We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up here >>

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Geoff Crump

An intriguing concept for a novel, written about a subject I’m not familiar with. Loved the idea of the book but found the authors tendency to concentrate on the characters rather than the historical or geographical context frustrating. Also found the portrayal of the English characters as brutish, lazy and unintelligent unnecessarily exaggerated.

All in all not a book I would recommend to anyone.

Susan Gosling

I started reading this book with some trepidation as it's not something I would have chosen to buy or read.

I have to say I really enjoyed reading it and was soon drawn into not wanting to put it down.

On researching Dartmoor prison and reading about it and the museum there it will be a place I visit next time I go to see my son in Cornwall!

The history of the book being based on a true story was fascinating and wasn't a war I was familiar with.

The characters faced such hardship in being taken prisoners of war and the segregation was not a pleasant subject but it needed to be written about.

A book written in a very creative and descriptive way. The connection with Romeo and Juliet was an added bonus to a very enjoyable story.

I would recommend this book for people to learn of a war in which little is known.

Vanessa Bassett

Ever wondered what happened to American Prisoners of War in the 19th century? Simon Mayo has written an interesting novel about a virtually unknown moment in our history.

A group of American sailors, taken prisoner during the Anglo American War, end up imprisoned on Dartmoor. It is 1815, the War is over and the novel deals with events in the prison before the repatriation of the prisoners. Tension runs high, the prison is segregated following the demands of the white Americans and the Black prisoners put on ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Mayo deals deftly with the known historical facts, weaving them into a fast moving, action packed narrative. Some of the characters are quite well developed but others are merely stereotypes. The only one of much interest was King Dick and I would have liked to know more about him. But he remains an enigma. I felt very little empathy for the other characters and did not really care what happened to them.

All in all, it is a very easy read, interesting from the historical point of view, and a novel that is very suitable for the holidays.

Graham Hall

A British Naval Officer was being shown a room full of pictures of naval engagements in Washington. His host brought him to a particular picture and the officer asked 'who were we fighting there'? The host replied, 'You'.

This book fills in what has been a gigantic hole in Anglo American history, namely the war of 1812. We are familiar with the war of independence almost half a century earlier. The early nineteenth century was all about the Napoleonic wars to most British people.

This story, based on fact and historical figures, gives a great insight into the aftermath of this war. Set in Dartmoor where the American prisoners of war were incarcerated the story covers the brutality of the time, both between British authority and prisoners and among the prisoners themselves. It brings into sharp focus the racial tensions of the time when black people were still suffering slave status.

The book is not, however, a documentary but imbues the account with the lives of real figures on both sides and their suffering. The action is fast paced and becomes impossible to put down as you approach the culmination which is breathtaking in its complexity but without losing any of the clarity.

Michael Olin

Dartmoor Prison was built in 1809 to house Frenchmen taken captured during the Napoleonic wars. It also served as a prison camp for American sailors taken prisoner in the War of 1812. This novel – based on actual events – deals with the several thousand Americans held there. News of the peace treaty between Britain and America reached Dartmoor on 31 December 1814. The book deals with events at the prison during the first four months of 1815, as the prisoners grew increasingly frustrated at the delay in their repatriation. This increased existing tensions in the prison. These tensions had a racial dimension: whilst black and white sailors served side-by-side in the American navy, at the request of white sailors, accommodation in Dartmoor was segregated.

That is the background to the story. Overlaying this was a black production of Romeo and Juliet, which included a burgeoning romance between the sailors playing the eponymous characters – one black and one white.

Tensions reached a climax with a mass escape attempt. Which resulted in what became known as the Massacre of Dartmoor.

The book is well-researched, competently written, and the characters are credible. A good read.