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England 1646 The Civil War is raging and society turned upside down What should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn and Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell the only home she has ever known On the road to London Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a deserting soldier the battle scarred and troubled Joseph But when she reaches the city it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge Lizzie Poole beautiful and charismatic enthrals the vulnerable Ruth who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world But in these troubled times Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict to the trial of a kingBased on the real figure of the extraordinary Elizabeth Poole The Crimson Ribbon conjures a mesmerising story of two women’s obsession superstition and hope


10 thoughts on “The Crimson Ribbon

  1. says:

    I was utterly enthralled from the very first line of this novel ‘Sometimes death comes like an arrow sudden and swift an unforseen shot from an unheeded bow’ THE CRIMSON RIBBON is set in England in 1646 in the midst of the English Civil War Oliver Cromwell leads the army of the people against a tyrannical king witches are hunted down the skies are full of evil portents A young woman named Ruth Flowers is on the run trying to find a safe place for herself She is helped by an enigmatic young soldier named Joseph but – bruised by the encounter takes refuge in the house of an extraordinary young woman named Elizabeth Poole Her beauty and kindness ensnare Ruth and she uses an old charm to tie herself to her new mistress But Elizabeth is as troubled as she is charismatic and – as the King of England finds himself imprisoned and on trial for his life Ruth finds herself drawn into danger intrigue witchcraft and treason I found myself utterly unable to put this book down constantly surprised and constantly rewarded This is an astonishingly assured debut title from Katherine Clements and I’m really hoping she has stories like this one up her sleeve


  2. says:

    This novel is set during the turbulent times of the English Civil War and begins on May Day 1646 when the mother of Ruth Flowers is hung as a witch Like many other women of that time Ruth’s mother was a healer She worked in the house of Oliver Cromwell but the master was away and there was no protection to be found when a mob forms after a birth goes wrong Ruth is forced from the only household she has ever known and has to flee for her life armed only with a letter of introduction to the Poole family in LondonOn the way to London the young unprotected girl meets up with a soldier who has deserted from the army and is also on his way to London to carry on the fight with words Joseph Oakes offers her an uneasy alliance but she accepts his company through necessity In London Ruth joins the household of Master Poole and his daughter Lizzie as a servant; while Joseph goes to work for a printer Elizabeth Poole is a real historical character – a woman who claimed to have visions and who argued for the life of Charles I to be spared This book weaves the story of her role in the trial of the King along with various other storylines – Joseph’s love for Ruth Ruth’s love for Lizzie women’s precarious roles in society and the threat of being labelled a witch healing religion and Oliver Cromwell’s family Although the themes in this novel are interesting ones I really struggled in parts with this book From the first there seemed too many coincidences Ruth herself was naturally secretive but both Joseph and Lizzie seemed too trusting and willing to impart dangerous information There seemed no real reason for Joseph to trust Ruth or to help her or for Lizzie to be so intimate with Ruth so uickly Once in London characters seemed to run into each other too freuently and unrealistically I felt it would have been better for the author to have concentrated on the historical aspect of the storyline without getting bogged down with so many unconvincing personal relationships Overall this was an enjoyable read but I never cared enough about the characters to be particularly moved Also I felt it was a mistake to dramatically change the stories of any real historical characters which without intending to give any spoilers to the plot the author does Lastly I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review


  3. says:

