July 11, 2015, Amazon review of the Wessex Turncoat by American historical fiction author, Paul Bennett
The research that went into this book is evident from the squire-peasant relationship, the way of life as a soldier, the topography and battle scenes. When you combine the scholarship involved with an easy reading style and an engaging story line with enough surprises to keep the reader happy and guessing, you have the makings of a enjoyable read that you may even learn from.
June 19, 2015 Alaric Reviews: The Wessex Turncoat
When you submit a manuscript to an agent or just publish it for the joy of the audience you know those first pages had better impress. And that leads to the inquiry, “What is impressive?”
Is it teasing bits of plot being revealed? A husband climbing a rickety chair, while his wife is watching, holding a noose ready for him? Or a cavalcade of evil knights chasing down a barefooted dwarf? Possibly. I am sure something like this would immediately get the reader guessing and turning pages.
But there are other ways to get you hooked.
I appreciate a slow start. Heck, I do that as well in mine. I simply and greatly enjoy being slowly and subtly immersed into a world of past times, and The Wessex Turncoat does a superb job at that. I enjoy a novel that paints you a picture so vivid, you imagine being there. In this book you open the first page and enter the story of a very ordinary young man with a very ordinary life. It is not an account of scheming nobles or struggling queens. It relates events in the lives of working class men and by gods, it is well told. What we as readers often do not seem to grasp is that great tales grow from the most common lives led by the most plain men and women on earth. They eat simply, dress modestly, speak as well as their education allows and smell of smoke and manure. And so, here we have Aaron Mew, a craftsman’s naïve apprentice who will end up a deserter in America, a father and a very different man from the boy on the first page. He surely is no genius. He is sturdy and reliable, though with the familiar weaknesses we all recognize in ourselves.
What we dive into just makes you want to take a soft seat in a silent part of the house, with a cat prowling the corners and the clock ticking away, unheeded. Just as I loved Henryk Sienkiewicz for his immensely comfortable transition to a past world without any imminent deaths and sorrows, I liked the simple beginning and calm style throughout The Wessex Turncoat. I can’t stress enough how much I loved the expertise and the countless research hours put into each and every page, as well as the quality of the dialogue of working class soldiers, so I thank the author for teaching me a host of new words from the past. Serjeant was the first of them. I enjoyed the writing style and found very few errors and issues with editing.
This novel is quite straightforward and I will not go into the details to spare you most of the spoilers. A young man called Aaron Mew gets to see the world after his naiveté and plain inexperience leads him astray. He is cheated, robbed, clobbered and in the end, finds himself in the king’s colors and taking part in the doomed attempt to put down the American Revolution.
If I must find something to growl about, then perhaps a bit of intrigue might have kept us guessing. We would have loved a bit of betrayal and a worthy, desperate cause to make young Master Mew a believer in something. He finds himself schooled by a brutal sergeant, hated by a host of unkind personalities of various ranks, and is befriended by a very practical lot of scoundrels. The characters are fairly easy to understand; you have seen them all previously.
This is not all bad, of course. I love the characters. All are well crafted, even if I have known them for decades. Rev is the obvious favorite in the company; his cool head, and practical nature is instantly likeable. Kemp is the bad seed, but also the simplest of the many tests that Aaron has to pass in order to grow into his boots. The hardships of the revolution did give me some new revelations, as did the battle, even if I have delved into the era quite a bit. Also, the ending is enjoyable. While the 62nd Regiment is mauled terribly in the main event, there is an opportunity hidden there for Mew and in the end, he takes it. There is a woman involved, of course, and we get to enjoy the simple human fact that from hardship grows life.
I would definitely recommend this to any lover of historical fiction and look forward to reading more from the author. With the level of research he seems to engage in, I should not hold my breath for a book to appear in my Kindle any time soon, perhaps, but I will definitely read anything he types out.
