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A Splendid Defiance

Narrated by: Alex Wyndham
Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Fiction, Sagas
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For two years, England has been in the grip of Civil War. In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans. Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable. The key to both the fate of the castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance...but will it be enough?

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the first English Civil War.

©2012 Stella Riley (P)2016 Stella Riley

Critic Reviews

“A rich sweeping and instantly involving tale ... a rare pleasure to narrate.” - Alex Wyndham

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Splendid Read

Loved It! Amazing story set during The English Civil War with great, characters - all interwoven within Historial Fact - Highly Recommended

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  • Felicia J
  • 08-01-2017

A rare reader's gift

Stella Riley gave me a rare gift. She wholly enveloped me in the world she created, so much so I returned to my own with a jolt, finding it hard to believe Justin and Abigail were not real, and their comrades in the Banbury garrison my friends.

A Splendid Defiance offers so much. A realistic and expertly drawn setting based in a real place and time. Laughter, sorrow and exquisite joy. Most of all, a slow-building, believable romance that never felt contrived. It may have been the most touching romance I've ever read.

Like Justin, I wanted to put my arms around Abby to protect her from the familial bullies who made her life a living hell. I rejoiced to see her blossom under his friendship and caring. As for Justin, I wanted to shake him to make him realize what was happening right in front of him. But I could forgive his obstinacy, because I saw, like Abby, the honor and decency in him. I mourned for the security and warmth he lost in childhood, and cheered him as he learned to let down his guard and welcome love.

I am so glad to have experienced this story on audio. Alex Windham did what the best narrators do: Used a sympathetic understanding of the characters and text to bring them vividly alive.

Justin and Abigail will forever live in my heart, and I know I will return to this book time and time again. The chance to become lost in a fictional world is one of the most important reasons I read, but it is the rare author who can sweep me away so completely. Stella Riley is a writer to cherish.

19 people found this helpful

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  • BJ's Reviews
  • 26-02-2017

5 Story/Narration Stars!

5 "When Friendship/Love Sparks Amid Enemy War Lines" Stars for the Story and Narration!

What a fantastic listen! From the history, character development, and the eventual romance, to the spectacular narration, A Splendid Defiance is a must listen for historical romance enthusiasts!

What a treasure. Once I started this listen, I could not put down my headphones. I have loved each and every one of Ms. Riley's books that I have listened to (which includes all 3 books in the Rockcliffe Series). However, this book had a slightly different feel, as it had a greater focus on the history and political influences that impacted the story. As an American, I have to admit that I have never had the chance to study or read up on the English Civil War (circa the 1640s), so at first I was a little concerned that I might not understand the background. But Ms. Riley does such a stellar job of laying down the framework for this story, that not only was I not lost, but I actually feel like I learned a lot about the various political influences (including the Puritans, Parliamentarians, and Royalists) that led to the English Civil War.

For historical romance listeners who prefer the romance to the history, I will say to stick this one through. The first half of the book or so is mostly focused on the historical background and information regarding the background of the hero, heroine, and various secondary characters. However, don't despair, the romance will come. In fact, I felt that this intricate, highly developed background actually made the strength and genuineness of the connection that ultimately develops between the hero and heroine that much stronger and believable in the end.

The story takes place in the town of Branbury. During the English Civil War this town while inhabited by many people of Parliamentarian political inclinations, including some extreme religious fanatics (Puritans), had a castle that had been captured by the Royalists who supported King Charles I. For years during the English Civil War, the Royalist military men inhabiting the castle and the people of the town with pro-Parliamentarian political views had to find a way to co-exist. A factor, which as Ms. Riley points out in her story, sometimes included their reluctant engagement in trade and other matters even as they ultimately leered at one another and would have been happy to spy and cause havoc on the other sides' efforts in the war.

The heroine, Abigail (Abby) Radford is the daughter and sister of a Puritan merchant family. Her brother Jonas and his wife, Rachel, seem to despise Abby for her freewheeling ways (which has no basis in reality other than their own extremely conservative religious views). Fortunately for Abby she also has a brother, Samuel, who champions her cause whenever he is able to. Then there is Abby's mother who also lives with the family, but seems unable to reign in Justin's and Rachel's harsh treatment of Abby.

The hero, Justin Ambrose, is a captain in the Royalist army that is stationed in the castle in Branbury. He has his own share of family woes which are slowly revealed, but for the most part seems content in his role as a military officer. So much so, that he has resigned himself to making this a lifelong career--one which means that he will likely never marry. He is generally well liked and popular, including with the ladies, even if there is no special one that has caught his eye. This includes our heroine, who in true Puritan style, doesn't even prove memorable enough for Justin to remember following their first meeting.

