Salvation is a historical fiction set in 16th century England under the reign of the first Queen of Elizabeth, during the time when there was tension between England and Spain. This is also the backdrop of the story as a lot of historical relevance to what happened is described in this novel.
Meg Stuckton is married off by her parents to an older rich man instead of the man she wanted to marry, Tom Goodluck, who she now has an affair with. Tom’s colleague Ralph, who doesn’t seem to like Tom for professional reasons, wants Tom gone. To his advantage, Ralph knows about his affair with Meg and threatens to use it against him if he doesn’t leave so Ralph can get what he wants. This poses problems for both him and Meg. As Tom leaves Salisbury to protect Meg’s reputation, his employer are found dead in his house… the same evening he was at the house and because Tom ran away, the police assumes he had something to do with it. It also doesn’t count in his favor that his friend, who he helped back to the house, can testify that Tom was there that evening and will now be charged with murder.
Tom meets Alexandre Lamotte who he ends up working for as a playwriter, but Lamotte is also a spy for a man called Walsingham – who works for the Queen. During the time that he is working at the theater, Tom gets arrested for the murder on his boss, for which he will be executed. With the help of Lamotte, he finds himself ‘comfortable’ in prison from which he later escapes. Meanwhile, Meg left her husband and took her maid with her to warn Tom, but little did she know that during the time she was looking for him, he was in prison. I kept reading towards whether they will find each other again, because at one point they almost did…
The non-romance-novel reader in me was surprised at how much I wanted to know if Meg and Tom will see each other again and I was a bit upset when both of them, respectively, decided to “give up” because they were convinced the other forget about them. Meg was a strong character, I liked that she was able to handle her “downfall” as lady of the mansion to a normal woman who does others’ washing. She handled it with grace. There are parts of the novel I didn’t enjoy reading and that was the violence, such as the descriptions of public executions, and I found that there was so much historical detail that it overshadowed what I wanted to read more about – Meg and Tom. Harriet Steel’s research on 16th century England was obviously well done, there is lots of historical detail in the story and I’m pretty sure that if you love reading about that period, you will enjoy reading this book.
For some more historical fiction reads on 16th century, see my review of The Altarpiece.