Apr 21, 2015 Robert Southworth rated it 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads
Novels depicting military life within the 18th century are relatively scarce and coupled with the blurb my interest was as they say pricked. The author was kind enough to provide a copy of the paperback, which enables me to provide a review for the complete book, both interior and exterior. As I eagerly unwrapped the packaging, I am it has to be said a little over excitable when faced with the prospect of discovering the writings of a fellow author. First impressions were not a disappointment; the book is of a size that the reader will feel confident in completing before drawing their old age pension. I confess that I find the habit, which some authors have of writing novels that are equal in density to that of a London taxi, slightly annoying. It often means that they are writing for writing sake and are attempting to write an epic that Tolstoy would be proud. Happily, the author has provided a novel that would be suitable for reading at home or on that daily commute to work. The cover was functional, placing the writings firmly in the era in which the author intends to take the reader. Personally, I would have preferred a cover with a tad more drama. It’s only a small point, but if you want readers to proudly display your book on their bookcase, then it should stand out and catch the eye. That is not to mention the marketing possibilities, authors may be loathed to admit it, but first impressions do count. The novel itself centres on the trials and exploits of a young blacksmith apprentice, Aaron Mew. A young man still in his teens and formative years. Through a mix of naivety and the brutal dishonesty of others, he finds himself in the uniform of King. The family that he holds dear to his heart are unaware of his predicament. Aaron may be the centre of the books focus but there are many others characters both factual and fictional for the reader to find delight. Personally, my favourite is Rev. An intelligent and pious man serving alongside many who are both lacking his education and moral fortitude. The characters within the book are not overly complex. The good guys tend to remain good and the bad guys, well they just seem to be compelled to make young Master Mew’s life a misery. That is enough spoilers from me; the reader will need to grab himself a copy for the finer detail. As for the experience of reading Mr Wills novel. Any reader will instantly realise the amount of painstaking research that the author has undertaken. He doesn’t rely on guess work and uses his knowledge to garnish his story with great effect. Whether it is the life of a blacksmith’s apprentice or the inner workings of military life, the detail and research never falters. Those who delight in learning from not only factual but fictional books will find this novel hard to resist. The story is of a certain speed and that helps the reader digest the detail that graces its pages. The plot is believable, if sometimes a little drawn out, but succeeds in grabbing the imagination and it is hard not to have empathy for the main character. Away from the characters, the author describes the landscapes with skill, so as to create vivid pictures for the reader. There is a healthy smattering of factual personalities, and the book generates enough interest in those characters to compel the reader to learn more long after the book is closed for the final time. However, the real skill shown by the author is how he has managed to capture the very essence of the era. I would gladly rate the book 4 out of 5; it shows the author to be one of real promise. I look forward to reading more of the author’s work.
Jill M, 25 January 2015
Thank you so much for your fabulous book – “The Wessex Turncoat”. I just could not put it down! I have now passed it on to Michael. I am becoming quite a fan of yours!! Please let me know when your next book is published.
This is the story of Aaron Mew, a teenager who ends up enlisted in the British Army and sent overseas to fight the rebellious Americans. There is a ton of historical details woven into this story, which were fascinating. I particularly enjoyed reading about places that are familiar to me, such as Fort Ticonderoga. The main character was quite likeable and there was plenty of action throughout the story.
Sept 29, 2014, Jo Barton
Aaron Mew is a naive seventeen year old when he is viciously uprooted from his simple life in a small Hampshire village. Forcibly conscripted in the ragamuffin army of King George III, Aaron is about to embark with the 62nd Regiment of Foot, in an adventure which will take him into a conflict far away from the land he calls home and everything he considers safe.
Based on factual historical evidence, the complex history of America’s Revolutionary War is described well. The author has a good way with words, and is able to describe army scenes with an authenticity which relies much on good research, and a keen eye for the finer details of historical accuracy. There is such a keen interest in the progress of characters as they flit into and out of the story that they very soon become real in the mind, and take on personalities of their own. Aaron is an interesting protagonist, and it is interesting to watch how he makes the transition from boy to man.Overall, I thought this was an interesting book about a period in American history of which I knew very little. The sights, sounds and smells of eighteenth century army life are brought to life in a believable way, and as Aaron progresses on his journey, I felt like I had travelled every step of the way with him.
An event in history I knew relatively little about but my appetite has certainly been whetted by The Wessex Turncoat.From Hampshire, England, to Hampshire, USA, this is the story of Aaron, an apprentice blacksmith, who having ‘taken the King’s shilling’ and survived ‘training’ at the hands of the bully that is Serjeant Granville finds himself a somewhat reluctant soldier in King George III’s 62nd Regiment of Foot.Based on historical fact, this is a fascinating read packed full of the minutest historical detail.
Whilst books with so much attention to detail can seem a little text bookish in this instance the authors use of powerful narrative and descriptions really does bring to life the events, the people, the sights and smells of those conscripted into this doomed army in such a way as to make it a compelling read, Aaron and his fellow soldiers, a motley crew of the educated, ruffians and even felons, a remarkable cast of characters.
Copyright: Tracy terry @ Pen and Paper.
Disclaimer: Read and reviewed on behalf of the author, I was merely asked for my honest opinion, no financial compensation was asked for nor given