Today, I’m pleased to be part of the Blog Tour for Killing Beauties by Pete Langman and published by Unbound Digital. I would like to thank Anne Cater and Random Things Blog Tours for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book: Killing Beauties by Pete Langman
Synopsis from Goodreads
England, 1655. A secret society. Two women with one deadly plan. Following the brutal civil wars the country swelters under a cloud of paranoia, suspicion and the burgeoning threat of rebellion. With the fragile peace being won by Cromwell’s ever-efficient Secretary of State John Thurloe, the exiled king Charles Stuart sends two spies on a dangerous mission to wrest back the initiative. These spies are different, however: they are women. Their task? To turn Parliament’s spymaster into their unwitting accomplice. Killing Beauties is a dark tale of subterfuge, jealousy and betrayal.
It is sometimes said that women are written out of history, but often they are not yet written in. Killing Beauties is based on the true stories of two female spies from the 1650s and gives them the voice that only fiction can.
About the Author
Sometime painter and decorator, professional guitar slinger, university lecturer and cricketer, Pete’s been quite busy. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008.
He’s written for Prospect, the Independent, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and, most voluminously, Guitar and Bass Magazine. He was awarded a PhD in Renaissance Literature a few years back and his first book was a collection of essays on Jacobean Books in 2011, editing the great Randall McCloud, who went under two pseudonyms for the first time.
In 2013 this was followed by Slender Threads, the much-lauded (honestly) disquisition on early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and in 2014 the short story collection Black Box and The Country House Cricketer, longlisted for the MCC/Cricket Society book of the year.
His play, Shakespeare Must Die!, is featuring in a new writing festival in June, his community radio drama Made In Wycombe was broadcast in December.
He recently completed a novel, Elytra.
Killing Beauties is a novel of historical fiction based on the real life of Susan Hyde. The plot focuses on Susan’s work as a spy and undercover agent during the reign of Oliver Cromwell. Although Killing Beauties is a work of fiction, the author has done a great deal of historical research. One of the main references he used for this book was Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in c17th Britain by Nadine Akkerman.
My favorite aspect of this book is the world building. Langman brings the harsh conditions of 17th century London to life in a way that is vividly realistic. The reader could almost feel the grime of the city on their skin or smell the smoky air.
The action is definitely much more brutal than I was expecting. From the cover, I was expecting the book to be more of a historical romance. Some of the details about the violence are quite graphic- but that makes sense, considering the danger that real spies faced. As I read, I couldn’t help but think that the main characters reminded me of female versions of James Bond in petticoats. Definitely a fun experience.
I was riveted by the first half of the book, but my attention started to wander during the second half. I became a bit overwhelmed and confused by all the details related to the spying plot; however, I don’t think that’s the fault of the author. I think that is simply because I’m not familiar enough with the politics of this particular era in history. I learned a lot more about Cromwell’s London by reading this book.
I was also a fan of the way Langman brought Susan’s story to life. I enjoy books that bring to life forgotten characters of the past, especially if they are women. This book introduced me to a new aspect of one of my favorite periods of history. I would now like to read the nonfiction text by Akkerman that inspired it.
Note: I received a free digital copy of this book from Random Things Blog Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.