parliamentary side). The appearance of Cyrano de Bergerac was a welcome addition, and I enjoyed the description of the theatre life in the era.
However, I had trouble with the extreme dark violence in the story. I knew to expect it to some degree as the previous boks also contained some dark themes (revenge, betrayal, loss of pregnancy due to the actions of a villain, torture, unnecessary and cruel killing of the defeated by the victors etc.), but I think this book is not for the faint-hearted, and contains potential emotional triggers. On the whole, though, I think the strength, honour and kindness of the positive characters, their friendship, the love relationships, and the humour wins over the darkness and makes this story a satisfying experience even if an emotional rollercoaster.
The audio version is a shining testimony to the talent of Alex Wyndham, the long-time narrator of the author's historical romances. The many facets of the story - swashbuckling, war, politics, espionage, love, friendship, witch-hunt, theatre etc. - are displayed in his voice evocatively, richly illustrating character and emotions in a variety of situations. It is a treat to immerse myself in this book with this new audio edition, and I recommend it to all historical fiction and historical romance lovers.