In Kent’s passionate historical novel, an unraveling of kingships and alliances take place against a group of resourceful and resistant American colonists who refuse to betray one of their own to the Royalist cause. The fledgling colonies of the Americas are far from the seductive prevarications of King Charles 11 who, as Kent's novel opens, is determined to
deliver justice in a very public way to the man who brought his father to civil war and to the executioner’s axe at the hands of Cromwell.
Despite continued correspondence with the colonies, there has been no luck in capturing Thomas Carrier
- who for the love of Cromwell’s cause swung the axe and took the life of an anointed king. Thinking
him hidden by a gang of “ill-bred rustics,” the King’s advisors hatch a plan to send to the Colonies some expertly trained spies to root out Carrier and return him to London.
As Charles's plan germinates, Martha Allen arrives in the town of Billerica as servant and mistress to her pregnant cousin, Patience. Much of Martha’s life is made up of masks and diversions, “traded like a kettle into another family” and forced to field the demands of her father. Settling into routine domesticity with the Taylors, Martha is drawn to the handsome and mysterious Welshman Thomas Morgan, ostensibly hired with a Scotsman named John to work for three years in trade for prime land owned by Daniel Taylor, Patience’s husband. But as Thomas studies Martha with an unapologetic gaze, his stares prickling the back of her neck, she in turn holds vigil for the howling wolves and recalls his dire warnings: “ for they be wolves… and wolves be footmen to the Beast.”
Afraid of her birthing, Martha whispers kind words of reassurance to Patience while the powerful, formidable Thomas towers over life on the farm, tending to the livestock and farming the fields while Daniel is away. Martha has a restless, almost hostile curiosity for the Welshman, but he tells her little about himself
- only that he comes from old London and had fought the king with Cromwell, the long and bloody civil war of the old England over thirty years ago.
Weaving together the various elements of politics and power, passion and history, Kent presents the daily struggles of the Taylors, the brutality and pride of the colonists, along with Martha and Thomas's developing love affair. Neither Martha, Patience
nor Daniel foresees the turmoil being fashioned by a selfish king and his band of brutal, murderous Royalist minions who will stop at nothing to find their generous bounty. Caught in the middle, Martha falls into the arms of Thomas, but panic builds as a series of dramas begin to
play out in her life. Conflicted over her fears, she desperately reaches for Thomas, who seems to be
always hidden in his own resentments and worries.
A new country and a new people bake in the slow fire of brutish energy, an uncharted territory of wilderness where the danger of
the natives are ever-present. A vigorous testimony to the bravery of the colonists, the story shows the perverse temerity and nerve
of the common men in their efforts to pull down a king. While the seeds of rebellion are inexorably sown, Martha Allen becomes a powerful metaphor for the changes sweeping a country as she stakes her own prevailing claim on the inevitable march towards colonial independence from England.