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Killing Beauties

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  44 ratings  ·  33 reviews
England, 1655. Following the brutal civil wars the country swelters under a cloud of paranoia, suspicion and the burgeoning threat of rebellion. With the fragile peace being won by Cromwell’s ever-efficient Secretary of State John Thurloe, the exiled king Charles Stuart sends two spies on a dangerous mission to wrest back the initiative. These spies are different, however: ...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published January 23rd 2020 by Unbound
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  44 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Finitha Jose
I am not going to tell that this is a literary masterpiece. But this review is a salute to Pete Langman for his efforts to preserve the bravery of two female spies forgotten by history. There are many loose threads and vagueness for sure, but the book has accomplished its intention of bringing into life the efforts of Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings.
As you must have garnered from the abstract, both Susan and Diana are part of a Sisterhood which work for the restoration of Charles Stuart to the
Frankie (Chicks, Rogues and Scandals)
I know the old saying says; ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and usually I don’t jump onto a blog tour or take on a review by the cover alone, but I did instantly love it it’s so darkly gothic I was fascinated. Add an intriguing blurb, a historical tale all about unknown women from history then you have me hooked.
Set in 1655 during the English Civil War where the country is full of spies, danger, back-stabbing, death, and rebellion ready to tear the country apart even more then it is already.
Sherry Chiger
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it
For a first draft, this would be pretty good. For a finished novel, though , it's disappointing. Plot lines are dropped like stitches in a knitter's first scarf, characters are inconsistent, and the tone of the books careens wildly from philosophical to arch. I didn't believe the relationships between the characters for a moment, and some of the story was simply difficult to follow. I'm giving it three stars rather than two because the setting was well evoked, it seems well researched, and the ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
England, 1665: Tension simmers in a country that has been torn apart by the brutal civil wars and the execution of Charles I. His son, Charles Stuart lives in exile with his court, in France, hoping that one day he may return to the country of his birth.

The peace is fragile and Cromwell employs his Secretary of State, John Thurloe, as his spy-master, in order to keep ahead of any possible rebellion by Royalist sympathisers keen to restore the monarchy.

Two spies are sent by Charles Stuart to
Veronika Jordan
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ten years from now if someone asks me if I have read this book I may not remember the characters or the plot or who did what but I'll be able to say, 'Oh that's the book where she-intelligencer Diana Jennings pees into an ale mug under her skirts in the inn.' I think it will live with me forever. Of course that was at the beginning. There are more references to urinating in public places, from very un-private privies to alleyways and buckets. For someone of my genteel sensitivities this shocked ...more
Lynne Smith
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a fascinating look into a period of 17th century English history about which I knew something but not much. I enjoyed the fact that some characters were real historical figures, for example, John Thurloe, Cromwell’s spymaster, Diana Gennings female spy, a London apothecary Anthony Hinton who under interrogation gave up names of spies linked to The Sealed Knot and Susan Hyde spy and sister to one of Charles II’s closest advisors.
The novel moves along at a good pace and
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pigeon-books, 4-star
Set in the mid-17th century this fictional tale centres around She-Intelligencers and at its heart are three feisty, fierce, fearless females who belong to the sisterhood of The Sealed knot acting as spies on behalf of the Royalists.
Their task is to extract information from primarily John Thurloe, an arrogant, intelligent, cruel man who holds the position of Postmaster General and Chief Spymaster.
The evocation of the sense of smell runs strongly through this story and there are many amusing
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave a fascinating insight into the world of historical ‘She Intelligencers’. Very strong female leads and other interesting characters. I knew very little about this period in history so I found it extremely interesting Very well written with intrigue and humour. I was lucky enough to read this via the Pigeonhole App, a Stave a a day over ten days. I couldn’t wait for each one to arrive. I can highly recommend this book.
Nicola Mackenzie-smaller
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve been reading this book with The Pigeonhole. It’s been massively enjoyable. Strong female protagonists, plenty of “baddies” to enjoy and informative to boot.
This book tells the story of female spies during the time of Cromwell. They are working to restore the King to his rightful position and because they are women they are safe from the suspicion of their mortal enemy, Thurloe, a terrible man, inflicted with both misogyny and kidney stones!
This is a good romp, it’s funny and sassy and
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Muddled plot and a complete lack of a sense of jeopardy for the protagonists.
Christine Rennie
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pigeonhole
I read this book via Pigeonhole over a ten day period, it wasn’t my normal genre but it was a fascinating read. It exuded the history of a bygone era and the storyline of women who were spies or secret agents, at a period of time when women had no rights and would not be thought of as spies by the government of the day, made for an interesting storyline.
Highly recommended
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Spies are fascinating, and spies in an historical period unburdened by difficult hi tech are even more involving. In this book the fact that the spies are very much women adds to its attraction, as both Susan and Diana spend the first part of the book using their unique talents to fool those around them. This book is set in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s ascendancy, in 1655. King Charles I is dead, executed by Cromwell and others who believed that it was the only way to end a series of battles, ...more
My thanks to Unbound Digital for a digital edition via NetGalley of ‘Killing Beauties’ by Pete Langman in exchange for an honest review.

‘Killing Beauties’ was also a group read event on The Pigeonhole and I enjoyed contributing comments during our daily staves. Pete Langman also joined us.

This novel is based on the true story of Susan Hyde, the sister of Edward Hyde, chief advisor to King in exile Charles Stuart. Susan is part of a secret network of she-intelligencers – female spies – who manage
“We are the invisible agents.
We are the first, the last.
And we are the difference.”

