A fascinating insight into early Victorian life, from the unusual angle of four in hand coaching. A thumping good story with a lot of information about Mail Coaches, Coaching Inns, how people lived, what they wore, ate and what they did for entertainment ! Loved every word & am grateful to the author for writing it !
I picked this up from Amazon a while ago, after having met Sue a few years back at an author's networking event in south Cumbria. I knew of her interest in fell ponies and carriage driving, so figured she'd be able to tell a good tale about the horses if nothing else. Like Sue I also have coachmen in my family tree, so it seemed a good way to gain a glimpse into the life of a 19th century non-domestic coachman.
From the first page I was hooked on her fascinating story of George Davenport, whose life took him from the small border city of Carlisle to the bustle of London, the nation's capital, with a regular detour into Stony Stratford (an important stopping point on the coaching route to the north.)
George's experiences of coaching "in the big league", working for the largest coaching business in the country, coincide with the coronation of the young Queen Victoria and the growth of the railways and the devastating effect they had on the coaching trade. Before the rise of the railways stage coaches were the main method of transport around the country, and it was hard to imagine just how big a network of coaches this needed, and how many men, horses and inns were involved in the trade. Likewise, the mail coaches sped the post between cities and towns, and it was interesting to note the hierarchy of coaching that became apparent in the book. His various friendships and encounters with others in the trade, and his romantic relationships, add depth and great human interest, whilst the attention to the detail of the coaching business makes for a compelling read. I could almost hear the jingle of the harness and the creaking of the wheels as I was reading!
If you are looking for a well-written and very enjoyable historical novel based on fact, look no further. You won't be disappointed!
A good-paced narrative that provides plenty of fascinating historical detail along with a very human story. There are three strands to the plot. The first is the commercial tension between coach companies and the rising railways, as exemplified in one coaching empire. The second is personal tension in the relationships of protagonist George Davenport as he builds a career in a horse-drawn world that is rapidly changing. The third is the social tension between the superficially moral surface of society and its hidden reality, the background to a young Victoria coming to the throne. I'd have liked more about horses - hence four stars rather than five - but I think many other readers will find the balance just right. The historical information at the end provided by the author was excellent, rounding off the story very satisfyingly with some fascinating real-life facts.
The short description of this novel, set in the late 1830s, attracted me, and I was not disappointed. Sue Millard writes very well, giving a colourful and lively picture of her characters and the era. George is a young coachman, a little arrogant in the beginning, and proud of his ability to drive a coach and four. In love with Lucy, and determined to rescue her from an abusive background, he plans to set them both on the road to success. But at a time when railways are being built beside the old coaching routes, this is a time of great change, and George's speed and reliability cannot outrun the future. What will he do? Will he rescue his Lucy, will a new woman divert him from his goal, and what does the future hold? Sue Millard clearly knows her subject, and her characters came alive on the page - but the plot needed to be stronger to do justice to her abilities as a writer. That was my only disappointment. Like Oliver Twist, I wanted a bit more!
Coachman by Sue Millard sat in my kindle to-read pile for too long while I worked through other commitments, so I was very glad to finally open it. I was not disappointed, and have no hesitation in saying that this was a five star book for me.
The background is one that I know something about from O-level history classes many years ago - the huge changes that came over England triggered by the industrial revolution, and in particular by the spread of the railways. Britain, along with the rest of Europe, was facing rapid changes in all aspects of society. Sue captures this transformation through the eyes of George, a young man from the north west of the country who comes to London in the late 1830s to make his fortune.
His story, like that of many others, was complicated by disruption in the social and political landscape. For George, and many others, events did not turn out as they had expected. In his case, the formerly lucrative occupation of coach driver, a skilled and respected trade, was demolished within a decade as the new railway lines systematically captured both passengers and the mail business, putting established firms out of business and labourers out of work. Coachman is set in that decade.
Now, part of my fondness for the story comes from its setting - I know Carlisle (where the story opens) and Kendal (where it ends) a little, and the London scenes are about 5 minutes walk down the road from where I currently work. So there was the fascination of familiarity, and I took the time before work one day to wander down and see what those roads and lanes are like now.
That in itself was fascinating - the basic map is largely unchanged, a slightly bewildering mix of broad thoroughfares and narrow alleyways. The area is just inside the old Roman city walls, though even by George's time these were of no importance and had been largely cannibalised for other building works. Less than a century before his employment here, the Moor Gate was an impressive structure, but it was removed in the 18th century to allow greater flow of traffic - a problem that that part of London still faces today as the building of the Crossrail transport line causes road closures! It's now just a junction with traffic lights, and only scraps of the Roman wall can be seen nearby
The layout may be much the same, but the better part of two centuries of building work and bombing have taken a heavy toll on the buildings that were once there. The coaching inn, The Swan with Two Necks, which is a key location in the book has long since gone, replaced by an impressive modem tower block. But the church of St Vedast's, where George marries Lucy, is still there, and you emerge from the confines of Foster Lane to the grand sight of St Paul's just over the road. Love Lane, haunt of loose ladies in the book, is now a pleasantly peaceful garden tucked back from the Guildhall and the towering financial buildings. Great stuff.
