Saturday 23 February 2019

#BookReview — The Proposition by Jan Selbourne #HistoricalFiction #WWI @JanSelbourne

The Proposition
By Jan Selbourne

They met on the eve of a battle. One enlisted to avoid prison, the other enlisted to avoid the money lenders. On the bloodied fields of France, Harry Connelly collapses beside the corpse of Andrew Conroy. It’s a risk, a hanging offence, it’s his only hope for a future. Harry swaps identity discs. 

Now known as Andrew, he is just another face in post war London until a letter arrives with a proposition. Accepting will plunge him into a nightmare of murder, family jealousy and greed. 

To survive he must live this lie without a mistake, until he falls in love with Lacey. To keep her he must tell the truth and face the consequences.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, by Sir Walter Scott

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, isn’t that what they all say? It would be an adventure to fight for your country. A chance to see the world. And anyway, it would all be over by Christmas. However, Harry Connelly had not enlisted because he was particularly patriotic, or because he wanted to travel to new places and have an adventure. Oh, no, that was not the reason at all. And yet, here he was in France, waiting for the bullet with his name on it to end his life. He was just another piece of useless fodder for the enemy’s artillery fire.

If, by some miracle, he managed to dodge the bullets, what then? Harry couldn’t go home. He was a wanted man, and besides, he didn’t have a home, not anymore. Harry could see no way out of the situation he found himself in — that was until he met Andrew Conroy on the eve of a battle that would change the course of Harry’s life forever. For Andrew, this bloody battle was to be his last, but for Harry, this was the opportunity he had not known he had been waiting for. All he had to do was swap his identity discs for Andrew’s. If he had the courage, then Harry Connelly could die here, today, on this battlefield, with a thousand other poor souls. If he had the courage, he could start again, with a new name, a new identity, and a new life. If, he had the courage…

However, Andrew had enlisted because of a substantial gambling debt. Those he owed had run out of patience. They wanted their money, and they wanted it now. Also unbeknownst to Harry, Andrew was also the illegitimate son of the successful and influential, Lester Haines. By taking on Andrew’s identity, Harry finds himself drawn into a world of money, greed, and murder. If he is to survive, then he must keep his wits, for Andrew’s family will do anything and everything to keep their secrets from the police and, more importantly, from the papers.

From the horrors of the Western Front to a barrister’s office in Arisaig, Scotland — The Proposition, by Jan Selbourne is a gripping murder mystery thriller with a hint of romance, set in the backdrop of post-war Britain.

Selbourne has crafted a vastly entertaining story that has enough subplots and twists to keep even the most hardened historical murder mystery fan enchanted. The story follows Harry Connelly as he tries desperately to forge a new life with someone else’s identity. It is said that what goes around comes around and therefore it could be said that Harry got what he deserved when he swapped Andrew Conroy’s identity discs with his own. Instead of a chance to start again, Harry is plunged into a world of intrigue and danger. Andrew’s aristocratic family certainly have more than their share of skeletons in their closets, and Harry finds himself drawn into this dysfunctional family who will do absolutely anything to stop the truth from getting out. A scandal would ruin them all.

Despite his lies and subterfuges, Harry is a likeable character. The story of why he took Andrews identity is not explained straight away, so I must admit, I did find his motives a little confusing, and initially, I didn’t take to him because of this. However, when Harry eventually explains why he did what he did, I could appreciate his situation and his reasoning, although I did not agree so much with his methods! Nevertheless, his story is an intriguing one and as he became more entangled with the very troubled Haines family, I found myself sympathising with him.

I adored the characterisation of Lacey Haines. Lacey is from the disowned and impoverished, side of the family. However, out of all the Haines, she is the only one who has a scrap of integrity and decency. Lacey is a strong and courageous woman, who nevertheless comes to breaking point on several occasions, which made her character incredibly believable. I thought her relationship with her late sister’s four-year-old daughter was wonderful to behold. Lacey is the true hero of this story.

As with all good murder mysteries, I found myself trying to figure out who the murderer was, but it turns out my detective skills are not very good. It pains me to admit that who I thought was the murderer, wasn’t!

If you are looking for your next historical murder mystery, then The Proposition is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Jan Selbourne

Jan Selbourne was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia and her love of literature and history began as soon as she learned to read and hold a pen. After graduating from a Melbourne Business College her career began in the dusty world of ledgers and accounting, working in Victoria, Queensland and the United Kingdom. On the point of retiring, she changed course to work as secretary of a large NSW historical society. Now retired Jan is enjoying her love of travelling and literature. She has two children, a stray live in cat and lives near Maitland, New South Wales

Connect with Jan: WebsiteFacebookTwitterLinkedin


  1. Congratulations on your award, Jan!

    1. Thank you very much Penny, its a big thrill

  2. As a fan of mystery and history, I totally enjoyed this book, so much so that I gave it a five star review on Amazon. I’ve read several of Jan’s books and I am now a fan!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx