The history of Peterborough and the discovery of an ancestor in the area inspired a historical novelist to write her latest novel.

Alison Huntingford's ‘Dance A Fearful Jig’, which is set in Peterborough in 1807, poses the question: ‘What would you sacrifice for love?’

A lonely, middle-aged housekeeper meets a French paroled prisoner from Napoleon’s army. In times of war, a forbidden friendship can be dangerous.

All Alison’s novels are based on her family history, and she is meticulous in her historical research.

This particular book led her to rediscover the prisoner of war camp, Norman Cross, and its population of 5000 Napoleonic soldiers.

It is a fascinating and unusual story of friendship and love which knows no borders.

Peterborough Matters:

Alison, who lives in Devon, has previously published ‘The Glass Bulldog’ (nominated for the Walter Scott prize for Historical Fiction in 2019) and ‘A Ha’penny Will Do’ in the same series.

She has spent a year writing the 230-page latest novel.

She said: “I discovered a fascinating story of an ancestor of mine who lived in Peterborough in the 1800s and I knew it had to be told.

“Rachel Alderman was my four times great Aunt and worked for one of the cathedral clergy.

“What I also discovered about Norman Cross, (using Paul Chamberlain’s excellent book: ‘The Napoleonic Prison of Norman Cross’), gave me everything I needed to inspire the story.”

Alison said: “Using a real person from my own family as the lead character in the book has given me a stronger than usual emotional bond to the novel.

Peterborough Matters:

“I have researched and imagined the life that she was living more than 200 years ago, but throughout the writing process I have felt very emotionally involved with her as a person and as a character in the book.”

Alison’s other activities have included organizing the much-acclaimed South Hams Literary Festival in 2023, which included a wealth of local and national talent, such as Sunday Times best sellers Jane Corry (Coming to Find You) and Sarah Pearse (The Sanatorium).

She is also the founder of the South Hams Authors Network, a collective of local authors who meet regularly. Last year she edited and published an anthology of short stories by the members.

DANCE A FEARFUL JIG is published in paperback and by Lupin Publications and is available online or via local bookshops.

For more information about Alison’s writing visit her website.