Book Review: Highwayman Ironside by Michael Arnold

This is not the first Michael Arnold novel I've read. His English Civil War Chronicles following the exploits of the Royalist soldier Stryker have turned up in my reading pile from time to time. Highwayman Ironside is much lighter in tone than these novels, but just as good.

The setting is 1655 during the Protectorate, a time after the Civil War when Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector and a period in history I know very little about other than it was a time of relative peace and Royalists were still paying the price of defeat.

Major Samson Lyle, a Parliamentarian deserter, has taken to the highway as an act of revenge against the New Parliament. He is assisted by his young ward, Bella; an ex-smuggler, Eustace Grumm, and a horse that suffers from what can only be described as equine traumatic stress disorder, making it more of a liability than an asset.

Among papers found in a strongbox taken from their latest victim is a letter concerning the movement of a Royalist prisoner from one prison to another. Setting this prisoner free is an opportunity to strike at the New Protectorate, but the only way to find out when the transfer will take place is for Lyle to attend a masquerade ball given by a prominent Parliamentarian and question one of the guests. A simple but daring plan that could put an end to Lyle's career as a highwayman should he be recognised.

This novella is an exceptional piece of writing and so much fun to read. An exciting and humourous start grabbed my attention immediately and the story held me captive through all of its three parts.

Highwayman Ironside is a classic adventure story, with the hint of a romance, close shaves, sword fights, chases and a hero bent on outwitting those who want to see him captured and punished.

I enjoyed this introduction to Major Samson Lyle and can't wait for the next installment. Michael Arnold states at the end of his historical note that "The Ironside Highwayman will ride again". Whether it is another novella or a full length novel remains to be seen.

I received this ebook for free from Endeavour Press as a participant in their first ever Virtual Historical Fiction Festival to be held in April, 2016.

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