Wednesday 26 February 2020

#BookReview — Oath of Allegiance (Allegiance, Book 2) by Jana Petken #HistoricalFiction #WW1 #Ireland @AuthoJana

Oath of Allegiance
(Allegiance, Book 2)
By Jana Petken

As the Great War enters its most deadly phase, Patrick, Jenny, and Danny Carmody must cast aside their personal desires in order to stand with Britain against Germany and her allies.

Danny, who is recovering from serious wounds, is devastated when he learns he must return to the Continent to fight at the front.

Patrick, traumatised by his experience on HMHS Britannic, prays for a shore posting, but the Royal Navy has something much more insidious in store for him.

Jenny and Kevin rekindle their love for one another but their relationship is tested when the Irish people demand their independence from Britain and its king. Jenny must choose between her brothers and her new husband’s Anglo-Irish aristocratic family.

"I promise you, my darlin', I'll not get involved in Ireland's troubles when I come home..."

That's if he came home. Danny Carmody had already cheated death once. He doubted he would do so again. Danny had thought his war over when he had been gassed at the Front, but no. Here he was back at the Somme, waiting for the orders that would send him over the top and towards certain death. And for what? To gain a few miles of land? It was a war governed by fools who sent lambs to the slaughter while expecting a result other than butchery.

Patrick Carmody had, unlike his brother, joined the Royal Navy. However, if Patrick never stepped on a boat again, it would be too soon. The White Star Line was cursed, or so it seemed. Patrick had survived the sinking of HMHS Britannic, but would he be so lucky a second time?

Jenny Carmody was at last married to the man she loved, and that was all that mattered. However, Kevin had not told Jenny the whole truth about who his family were. Jenny knew they were protestant and of standing, but there was so much more she did not know. So much more...

From the horrors of The Western Front to the disappointment of The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, Oath of Allegiance: Allegiance, Book 2 by Jana Petken is the unforgettable story of the Carmody family, and how they survived one war but were very nearly torn apart by another.

Where do I even begin to attempt to express how wonderful this book is? I could speak of how Petken stimulated all five senses with her vivacious storytelling. I could praise Petken for her fabulous historical descriptions. I could celebrate Petken's novelist eyes for human failings — her emphatic understanding of the human condition. I could, of course, praise the narrative, which is as lucid as it is enthralling. Or, the prose that washed over me in riotous colours of green and white and orange. This is a book where the patriots become the terrorists. Where those who are meant to protect become a seedy colour of Black and Tan. Where life is torn asunder by a war that had been going on for years and would continue to go on for decades more. This is a story about the day the Emerald Isle began to drown in the blood of her own people. This is a story about the Irish Republican Army (IRA). This is the story of one family whose life would never be the same again.

The historical detailing of this book has to be commended. Petken has really nailed this era. Not only is Petken a talented author, she is also the most dedicated of historians. Petken's knowledge of what conditions were like at the Somme, to her understanding of the events that led up to Bloody Sunday and the Civil War in Ireland has to be commended. One does not just sit down and write a historical fiction book that is so incredibly authentic and as true to the history as can be without hours and hours of research. Petken is, without a doubt the creme de la creme of historical fiction writers. If you don't believe me, pick up this book.

Petken's depiction of The Battle of the Somme was vivid in all its desperate detail. We experience the brutalities of trench warfare through the eyes of Danny Carmody. The horror of learning that you were being sent back to where you had almost died is beyond comprehension. But when in Hell, Danny is pragmatic enough to keep walking. Danny endures so many unbearable events in this book, and he finds himself embroiled in a world that is dark and dangerous. He survives one world war, only to fight in a very different type of warfare when he finally makes his way home. Danny is a fabulous example of an anti-hero — as a reader, I sympathised with Danny so much, he is dealt one terrible blow after another, and he finds himself in an incredibly dark place. Danny's demons are always near him, and for some reason, he seems to believe that he has no right to happiness and peace. However, what he becomes, and the things that he does with such cold and calculated precision makes him something short of monstrous. His character reminded me greatly of Frankie McGuire, in Vincent Patrick's, David Aaron Cohen's, and Kevin Jarre's, The Devil's Own. Like Frankie, Danny is a really likeable character, and I feared for him throughout this book. I just wanted him to escape this dangerous cycle of violence that he can't seem to see his way out of, not that he wants to be out of it. Danny becomes a fanatic, but there is so much more to him than that. I thought Danny's portrayal was absolutely fabulous, and his narrative made Oath of Allegiance unputdownable. His depiction was brilliantly executed.