I also loved the detailing in Coachman. George spends a fair time playing cribbage with a friend, a card game with a distinctive score board which I was taught as a child by my grandmother in rural Norfolk. Rural English dialect is used sparingly, and very effectively, to locate characters socially as well as geographically.
Most of the characters worked for me, although I was not persuaded by the character of Sarah. It seemed to me that Sue had tried to include too many different and conflicting impulses in her, and (for me at least) the end result was unconvincing. But all the others stand out in my memory as vivid and credible, and while walking along Gresham Road (formerly Lad Lane) it was easy to imagine them treading those same streets back in the 1830s.
All in all, a very satisfying book to have read, and I have no hesitation recommending Coachman to anyone interested in the changes Britain faced in the mid-19th century, as seen through the eyes of one man from the provinces.
I very enjoyable read. The research and the knowledge of the writer concerning horses and the carriage of the day is amazing. As I'm not a person who has anything to do with or knows anything about horses I wasn't sure if the book could hold my interest, but it did. There is a good story here with well drawn characters, all in a fascinating period of our history.
This book's a bit of a gentler read than my usual military fiction. It's a romance, between young four-in-hand driver George Davenport and his landlady's daughter Lucy, set in Victorian times. Just as the golden age of the mail coach is coming to an end with the building of the railways. Sort-of Dr Beeching in reverse, really.
The author is a whip of long standing, and it was that which originally drew me to the book. I wasn't disappointed - Millard's knowledge of horse and carriage runs as a strong thread through the story, though she never beats us over the head with it.
One problem I've found with a lot of Kindle books is the writing. Characters can be weak or unsympathetic, so however attractive the premise of the story it turns into a tiresome read. This was the complete opposite: although I'd hardly consider myself a romance addict the pages fairly flew by. Top marks!
I `bought' Coachman when it was free on Kindle a few weeks ago and read it over a couple of evenings. If you like a light, well-researched historical you'll definitely enjoy this.
But there were no battles, so I can only give it 4 stars :)
This is a well-researched historical novel tracing the upcoming end of the equine coaching era and, the birth of steam trains and commercial railways. Sue Millard's expertise all things equine driving and livery makes for a delightful read. Written from the handsome and dashing George Davenport's perspective, the end of a life he loves is under threat and a change in lifestyle may be called for if he's to continue doing what he loves doing most: driving a four-in-hand team of horses.
With a life that is far removed from a cosy existence, George battles the elements atop a coach, handles fractious exhausted teams, and flirts dangerously with a particular barmaid who renders him a happy and contented soul, just so long as the road ahead stretches out before him. Soon the wonders of mechanical engineering and steam trains begin to blight his carefree life, and his little darling strumpet reels him in on a tighter rein than expected. Damned by change and loss of his job he sets out for London and once again is soon back doing what he loves most. With his now betrothed up North and the boss' daughter tempting him with flirty glances and suggestive letters George is aware Hell is before him. He has a marriage looming and the added dilemma of a young woman who holds his future in her hands and bedevils him at every given opportunity. No wonder then that he ponders how to win the day and, keep body and soul and love together in one package.
The Coachman is really an amusing tale of a reluctant Casa Nova, for George assesses horseflesh with the same twinkle in his eyes as he does that of the womanly form.
This is an interesting historical romance. Interesting in two different ways - one, the central character is a young man; two, there's a great deal in it about horses! I did wonder whether this would succeed in holding my attention, but I was quickly grabbed by it - from Go! to Whoa! as they say.
George Davenport is a four-in-hand driver whose ambition is to drive the mail coaches. He knows horses very thoroughly, but his experience of women isn't so comprehensive. While lodging at a tavern in Carlisle he meets Lucy, the landlady's daughter, who quickly climbs into his bed and his heart. But Lucy has secrets she won't divulge. George's ambitions take him to London, where he's employed by the biggest and the best of the coaching firms - Chaplins. He sends for Lucy, but she's inexplicably delayed. Meanwhile, Chaplin's daughter Sarah takes a fancy to George and she's not used to being refused.
There's a lot of romantic tension in this novel, which makes you want to turn the pages. I also enjoyed the glimpse into a past where everyone travelled by horse-drawn vehicle. Sue Millard has set the novel at the point where the railways were just beginning to challenge the coaching industry and cause a massive upheaval. For George, Lucy and Sarah, the advent of the train means their lives will never be the same again.
Thoroughly enjoyable - particularly recommended for anyone who enjoys Regency romances and knows their Barouche from their Phaeton.