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of historical fiction. I have read a fair handful of them and even list a couple as favorites, but it’s not my usual genre of choice. What attracted me to this book, though, was the title. Following a list of releases that suggested fairytale-inspired stories, I mistakenly thought this was one such book—perhaps a retelling of Beauty and the Beast? I don’t know. I was probably only
The Literary Shed
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it

A well-conceived historical novel is a fine thing indeed.

Throw in some she-spies, shed loads of intrigue and the gritty, dark and turbulent world of mid-seventeenth-century Civil War England and surely you’re onto a winner? Well, Pete Langman’s enjoyable Killing Beauties has all those things, and more.

Langman’s well-researched novel focuses on Susan Hyde, a real-life figure. A gentlewoman and the sister of Edward Hyde, one of exiled Charles Stuart’s top advisers, Susan is most likely unknown to
Maria Rivas-mc
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found the topic intriguing - she-intelligencers (female spies) in 17th century Britain. They were “invisible agents” whose success lay in the fact that women were generally undervalued, underestimated , and treated as part of the woodwork. The author, Peter Langman, based Killing Beauties on the true-life stories of Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings. One performed a key role as postmistress for the Sealed Knot, a royalist secret society; while Diana was a shadier character, described as a ...more
Rebecca L.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Killing Beauties is a novel of historical fiction based on the real life of Susan Hyde. The plot focuses on Susan's work as a spy and undercover agent during the reign of Oliver Cromwell. Although Killing Beauties is a work of fiction, the author has done a great deal of historical research. One of the main references he used for this book was Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in c17th Britain by Nadine Akkerman.

My favorite aspect of this book is the world building. Langman brings the harsh
Craig Hall
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Thank you to Pete and The Pigeon Hole for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review. I'm a fan of historical novels and was looking forward to learning something about she-intellegencers. The book was really well researched and the graphic descriptions of 17th century London were really good. Plenty of humour in there as well making the characters come to life.

I have to be honest and say that there were times in the book when i wasn't really certain what was
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, although I must admit, rather dense read about female spies in the mid 1600’s. Clearly they existed, but seem to have been excluded in much of the literature that’s been written about this time, which focuses about the shenanigans that the men got up to, chasing chambermaids and plotting behind each other’s backs! So, I’ve read quite a few historical novels about royalty and the many power-struggles for power that went on, but I’ve never come across anything told from this ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Although I did not enjoy the writing style or the storyline - I found the idea of women and espionage interesting. I enjoyed the historical references and a look into the 17th century England. I was able to research real life characters who featured in the book, such as the exiled King Charles Stuart (Charles II), John Thurloe - the spymaster for Oliver Cromwell, Edward Hyde - Lord Chancellor to Charles II, Susan Hyde - a she-intelligencer, Isaac Dorislaus - a Dutch Calvanist historian. I also ...more
Di Paterson
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
An entertaining and gripping novel, based on the lives of two female spies in Cromwellian England, this is a well written and well-researched story. I particularly loved the dialogue in the book. Coarse and bawdy at times, it reflected the times and the characters very well. Having said that, the characterisation was also brilliant, allowing me to totally identify with the main protagonists. The story unfolded easily, and all-in-all it's well worth reading. My thanks to Pete Langman and the ...more
Sam Wilkinson
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Protectorate isn't an era I have read much about previously, the civil war once or twice and Charles II a few times, but not the Protectorate itself.

Susan Hyde existed and is believed to have been a spy, and I have already picked up one other book (non fiction) to read more about her!

It's an intriguing plot and I needed to know what happened next, even when it made for uncomfortable reading.

I'd certainly be interested in reading more,
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story set during the Cromwellian Period, follows the adventures of a group of female undercover agents.

It is fast paced, well written and highly informative. The characters are all well drawn, and I found the story really interesting.

I had no idea that there were female spies during this period; they were all amazing characters!
Devaki Khanna
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the 1650s, Cromwell rules Britain with a heavy hand, assisted by his spy catcher, John Thurlow. Susan Hyde, whose brother is an advisor to the younger Charles Stuart in exile, is given the mission to get close to the man and discover his secrets. Her decision to accept this mission will turn her life upside down in more than one way...
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Killing Beauties is about the female spies (She-Intelligencers - isn’t it funny how they could make even that sound like an insult ) who worked for the exiled Charles Stuart during Cromwells reign. Charles Stuart himself sends two female spies back to England to turn Cromwell’s Secretary of State, John Thurloe, into their accomplice using their feminine wiles and training. This is actually based on the true story of two female spies - not something that any of us are usually taught in history ...more
Shelagh Wadman
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read Killing Beauties on Pigeonhole in 10 staves and we were lucky to have the author Pete Langman reading along with us. I love historical novels and this one didn’t disappoint me. Set in the mid-17th century in England when Charles Stuart, after the death of his father King Charles 1, seeks to regain his throne. Enter Susan Hyde sister to Edward Hyde the chief advisor to Charles Stuart. Susan and Diane Gennings are female intelligencers who belong to the ‘Sisterhood’, a network of female ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it liked it
I found this book a bit confusing even if the historical background is well researched and vivid.
It failed to keep my attention and the book fell flat.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is great, great characters and twists. Such an enjoyable read.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent she-spy thriller, very funny in parts and interesting as to this historical chapter of England. Much action , not one single boring word!
Christina Mama-Kyriacou
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book; menacing, informative, intriguing and funny in equal measures. Highly recommended.
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Pete Langman is an editor, academic, cricketer and sometime rock and roll guitarist who holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other one), keeps wicket for the Cricketers' Club of London, and was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at 40. His non-fiction encompasses Cricket, Parkinson’s Disease, Music, History of Science, literature and culture, and has appeared in publications ranging from ...more