    The opening of ‘The Crimson Ribbon’ is stunningIn an English village as the Civil War is drawing to a close a child is born The child is dead and deformed and the mother tries to spare his mother the pain of seeing him but her pain and her grief make her insistent Her reaction turns the community against the midwife; they claim that the blame lies with her that she must be a witch and that must be the reason for the present tragedy and for other troublesThe fear is palpable The fear of the community and the fear of the widwife and her young daughterWhen the night is over the midwife is dead and her terrified grief stricken daughter is hiding at the property where she and her mother were in serviceThe home of Oliver CromwellThe portrayal of those event was compelling visceral and horribly horribly believableIt whetted my appetite for the story to comeRuth – the midwife’s daughter – knew that she couldn’t stay The master of the house was away but the nistress was uite clear she had to go and she had to go immediately before the mob threatened her household And so Ruth was sent on her way with a little money and an address in London where she would find workA young soldier named Joseph – on the way to London for very different reasons – helps Ruth when she runs into trouble on the road She saw that he was concerned for her but she was still fearful; unwilling to let her guard down because she was fearful that the allegations of witchcraft would follow herThe address that Ruth had been given took her to the home of a merchant A haberdasher She became a maid there and she was soon in thrall to the daughter of the house Elizabeth – Lizzie – Poole a beautiful charismatic free thinking young woman Ruth used one of the charms from her mother’s precious book to bind Lizzie to her and it seemed to workThe story then follows Ruth who struggles to escape her past; Lizzie who is determined to have her voice heard; and Joseph who has become a pamphleteer trying to win the war of wordsIt’s a story of danger intrigue passion witchcraft treason There were some interesting and unexpected twists and I was so caught up in the story and the atmosphere that it took we a long time to notice that the boo was written in the present tenseThe final days of the Civil War; the streets of London the turbulent unpredictable times; the state of the national that would allow an anointed King to be executed; that was all so wonderfully vividly aliveAnd so at first was the relationship between Ruth and Lizzie But there was a point at which the story tumbled into unbelievability The story lost its hold and then I began to uestion other things the likelihood of that relationship in the first place one or two events that were less than credible‘The Crimson Ribbon’ was a wonderful entertainment from start to finish And it was a wonderful finish set against the background of the terrible execution But I had hoped for a little Or maybe a should say something a little different There was a little too much passion and romance a little too much of the story of the characters and not uite enough of the story of the timesI would have loved to know a little of the story of the pamapleteers I loved the story of Ruth and Lizzie but I would have loved it if it had been a little restrained And I was concerned with the liberties that the author took with the story of Lizzie Poole who was a real woman who had lived and breathed The author acknowledged them but they were too significantBut I think that maybe confirmed the type of story that she wanted to write a romance a drama an entertainment with solid historical underpinnings As that ‘The Crimson Ribbon’ worked very very well it’s just that I can’t uite shake the feeling that it could have been should have been something


  4. says:

    DNF at about half the book It became apparent in this point that the author was interested in the LGBT issues in the book than in developing the characters the richness of the historical background or the plausibility of the plot A shame since the beginning was uite promising


  5. says:

    A highly enjoyable romp set in the last days of the Civil War with a for once or less positive portrayal of Oliver Cromwell and a refreshing lack of glamorising of the Royalist sideThe times and the history are beautifully detailed the end days of the Civil War make a turbulent unpredictable background for the tale of Ruth Flowers and Elizabeth Poole a pair of very different women whose affairs become linked by fortune love and lust the girl on girl action constantly alluded to is never detailed if that worries you The story opens as the war is drawing to its bitterly fought close King Charles is about to be tried for treason an air of political freedom sweeps through London and newly free presses are churning out pamphlets in every shade of politics from diggers and levellers to ardent Royalists demanding safety for the king These freedoms as we or anyone at all familiar with the history know will be sadly short lived the Puritans are on the rise and Ruth and Elizabeth find themselves on the sharp end of the change of mood as 'witches' are hunted down and hanged across the land Beautifully described and imaginatively plotted the story rolls easily across this chaotic backdrop with plenty of switches and twists and changes of scene that are as entertaining as they are unexpected A great read and highly recommended


  6. says:

    I'm really torn rating this 35 4 stars The Crimson Ribbon is not what I thought it was going to be but I found it intensely readable There's tragedy friendship passion secrets and misplaced loyalties among other things that add up to a very well written book It is uniuely written and kept my attention Ruth Flowers is our main storyteller and is a creation of fiction Many of the characters including Lizzie Poole and Oliver Cromwell are real people from the 17th century British civil war era I didn't like some of the things Ruth did or allowed to happen but her story was very interesting I wonder if we will get a seuel? I could see it happening and would definitely read it There is an informative author's note historical note at the end of the book that I found very helpful This is a side of the King Charles Cromwell saga that I'd never heard of and found intriguing I will look out for works by Katherine Clements in the future