However, eventually he comes to know Abby from his visits to the shop where her family sells cloth and other materials. At first, Justin's sole purpose in engaging Abby is to needle her brother Jonas-- who he greatly despises for his beliefs and general unlikeable manner. Justin hopes to instigate some strife in Jonas' home by teaching Abby some self-confidence through their clandestine meetings. However, as time passes and the war efforts escalate, their relationship evolves into a true friendship.

Can war enemies ever truly become friends? Moreover, even if they wish it, neither Abby's choices nor Justin's are strictly their own. In Abby's case, her life is determined by the conservative whims of her brother's and in Justin's by the needs of the military. Is any sort of future possible under the circumstances?

Alex Wyndham delivers a flawless narration as always. Mr. Wyndham is just such a pleasure to listen to. Not only does he have a captivating voice, but he also has great range in the characters he creates and enacts. You can feel the mood of the scene from his voice, and never have any trouble differentiating the speaker. Moreover, for a male narrator with such a deep baritone voice, he is remarkably gifted in his facility in creating believable female voices.

Additionally, as this is an ACX title, I think it is worth noting that the production quality of the audiobook is also top-notch and on par with productions by the big audiobook publishers.

All in all, I highly recommend A Splendid Defiance. Particularly if you enjoy learning history along with your HEA, then this story is sure to be fulfilling in every way!

Source: Review copy provided for review purposes.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Lady Wesley
  • 26-04-2017

Stella and Alex are a Stellar Combination

If you enjoy a good dose of history (here the English Civil War) with your heart-rending romance, then you can't do better than listening to Alex Wyndham's magnificent performance of this book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • sara
  • 20-04-2017

:)

the narrarator was fantastic and did all the characters voices amazingly. the story was sweet and moving. would definitely recommend this book

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  • Bethany Williams
  • 22-08-2018

Absolute torment and perfection!!!!!

This is my 2nd favorite book by Stella Riley. (The first being The Parfit Knight) . The journey you take with this pair as they step through the briers of each of their lives is so lovely. Each has their own shadows and secrets with everything from jealously to ugly relatives that snip and bite at them tearing them heart and head at a time. From unfamiliarity and disdain to a quiet friendship that comforts them and finally to a love that can never be. This relationship is classic. He is honorable to the point it is painful and she cant help but love him. I have to admit (and to use a new term) the slooooow burn of this was absolute torment and perfection. The detail as to the era and environment is crafted so well. Stella Riley tells a story so well that you feel you are there in a tiny part of the heart of each of the characters no matter who they are and you feel with them as they evolve . Few authors have made me cry with heart ache and joy as this one. I can not recommend this author or book highly enough.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Babs
  • 21-07-2018

A new favorite!

It's a sweet moment when you just finished a book that you know you'll come back to over ant over again. I loved the story throughout. I only wish there was an epilogue.

I'll admit that I'm kinda biased towards female narrator's, but Alex Wyndham truly surprised me. I cannot think of a better narrator for this book. He'll forever be the voice of Justin, my new love.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Maine Knitter
  • 03-05-2017

Not my favorite Stella Riley book but still good

This was good. It kept my interest. I did have a bit of a problem keeping track of the characters at first, specifically the combatants.

The narration was great! An extra star for Alex Wyndham. The different accents were good.

I probably wouldn't read/listen to this again but I don't regret reading it.

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  • Cate F.
  • 23-12-2016

Brilliant narrator, Beautiful Story, Best of 2016

The slow unrolling of this love story was perfect for the coming together of two very different individuals. While I am a lifelong history buff, I have never paid much attention to the period of the British Civil Wars. They make an exciting backdrop and add depth to the tale of the obstacles encountered by Abigail and Justin on their path toward HEA. I was completely engaged by A Splendid Defiance. Stella Riley's intelligent and perceptive book was interpreted perfectly by the brilliant narrator, Alex Wyndham.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Danáe
  • 24-06-2020

Lovely narration, but...

I quite enjoyed Alex Wyndham’s reading; he brought diversity to each character which I enjoyed thoroughly. The story itself however is a bit of a bore. The relationship between Abigail, her family and the later Bairns, was so oppressive and drawn out. The scenes with Justin and Abigail were sweet, but too few and too far between, and often more bitter than sweet, leaving the happy-ending to feel a bit rushed.

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  • Caroline
  • 21-06-2020

I tried but couldn’t finish

This is awesome, it why I chose this book. There’s much I liked about the story, predictable as it is. Most of the characters I liked, very good development. The war scenes are drawn out a bit too much. But the heroine is just an idiot, She’s just too hard to like. I don’t see how anyone likes her.And I’m not buying that her mother is no more protective over her than she is. But I just couldn’t finish the story ... I tried, it just got to be too silly.

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  • Caz
  • 20-12-2016

Wonderful story, wonderful narration!

I have loved this book for over thirty years and am over the moon it's now available in audio format. Alex Wyndham is one of the finest narrators around, and he does an absolutely superb job!

