Home | Books | Handfast


By John Burke

It is 1569 and passions have never run higher in the age-old battle between the English and the Scots.

Rebellion is brewing in the North against Protestant Queen Elizabeth as Catholic Mary Queen of Scots is being held captive in England.

In line with custom, a Day of Truce is declared by Sir John Forster, Warden of the Middle March of England and his Scottish counterpart Sir Walter Ker in an effort to bring peace. They propose that two members of two prominent families who had been raiding and feuding for generations unite in marriage.

Thomas Charlton of England is to wed Isabelle Armstrong, of Scotland. Surprisingly, their fathers welcome the match. But maybe the two feuding headsmen smell trouble in the new entente between the Queen of England and the Regent of Scotland.

It may herald measures against them which would make their unending cycle of squabbles look puny indeed. If they are both to be harassed from their own capital cities, better they should stand together than be divided.

But the old feuds cannot easily be suppressed. Lascivious landowner Sir Patrick Laidlaw – who-not-so-secretly lusts after Isabelle – deliberately sparks a fight between the families. Thomas is killed and his father gravely wounded. Isabelle is seized by his outraged family, to be held as a hostage.

The cunning Sir John plays another card to prevent more violence – and protect his own position. He suggests a twelve-month breathing space, by way of a ‘handfast’ or trial marriage between Thomas’ brother Randal and Isabelle Armstrong …

John Burke’s elegant Handfast tells an epic tale, set in the Border country between Scotland and England at the time of the Reivers. Woven into the turbulent saga are real historical events and characters.

It is a fascinating insight into the history of the time. It puts rich detail on a story everyone has briefly met. And there are battles aplenty – battles between rival countries, battles between rival families and, unsurprisingly, that primeval battle between the sexes. It is brilliantly true to life.

Contact Lume Books | Lume Books

Say Hello

Learn more about how to contact us.

This site uses cookies.
ConfigureHide Options
Read our privacy policy

This site uses cookies for marketing, personalisation, and analysis purposes. You can opt out of this at any time or view our full privacy policy for more information.