Why I wrote the Allegiance Series! Three weeks ago, I released my 11th book, Oath of Allegiance. It’s doing well, and has become a #1 Bestseller in four countries, including the United States and Canada. It was a difficult book to write. At the mention of the IRA: Irish Republican Army, people generally think, ‘Terrorist.’ I thought that too. I served in the British Royal Navy during the Northern Ireland troubles and remember well the havoc they caused.
My grandfather was Irish from County Kilkenny. He was a Catholic and an IRA supporter. He never hid his idealism or his desire for a united Ireland, in fact, he often said, ‘If I were younger, I would get myself over to Ireland and fight. He was a good man; loved to sing Republican songs, and tell his grandkids about Republican heroes, such as Michael Collins and Dan Breen. Because of him, I have always wanted to delve deeper into the Irish Independent movements and their origins, which go much further back than 1916, where I started the story with Swearing Allegiance, Book 1 of the series.
I was going to tell you about the new book, and how I felt when I was writing it. I tried, as I do in all my books, to keep an open mind, to look at both sides, to not make heroes but real people with flawas and scars, and realistic foes with equal atrocities staining their hands.
But I won’t, because I was fortunate recently to receive an editorial review from The Coffee Pot Book Club, which came with a nice award. It perfectly describes the good and bad in my characters, their aims, their reasons for fighting, whether it be for the Republicans or the British Empire.
Here it is. I’m sure it will give you a good taste of what’s to come in both Swearing Allegiance and Oath of Allegiance.
That’s if he came home. Danny Carmody had already cheated death once. He doubted he would do so again. Danny had thought his war over when he had been gassed at the Front, but no. Here he was back at the Somme, waiting for the orders that would send him over the top and towards certain death. And for what? To gain a few miles of land? It was a war governed by fools who sent lambs to the slaughter while expecting a result other than butchery.
Patrick Carmody had, unlike his brother, joined the Royal Navy. However, if Patrick never stepped on a boat again, it would be too soon. The White Star Line was cursed, or so it seemed. Patrick had survived the sinking of HMHS Britannic, but would he be so lucky a second time?
Jenny Carmody was at last married to the man she loved, and that was all that mattered. However, Kevin had not told Jenny the whole truth about who his family were. Jenny knew they were protestant and of standing, but there was so much more she did not know. So much more…
From the horrors of The Western Front to the disappointment of The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, Oath of Allegiance: Allegiance, Book 2 by Jana Petken is the unforgettable story of the Carmody family, and how they survived one war but were very nearly torn apart by another.
Where do I even begin to attempt to express how wonderful this book is? I could speak of how Petken stimulated all five senses with her vivacious storytelling. I could praise Petken for her fabulous historical descriptions. I could celebrate Petken’s novelist eyes for human failings — her emphatic understanding of the human condition. I could, of course, praise the narrative, which is as lucid as it is enthralling. Or, the prose that washed over me in riotous colours of green and white and orange. This is a book where the patriots become the terrorists. Where those who are meant to protect become a seedy colour of Black and Tan. Where life is torn asunder by a war that had been going on for years and would continue to go on for decades more. This is a story about the day the Emerald Isle began to drown in the blood of her own people. This is a story about the Irish Republican Army (IRA). This is the story of one family whose life would never be the same again.
The historical detailing of this book has to be commended. Petken has really nailed this era. Not only is Petken a talented author, she is also the most dedicated of historians. Petken’s knowledge of what conditions were like at the Somme, to her understanding of the events that led up to Bloody Sunday and the Civil War in Ireland has to be commended. One does not just sit down and write a historical fiction book that is so incredibly authentic and as true to the history as can be without hours and hours of research. Petken is, without a doubt the creme de la creme of historical fiction writers. If you don’t believe me, pick up this book.
Petken’s depiction of The Battle of the Somme was vivid in all its desperate detail. We experience the brutalities of trench warfare through the eyes of Danny Carmody. The horror of learning that you were being sent back to where you had almost died is beyond comprehension. But when in Hell, Danny is pragmatic enough to keep walking.
Danny endures so many unbearable events in this book, and he finds himself embroiled in a world that is dark and dangerous. He survives one world war, only to fight in a very different type of warfare when he finally makes his way home. Danny is a fabulous example of an anti-hero — as a reader, I sympathised with Danny.
His character reminded me greatly of Frankie McGuire, in Vincent Patrick’s, David Aaron Cohen’s, and Kevin Jarre’s, The Devil’s Own. Like Frankie, Danny is a really likeable character, and I feared for him throughout this book. I just wanted him to escape this dangerous cycle of violence that he can’t seem to see his way out of, not that he wants to be out of it. Danny becomes a fanatic, but there is so much more to him than that. I thought Danny’s portrayal was absolutely fabulous, and his narrative made Oath of Allegiance unputdownable. His depiction was brilliantly executed.
Patrick Carmody is the glue that holds this troubled family together. He is the one constant in everybody’s life. But unbeknown to anyone, Patrick has his own demons. Demons, that if discovered, could end in imprisonment and, in a worst-case scenario, his execution. Patrick fights a different type of war to his brother, although like Danny’s it is one shrouded in secrets and untruths.
Jenny Jackson is a very strong heroine, who, like Patrick, has to fight for what she wants. She is a woman and therefore should, as society dictates, be ruled by her husband. The very idea that she wants access to her own money seems almost scandalous. Times were changing, but they were not changing that fast. Thankfully, Jenny married Kevin, who adores the ground she walks on.
This is a family where loyalties are fundamentally divided, but the deep love the Carmody siblings have for each other makes estrangement incredibly challenging. Jenny comes from a very loving and very loyal family, and the path that Danny chooses has devastating consequences for all of them. I adored Jenny, she is a wonderful heroine who will not be cowed by her husband’s aristocratic family, nor will she be used by Kevin’s brother who is desperate to find out Danny’s whereabouts. I thought her depiction was marvellous.
As one would expect, there are some historical figures in this book. One cannot write a book about the IRA in the early 20th century without mentioning Michael Collins. Petken presents her readers with a very charismatic man in Collins, but she also stuck very close to the documented history about him. Collins commands respect, and he does not tolerate disloyalty. I was intrigued by her depiction of Collins, and although he is only a secondary character in this book, Collins is of course, as he once was in life, controlling the narrative.
Petken portrays the IRA as a very violent organisation, but she also explains why these men thought such actions were necessary. Petken does not make them heroes but like with Danny’s characterisation, she does try to provide a balanced view of who they were and what they were fighting for, which of course was an independent Ireland. The actions are at times utterly deplorable, but then so was the activities of the RIC which Petken also depicts in all its reprehensible behaviour.
Petken is a multi award-winning and international bestselling author, and I can understand why. All of her books are amazing, I am already a massive fan of Petken’s work, but Oath of Allegiance completely blew me away. It is outstanding. This book deserves a place on your bookshelf, and if ever a book deserved to be the next big series on Netflix, then it is this one.
I Highly Recommend!
Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club