The story is set during the English Civil War, at Banbury Castle, a Royalist stronghold, and tells the story of the small garrison of men there who held out against a Parliamentary force of more than ten times their size. Many of the characters in this book actually existed; the author's knowledge of the history of the era is considerable, and her research impeccable. She expertly brings to life the day-to-day routine of the people living within the castle walls, and their awkward relationship with the town of Banbury which was staunchly pro-Parliament.

The real heart of the book is found in the slow-burn love story between a cynical Royalist captain and the sister of a Puritan shopkeeper; it's beautifully written and developed (there's no insta-lust here!) and the two central characters are fully-rounded and three dimensional. Justin Ambrose is ambitious and resents kicking his heels in Banbury when he wants to be out there doing something; Abigail Radford lives under the control of her puritanical brother and has little to look forward to other than a life of drudgery and duty. Their initial meetings are inauspicious and, for Justin, unmemorable, but from there springs an unlikely friendship that gradually turns in to more in a way that feels realistic and unhurried.

If you are a fan of historical romance that puts an emphasis on the "historical", then this is a book for you. If you’re also looking for a richly detailed story, a beautifully developed romance and a compelling, devastatingly attractive and unforgettable hero, it’s all here.

Add to all that the superb narration by Alex Wyndham, and you've got a real winner. Mr Wyndham never disappoints; he's a highly skilled performer and vocal actor who is able to make a listener forget they're listening to only one person. All the characters - and there are quite a few - are easy to distinguish from one another and he is able to perform the females convincingly and without resorting to falsetto. I can't praise him - or this audiobook - highly enough.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Yildiz
  • 02-01-2017

Absolutely Splendid

Any additional comments?

It’s no secret that I have been a fan of Stella Riley’s work for many years and was delighted last year when she finally went into audio by having her Rockliffe series narrated by the amazingly talented Alex Wyndham. I was even more delighted when I discovered that one of her best novels, ‘A Splendid Defiance’, would also be transformed by Mr Wyndham.

I have said before that Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham are a true ‘tour de force’ and this book confirms my belief.

Ms Riley’s ability to write dialogue and to make her people live off the page is well known. Add this to narration by the brilliant Alex Wyndham whose characterisations are phenomenal and the result is an outstanding audio.

Mr Wyndham’s transitions are flawless. Whenever there are a number of people having a conversation, he changes seamlessly from one to another leaving the listener in no doubt as to who is speaking. His performance is the perfect partner to Ms Riley’s words.

The siege of Banbury Castle in the English Civil War is little known but what happened there was reflected elsewhere throughout the land during those unhappy times. Once again, Stella Riley handles the storyline adroitly, bringing a mix of real people into the picture along with her own creations.

I first read this book many years ago and return to it often because it is unique. Now it’s in audio, I will be able to submerge myself in a world where excellent writing comes together with superb narration. I can’t recommend this audio highly enough. It is absolutely ‘Splendid’.

Well done the Riley-Wyndham Team. I look forward to your next collaboration.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs S I D Davies
  • 01-01-2017

A Splendid Defiance

Superbly read. An extremely well researched and fascinating insight into a small part of the civil war interwoven with a beautiful love story.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-10-2019

Great listening

excellent all round. please record more books by Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham. Really enjoyable listening

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  • Morgan Windle
  • 13-07-2019

Splendid indeed

What a beautiful story of love! So intricately written and stunningly written. Magically narrated. Not, necessarily, a predictable ending after everything the characters endure but so so satisfying and it made my heart sing. Couldn’t recommend the book enough.

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  • Jamnic98
  • 26-06-2018

An engaging audio version of the text!

I loved this book so much I listened again. A good historical recollection of the times. I enjoyed finding out things related to the residents of Banbury all those years ago.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ellie g
  • 28-01-2018

Wonderful

Embodies emotional portraits of characters lives lived in the time that history books give facts about.. Alex Wyndham breaths life into their souls.

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  • Carol
  • 20-01-2018

Characters you will fall in love with

Anything but Stella Riley is worthy of a positive review. The authors deep knowledge of the English Civil War and the creation of unforgettable characters gives the reader an insight to the effects of civil unrest and real suffering. If you enjoy this novel, which I know you will, grab the copy versions of her Roundheads and Cavaliers series. This audiobooks narrated by the always sublime Alex Wyndham is a tale of two people on opposing sides and their journey together. I dare you not to have favourite characters. Mine is Justin obviously.

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  • Jo baker
  • 27-02-2017

riveting

really enjoyable, couldn't stop listening, more of the same please, can't wait for the next Stella Riley!

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  • Miss S Hayes
  • 03-05-2020

Alex Wyndham is amazing

The story was enthralling and the narration superb. I forgot it was just one voice. I thoroughly enjoyed it.