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Reviews of Coachman

Travel Back in Time with Sue Millard’s Coachman
Excellent review in the February 2013 issue of The Whip, the magazine of the American Driving Society. (The review itself is not online at present. The magazine is a members-only publication.)

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to travel in a 19th-century English road coach? Sue Millard’s historical novel Coachman (Jackdaw E Books, 2012) will transport you into that world within a few paragraphs. Then it keeps you there, with detail that will have you mentally clutching the edge of your seat or curling your fingers around the reins. ... Coachman explores an industry in transition through the experiences of young George Davenport, an ambitious and talented driver whose good family has fallen on hard times.

Millard’s book re-creates the total reality of that bygone environment in which horse-drawn transport was not a recreation but essential to everyday life. There are vivid evocations of horses and men alike doing heavy work outdoors in all weathers, and of arrivals and departures kept to a schedule by coachmen who sometimes achieved timeliness at the expense of the horses. It was also a world in which the law might look the other way when children were prostituted by their parents, a time when an undiagnosed fever could mean death, a life in which small conveniences such as “lucifer” matches were just beginning to supplant more primitive technology. Her portrayal of life for London’s working people in the first half of the 19th century disspells most romantic notions about the city’s sooty grandeur.

Millard’s description of driving a loaded coach at the trot through city traffic, tight turns and narrow alleys to the inn-yard sounds like nothing so much as a trip through a particularly devilish CDE hazard. Coachman’s grip on the reader reflects the care that has gone into its research and writing. You may, in fact, want to begin by reading the author’s “About This Book” notes at the very end, where Millard describes her sources and reveals that the Chaplin family and its coaching empire—as well as many other particulars in her novel—are based on historic fact. That knowledge could make the feel of rain-slicked lines between your gloved fingers even more vivid as you turn the page. Sandra Cooke, ADS Editor, February 2013.

***** Coachman - a colourful tale of speed, greed, love and ambition! ... Her believable hero, his deeds and exploits on the driving seat and in the Inns of Town and County and his amorous adventures and misadventures are told with an authentic accent and a gift and gusto for descriptive language, plot and colourful characterisation... This is a most enjoyable and fast moving romance of men, women, horses, coaches, drivers, guards, passengers and owners; all bound up, one way or another, with Her Majesty's Royal Mail - whilst striving to keep their clothes dry and their dreams alive!

I heartily recommend Coachman as a rollicking good read... just make sure you start reading well before bedtime ...or you may be up all night! Michael Vanderosen,Sweden, 29 January 2013 Amazon UK

Coachman is brilliant, just read it and couldn't put it down until I'd finished the last page!! There are some clever "twists" in the book and whereas I have never driven, i have been around ridden horses all my life. Horses are horses and people have fascinating behaviours and traits - whether good, bad or challenging! J. Bancroft, Cumbria, by e-mail, January 2013

Sue Millard’s great-grandfather was a coachman, possibly the reason for Sue’s interest in the golden era of coaching. Wanting to recount the life and times of William James Chaplin - a huge force in the London coaching business in the 1820s and ‘30s - Sue has woven a tale encompassing both the romance and hardship of those times, through the eyes of one of his employees - a young and handsome coachman.
… With mention of some of the ‘names’ of the golden coaching era, and using many coaching terms and references in this delightful novel, Sue brings the atmosphere of the golden age of coaching to life - confirming her extensive research into the subject. Coachman offers the reader a gentle winter’s read for anyone interested in the life and times of a coachman, at a time when coaching was still in its heyday. Carriage Driving Magazine, December 2012

*** George is what one would expect of a young man in the 1800's making his way into the world and discovering that love and friendship, not just ambition, play a large part in one’s happiness and success. He is the colorful character that is truly the heart of the story. ... explores a side of history not very common in fiction and the individual plot-lines are very interesting. It is also refreshing to have a love story in a historical setting that is not between a nobleman or noble woman. Margaret Faria, InD'Tale

**** Enjoyable, realistic story. This is a story from the perspective of one main character whose livelihood as a professional coach man is threatened by the emergence of the railroads. The characters are real in their behaviors and thoughts; the history is fascinating as it's easy to forget that railroads were not always a part of transportation. I would have loved more 'horse' content, but the overall story is a good read. 10 December 2012 Amazon USA

***** It ended too soon. That is actually my only problem with this book. The ending seemed a bit abrupt but maybe that is because I was enjoying it so much and wasn't ready for it to end. Obviously well researched and totally free of those annoying (to a carriage driver) mistakes in describing horses, harness and how they are driven. 24 Nov 2012 Amazon USA

Very well researched with a lot of first hand knowledge on the subject of horses and coach driving, and great attention to historic detail. The storyline was handled in such a way as to make it believable. My mother's family were from Manchester and I clearly remember the old English dialect I heard many of the older people using around me when as a small child I was taken to visit my great-grandma, and enjoyed reading this throughout. I liked the element of suspense, and was pleased to see how it all came together in the end. When I reached the end I said, 'Oh bum! It's finished.' But then I found the section - 'About this book' which was helpful and interesting and made me want to learn more about this era. I was impressed with the quality. The cover is tasteful, beautifully laid out and the picture is perfect with the lettering below, like brasswork for coaches. Good font size too, so easy to read - on nice paper.D. Hambrook, by email 26 Nov 2012

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