Saturday, 7 October 2017

Sharon reviews Sheriff and Priest by Nicky Moxey

Today Sharon Bennett Connolly reviews Sheriff and priest, the fabulous new release from Nicky Moxey. The author has kindly offered an ebook as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous story, simply leave a comment below of on our Facebook Page.
The winner will be drawn on 14th October 2017.
Good luck!

Wimer could have become a monk. Instead, his decision to become a Chaplain – to make his way in the wider world of men – has put his soul in mortal danger.

In 12th Century East Anglia, poor Saxon boys stay poor. It takes an exceptional one to win Henry II's friendship, and to rise to the job of High Sheriff of all Norfolk and Suffolk. Falling foul of the stormy relationship between Henry and his Archbishop, he is excommunicated three times, twice by Thomas a'Becket, and once by the Pope.

He also falls in love with the King's Ward, Ida. Before he plucks up the courage to do anything about it, the King takes her as his mistress, and Ida needs Wimer's support to survive that dangerous liaison.

Although he is eventually reinstated in the Church, his problems with his religious superiors, and his love for Ida, will guarantee him a place in Hell, unless he can find land and resources to do something spectacular in the way of penance...

Sheriff and Priest by Nicky Moxey is refreshingly original historical fiction novel, based on the story of Wimer, a chaplain who rose to become sheriff during the reign of Henry II. Well written, entertaining and informative, it is almost impossible to put down. Wimer is a lovable character with many foibles, who, as a friend of Henry II, finds himself a casualty of the growing conflict between the king and his stubborn archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.

The facts behind the story are true, with fabulous literary embellishment making this an extraordinary novel and engaging read. It provides a fascinating portrayal of the final years of the Anarchy - the dispute between Stephen and the Empress Matilda - and the subsequent reign of Henry II from a unique viewpoint. There is a wonderful interweaving of local plots and national politics, with the author demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the period. History and fiction are expertly drawn together to create an engaging story, with events of the time, such as Hugh Bigod's feud with William of Blois over Surrey lands and Henry II's feud with Becket over the church both being drawn into the plot.

The whitewashed cob was warm and comfortable against Wimer's back. He re-read the last sentence again; the finer points of canon law just weren't sinking in today. He was finding the silence from Jean deafening. All these years, he'd had Jean's stream of consciousness as a constant background; now there was no chatter, the silence hurt like a missing tooth. Finally he gave up, carefully re-wrapped the book in its kid leather cover, and put it on top of the low wall. Jean was picking bits of straw apart with a determination bordering on manic.
"Come on, tell me what's wrong. You're so quiet it's hurting my ears."
 Jean threw down his handful of chaff and sighed. "It's my brother. I got a letter from him this morning. He says that it's time I stopped spending his money getting an education, he's got a business trip to Ipswich planned in September, and we're to go home to Rouen together. Oh, Wimer! He wants me to keep his accounts! What am I to do?"
"Well, you'd better write back and tell him that you can't add two numbers together the same way twice! He'll see for himself how dire your Latin is. Maybe he'll beg Bishop William to make you a monk and throw away the key to your hermitage."
Jean brightened. "Hey! Maybe I could become a monk. Then -"
He stopped, affronted, as Wimer fell over sideways laughing. "What's wrong with you? I could easily be a monk?"
"Jean - have you ever read the Rule of St Benedict? Especially the bit where he says that leave to talk should be given as infrequently as possible? You'd burst, the first day!"
From castle building to the inner workings of the office of sheriff, to the fickleness of kings and archbishops, and even the working theories behind trial by ordeal,  Sheriff and Priest is chock full of detail within the fascinating storyline. The wide fields of medieval England seamlessly give way to the corridors of power as Wimer negotiates his way through local and national politics. It's like having a peephole to the past, and being able to peer for a few hours into a world now lost.

In Sheriff and Priest the author has created a sympathetic character in Wimer, displaying his human frailties and fears which are heightened by the time period in which he lives. Wimer is fully conscious of the dreadful penalty of excommunication, both to his own soul and those who consort with excommunicates. Wimer is faced with the task of performing his secular job of sheriff, while reconciling it with his vocation as a priest. Unfortunately for him, his friendship with King Henry means he falls foul of Becket and has to come to terms with his unjust excommunication.

And while Wimer is the lead character, and a master creation by Nicky Moxey, he is ably supported in the story by the enigmatic Henry II himself, the wonderful Ida de Tosny, sometime lover of Henry II and later Countess of Norfolk, and a host of other characters, all exceptional in their depth and individuality.

Nicky Moxey has expertly recreated the medieval world to its smallest detail, drawing the reader in to its depths and taking them on a journey through Norfolk and the wider stage of England during the reign of one of England's most enigmatic kings. I cannot recommend  Sheriff and Priest highly enough, both for its entertainment value, its fascinating insight into the inner workings of the role of sheriff and the deeply personal connection that the reader develops with these vivid, wonderful characters.

About the Author: Nicky lives in the middle of rural Suffolk, UK, and is currently owned by a slinky black cat who's far too clever for her own good.  In her spare time, she's an amateur historian/archaeologist, and in non-work daylight hours is usually out on a field somewhere with a metal detector and/or a trowel. She has added quite a few things to the Heritage England Record and the Portable Antiquities Scheme; but what really fascinates her is the stories behind the artefacts.
She loves writing a series of short stories about Henry Baker, a boy who finds a magic pencil on the way to school - and who has lots of adventures as the pencil makes anything he draws, become real! He draws some historical artefacts, as well as things to get him out of the sort of trouble any 9 year old boy can find.
Her first historical novel is about the story of a local boy made good - Wimer the Chaplain was born in Dodnash in Suffolk of a poor Saxon family, but made it to be a confidant of Henry ll, holding down the job of High Sheriff for all Norfolk and Suffolk. Then he gave it all up and came home to found a Priory... finding the original site of that Priory (not where it's shown on the map) is still one of my proudest discoveries.
Sheriff and Priest is available from Amazon from 15th October 2017.

About the Reviewer: Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.
She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World'. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history. It was published by Amberley on 15th September 2017. It is now available from Amberley, Book Depository and  Amazon.
Sharon can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Good review of a brilliantly original sounding book.

  2. 12th century is right up my alley! Would love to win a copy.

  3. Sounds like another fabulous book to go on the wish list

  4. Thanks for the review. Will peruse it with great interest.