Rohana Darlington


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Lady of the Ascendant


Click here to buy Lady of the Ascendant from, Smashwords or Lulu.

This history-mystery novel has just been launched as a Kindle Book on Amazon.  I was encouraged to write the book by Professor Bernard Capp of Warwick University, who first introduced me to the fascinating world of the 17th Century in his book Astrology and the Popular Press.

I was originally intrigued by the picture in his book of a female astrologer and almanac writer called Sarah Jinner. Such a character is unique in the period of the English Civil War, and unfortunately little is known of her, although I’ve used her portrait as an inspiration for the cover of this book.  Nevertheless, her existence led me to wonder whether it would be possible to discover culprits in the crimes of that chaotic and terrifying time using the craft of divinatory astrology. My curiosity compelled me to develop my interest in history and fiction writing through ten years of research of the period which I’m still continuing to explore.

The story line…

September 1642 and King Charles I has declared war on his rebellious Parliamentarian subjects. In Chester to raise arms for his royalist cause he finds the ancient city a magnet for Protestant refugees fleeing massacres in Ireland, spies, mercenaries and religious fanatics.
Matthias Astbury, a celebrated court physician in Chester to establish a medical practice far from insurgent London, has disappeared. His mutilated body is discovered in a stinking tanning pit as the city is threatened by an outbreak of pestilence. Sarah, his widow, a midwife and herbalist, imprisoned and unjustly accused of his murder by witchcraft must escape a death sentence by proving who really killed him.
She soon learns her marriage has been a sham, a façade hiding Matthias’s adultery with Lady Blanche Delamere, a protégé of Queen Henrietta Maria, the king’s hated Catholic wife, and that she has unwittingly been a gullible dupe in his activities as a royalist spymaster.
She establishes his death is linked to the murder of a mysterious visitor to the Astburys’ home and to the theft of a jeweled talisman believed to have magical curative powers. She stumbles upon a secret letter written by the king and hidden by Matthias, a document offering religious freedom to his disenfranchised Catholic subjects in return for their support in the Civil War. If discovered, it could provoke a counter-reformation blood bath. Suspected of possessing it she becomes the target for intelligencers, plotters and religious bigots.
Her quest leads her into the murky underworld power struggles between rival gangs of skinners fighting for dominance in Chester’s lucrative leather industry. She becomes a pawn to the political ambitions of Blanche and the schemes of wealthy leather magnate Alderman Robert Parnell as he conspires to abduct the king. Pursued by Parliamentarian secret agent and Puritan zealot Zachariah Prynne and his accomplice prophetic Welsh fishwife Nesta Williams she is attacked in an attempt to steal the letter.
In desperation she turns to the divinatory art of horary astrology, said to be able to answer ‘all manner of questions’ to try to find out who murdered Matthias. Surrounded by such dangerous and powerful enemies will Sarah find a way to survive?