  7. says:

    The English Civil War is an era of British history that I've only started to learn than the bare bones about in the past few years Reading The Bleeding Land and its seuel Brother's Fury by Giles Kristian and some of Andrew Swanston's Thomas Hill novels showed me that these decades in the middle of the seventeenth century were pivotal in Britain's history and created massive changes to British society and left deep scars on its populace It's a fascinating era and Katherine Clements' debut novel The Crimson Ribbon set in perhaps some of the most dramatic and traumatic years of the Civil War couldn't fail but catch my interest when it came through the mail And though it took me over a year to read it I'm glad I made the time because Clements weaves a stunning tale Ruth Flowers is the narrator and protagonist of the story Her narrative interweaves her personal journey learning to accept her heart and laying her ghosts to rest with the greater story of the final years of King Charles I's life Ruth's story revolves around her mistress Lizzie Poole who takes in Ruth after she loses her mother and her place in the Cromwell household in one night Ruth transfers her love and loyalty from her mother to Lizzie and comes to love her mistress deeply Yet Ruth needs to learn to stand on her own to depend on herself and to be her own woman Clements allows Ruth to grow and develop in a beautiful manner slowly gaining agency and letting the balance of power between the two women grow eual and in some ways tip over in Ruth's favourLizzie is a captivating character both to Ruth and the reader yet she has a dangerous edge to her There is something ominous to Lizzie's brilliance; her light can blind and burn and once sucked into her orbit it is hard to leave her Throughout the novel the reader is confronted with hints that Lizzie isn't the saint Ruth thinks she is and it is this contradiction between Lizzie as saint and Lizzie as sinner that creates much of the tension in Ruth and Lizzie's friendship In fact Ruth's wilful ignorance was uite frustrating at times Lizzie's dangerous edge is also expressed in her radical ideas While The Crimson Ribbon tells the story of those on the side of Parliament set against the King Lizzie's views oscillate from too radically egalitarian even for the rebels to too Royalist to not be considered a traitor The numerous brands of freethinkers portrayed in the novel were fascinating and Lizzie's story showed just how dangerous these new ideas could beThough the story very much focuses on Ruth's relationship to Lizzie Clements manages to infuse a lot of the politics of the time into the novel as well Told from the point of view of those of the lower classes The Crimson Ribbon makes a clear case of why they might rebel against the King and his court The ordinary man wants to have an eual chance and an eual say in how his life and country is run She also manages to show that Cromwell's rebellion was just as hard if not harder on the general populace as it was on the ruling classes In a way Ruth's relationship with Lizzie mirrors the political developments of the war They go from a traditional mistress servant relationship to a eual friendship and in the end it flips completely around with Ruth being the one 'in power' And it is only in this middle part that they are at peace and happyIn Ruth's tale we also have a juxtaposition of blazing passion versus steady love Lizzie sweeps Ruth off her feet from the first moment Ruth lays eyes on her It is the kind of love that is celebrated in countless power ballads and romance novels yet it is a love that burns flares and hurts To accentuate this Clements gives us Joseph the soldier who travels with Ruth at the start of the novel and who weaves his way in and out of her life throughout the novel Their friendship is slow and steady and while not always easy or without hurt it is a constant Joseph is steadfast and loyal and it is his unwavering regard that lets Ruth discover her own wants and desires and to make her own choices for the futureKatherine Clements' The Crimson Ribbon is a powerful story of friendship and love set in an era that challenged all preconceived notions of how life was supposed to be There are numerous layers to the narrative and so much to unpack that I've not managed to touch on half of it in this review This fascinating novel of a country in turmoil of a girl set adrift in the world and of how she manages to reach safe haven in the end managed to capture my imagination and I was spell bound until its final pagesThis book was provided for review by the publisher


  8. says:

    COULD THIS BE a lesbian As Meat Loves Salt? If so sign me up and ready my grave


  9. says:

    Excellent historical fiction Highly recommended


  10. says:

    45Got nothing done today as I had to finish this Enthralling