Kathleen Kent’s novel, THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER, takes place from 1649-1692 in colonial Massachusetts, as well as across the sea in London. It is a well-written book of historical fiction, the historical part based upon one of Kent’s ancestors – Martha Allen Carrier, who was hanged as a witch in Salem.
In THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER Kent recounts Martha’s life beginning in 1973, when her harsh father, Andrew Allen, took the 19-year-old spinster from their home in Billerica to her cousin, Daniel Taylor, in Andover. At the Taylor home and farm, Martha is to run the household and care for Patience, Daniel’s wife, who is unhealthily pregnant in her fifth month with a third child, and the other two young children – Will and Joanna. Daniel is oft absent for long periods, carting produce and other goods around New England.
Martha, who has only one dress, works hard from dawn until dusk and cooks for the Taylors, including the two hired men- Thomas and John. Although she is only a few years younger than Patience, Martha is most certainly the more mature and responsible of the two. With an acidic attitude and tongue, she seems a crone before her time, but Thomas sees and admires the inner woman. However, it is certainly not love at first sight for either of them.
Years earlier, in London, King Charles I was beheaded at the secret behest of Cromwell during the English Civil War; however, Cromwell is now sending assassins to the New World to find and kill the very men he recruited to axe off the royal head. Of course, there are spies on both sides of the Atlantic. Those in New England are of two types: those loyal, or at least not above taking reward money for information on neighbors, to powerful Cromwell and the crown and those who are not.
Early in the book, the actual blood-thirsty wolves attacking livestock are trapped and killed by Thomas and John. Besides the wolves, the colonists have to contend with Indians, most of whom are not very welcoming, and deadly illnesses.
I highly recommend THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER for its quality and content. Kathleen Kent also wrote THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER, which is now on my must-read list.
[Please note: I have just learned that this book has been renamed THE TRAITOR’S WIFE, which is more appropriate.]