|Publisher||Whitefox Publishing Ltd|
|Date Published||23 February 2016|
Camille and the Lost Diaries of Samuel Pepys
Bawdy Restoration England is threatened by a renewal of the war between King and Parliament. A chance meeting between the beautiful Camille, a fugitive French actress and Royal advisor Samuel Pepys leads to an improbable love story in an atmosphere of political intrigue and danger.
Narrator Camille Lefebre is a strong lead, but shares the billing with Charles II’s secretary of the Navy Samuel Pepys, diarist, irascible rogue, schemer – and a man with a huge appetite for life. Camille, the daughter of a famous English actress, is brought up in the beautiful Perigord in south west France. She is totally bilingual and because of the physical and mental problems of her twin brother, a tragic almost Dickensian figure, trained and skilled in arts no well brought-up young lady should know!
Pursuing her own stage career, she is forced by a by-law banning women from the stage to appear as a male ‘female impersonator’ and adopts her brother’s name and clothing to become to the toast of the Paris theatre. She is forced to flee after killing a bullying young aristocrat in self defence and seeks her mother’s family in London, where a chance meeting with Pepys and his friend, the scatological poet and rakehell, John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, takes all their lives on a different path.
England is at a crossroads. Charles may be king, but a powerful Parliamentary faction want him to take the same route to the execution block as his father. A second civil war threatens. The King charges Pepys with the negotiation of a secret treaty with the French which will strengthen his position and he and Camille, who has become the increasingly short-sighted civil servant’s secretary/companion are plunged into a world of secrets, plots and danger.
Their growing relationship, seen through Camille’s eyes, is the heart of this carefully constructed political thriller, full of a sense of time and place and with a nice balance of humour and sadness. Camille is never afraid to say what she thinks and there is plenty of well-paced, plausible and exciting action.
Bob Marshall-Andrews, who writes with fluency, great observation and wit, would have fitted perfectly into Pepys’ role – and given his own record, would have been quite at home in the politics and scandals of the time. Perhaps he shows a little too much sympathy for the ageing diarist and philanderer and possibly there is a little too much namedropping of famous historical figures, but taken all round this is a superbly written, rich and entertaining story.
Even the ending, which a harsh critic might suggest was weak, is really the only possible outcome. This is as good an adventure thriller, with its variety of relationships, backgrounds and motivations, as you’ll find – and a thoroughly convincing and enjoyable read.
Reviewed 26 November 2016 by John Cleal