disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned for the purpose of review
January 2022 saw the publication of The Cornish Captive by Nicola Pryce through Corvus. This is the sixth novel in the series and one I’ve been eagerly awaiting. Set in Cornwall during the eighteenth century you are transported to a different time, meeting characters old and new. If you’ve not read the previous books in the series, then don’t worry, as The Cornish Captive stands on its own two feet and if you like historical fiction then this is one for you too.
It’s May 1800, France is still in chaos after the downfall of the monarchy and French prisoners of war are still held in English jails. In Pendrissick Madhouse on Bodmin Moor, we meet a distraught young woman, named by others as Elizabeth Cooper, but she knows herself that she is Madeleine Pelligrew, the French-born aristocrat, former mistress of Pendenning Hall. Madeleine had been declared insane some fourteen years previously and over the years she has been passed from one madhouse to another every couple of years. Each time she has moved the conditions become worse but she hopes that one day she will be found and the truth will be told.
She believes that Sir Charles Cavendish and his steward Phillip Randall murdered her husband and have arranged for her incarceration and that Cavendish has stolen everything that they had once owned. When Marcel Rablais arrives to take Madeleine away, she thinks that he is just another man sent by Cavendish to move her to another hellhole, but she soon discovers that he is a friend of her brother’s and he knows her for who she really is. Madeleine ensures that the young girl, Rowan, who has looked after her in the madhouse leaves with them and she’s determined to uncover the truth about Cavendish and the fate of herself and her late husband.
Madeleine takes on the persona of Mrs Barnard, sister-in-law to Mr Barnard (Rablais) and mother to Rowan. They share a coach to Fosse with a French prisoner on parole, Captain Pierre de la Croix and a silk pedlar, Thomas Pearce. She is unrecognisable as the fine lady she once was, her head is bald and her face is covered in scabs and sores, her mind has been taken to the very brink, but Madeleine has inner steel and a determination to get to the truth. But she must learn to trust people once more, and that’s nothing that comes easily.
The Cornish Captive had me captivated from the start and you could really feel for Madeleine as she discovers that her husband wasn’t really the man she’d thought him to be and that his love for her wasn’t as true as she’d believed. As the story unfolds we watch this young woman rebuild her life, see her body and mind mend and look on as she follows numerous twists and turns in her quest to bring Cavendish and his cronies to justice. It also makes you think about the women at that time who were wrongly imprisoned as insane by men who wanted them out of their way for their own gains, and how women just didn’t have any rights. Scary but true.
It’s another beautifully written book, with a wealth of colourful characters and one that leaves you feeling satisfied that loose ends have been tied up and that Madeleine can finally live a peaceful and fulfilled life, surrounded by love, as she deserves.
I’m taking part in a blog tour to promote The Cornish Captive and you can find details of others reviewers below.