The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters is set in southern England in 1642 the beginnings of the English Civil War, which has now been re-named more correctly The Wars of the Three Nations as it did spread beyond England.
Jayne Swift has been born into a fairly well-off family, but she has no intention of conforming and marrying as is expected of her. She has trained as a physician and has been travelling around on horseback using her skills where they are needed. When the civil war catches up with her she’s determined not to take sides, she’ll help whoever needs it. Actually there’s quite a bit of changing sides going on at times, so it’s best to stay as neutral as possible anyway.
It isn’t long before Jayne gets plenty of opportunities to practice her skills and pass on her knowledge to others, resulting in her becoming very much esteemed by those she has helped.
I sort of enjoyed this one, but I really had to suspend my disbelief because the whole premise just seems so unlikely. There’s no way that a young woman would have been able to learn the skills that she had in those times. No matter how determined a character had she would have been stuck firmly in her family home helping with the housework, until she married. The blurb on the back of the book gives the impression that it is quite heavy on the romance but really there’s hardly any romance at all with just a few unromantic meetings between Jayne Swift and William Harrier before – hey presto – romance, so I found it all slightly disappointing.
The dastardly behaviour of marauding soldiers towards the civilian population was quite depressing too, especially as it has been going on in Ukraine – nothing changes in that way it seems.