Patrick Carmody is the glue that holds this troubled family together. He is the one constant in everybody's life. But unbeknown to anyone, Patrick has his own demons. Demons, that if discovered, could end in imprisonment and, in a worst-case scenario, his execution. Patrick fights a different type of war to his brother, although like Danny's it is one shrouded in secrets and untruths. This book is set during a time where a person's sexual identity concerning the gender to which they were attracted to was, in some cases, illegal, and if discovered, your life was over. Not being able to hold hands with the person you loved, having to be always on guard must have been a dreadfully frightening burden. I thought Petken approached Patrick's character with a tenacious understanding of the time this book is set in. I wept for Patrick, I really did. Add to that Patrick's attempts to keep his family together when circumstance was tearing them apart, made him, for me, the hero of this story.

Jenny Jackson is a very strong heroine, who, like Patrick, has to fight for what she wants. She is a woman and therefore should, as society dictates, be ruled by her husband. The very idea that she wants access to her own money seems almost scandalous. Times were changing, but they were not changing that fast. Thankfully, Jenny married Kevin, who adores the ground she walks on. Unfortunately, with the onslaught of escalating troubles in Ireland, Jenny must make an impossible choice. Jenny is married into a wealthy and very influential protestant family. Her father-in-law is a member of the House of Lords and a British Loyalist. Jenny's brother-in-law is a detective at Dublin Castle, whereas Jenny's brother, Danny, becomes a known member of the IRA. This is a family where loyalties are fundamentally divided, but the deep love the Carmody siblings have for each other makes estrangement incredibly challenging. Jenny comes from a very loving and very loyal family, and the path that Danny chooses has devastating consequences for all of them. I adored Jenny, she is a wonderful heroine who will not be cowed by her husband’s aristocratic family, nor will she be used by Kevin's brother who is desperate to find out Danny's whereabouts. I thought her depiction was marvellous.

As one would expect, there are some historical figures in this book. One cannot write a book about the IRA in the early 20th century without mentioning Michael Collins. Petken presents her readers with a very charismatic man in Collins, but she also stuck very close to the documented history about him. Collins commands respect, and he does not tolerate disloyalty. I was intrigued by her depiction of Collins, and although he is only a secondary character in this book, Collins is of course, as he once was in life, controlling the narrative.

Petken portrays the IRA as a very violent organisation, but she also explains why these men thought such actions were necessary. Petken does not make them heroes but like with Danny's characterisation, she does try to provide a balanced view of who they were and what they were fighting for, which of course was an independent Ireland. The actions are at times utterly deplorable, but then so was the activities of the RIC which Petken also depicts in all its reprehensible behaviour.

Petken is a multi award-winning and international bestselling author, and I can understand why. All of her books are amazing, I am already a massive fan of Petken's work, but Oath of Allegiance completely blew me away. It is outstanding. This book deserves a place on your bookshelf, and if ever a book deserved to be the next big series on Netflix, then it is this one.

I Highly Recommend

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Oath of Allegiance

Jana Petken

Jana Petken is a bestselling historical fiction novelist and screenwriter. 

She is critically acclaimed as a bestselling, gritty, author who produces bold, colourful characters and riveting storylines. She is the recipient of numerous major international awards for her works of historical fiction and is presently in talks with film producers regarding one of her titles.
Before life as an author, she served in the British Royal Navy. During her service, she studied Naval Law and history. After the Navy, she worked for British Airways and turned to writing after an accident on board an aircraft forced her to retire prematurely.

Connect with Jana: Website • Twitter  • Goodreads

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