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Equestrian Magazine Reviews of Coachman

Travel Back in Time with Sue Millard’s Coachman
February 2013 issue of The Whip

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 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., February 2013.

December issue of Carriage Driving Magazine

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

COACHMAN has been guest featured or reviewed by the following bloggers:

Richard Abbott: The Bookworms Fancy 10 October 2013

J A Beard on Riftwatcher 29 March 2013

Maria Grace on Random Bits of Fascination 24 March 2013

Deborah Swift on Royalty-Free Fiction January 2013

Blog Hops and Blog fests

Heroes and Villains Blog Hop 3-6 May 2013

Historical Novel Blog Fest - 12-15 April 2013

A Very British Blog Tour - 28 March 2013

Reader Reviews

***** puts us squarely into early Victorian times

Nowadays we slide behind our car’s steering wheel, or maybe into our usual seat on the commuter train or an aisle seat on the airplane, and can hardly dream of the coaches that were the heartbeat of travel in England two centuries ago. Coachman puts us squarely into early Victorian times, as George Davenport hops up on the box and sets off his four-in-hand team to thunder along the mail route. George cuts a dashing figure as a handsome, well-dressed young man who moves among gentry and stable lads alike. One of the ‘Knights of the road’ of the early nineteenth century. Well-placed trade and period colloquialisms give us the ‘gigs and phaetons’ over the ‘cobbles,’ the ‘off-wheeler’ and the ‘brake-shoe,’ let us observe men ‘foxed’ with drink, and feel the heat of ‘touching a Lucifer to the kindling.’

George is a proud Coachman who faces the end of an era as railroad travel emerges. He is initially fortunate to get on with William Chaplin, the titan of coaching and a real historical figure, in London, allowing him to make plans to move his wife-to-be and unborn child down from Cumberland. But challenges beset him, in the form of the precipitously fast demise of the coaching trade, and the unwanted attentions of Mr. Chaplin’s sexually-curious daughter. George’s world is vivid: the underbelly of hand-to-mouth existence for commoners of the time is not spared, the pageantry of the Mail Coach Procession, and the refinement of the theater. In the end, George must decide how far he will go to hold the power of a four-in-hand team in his gloved hand. BCW on Goodreads,
Feb 27, 2019

***** it was amazing ·

review of another edition
Shelves: horses-coaching, industrial-revolution
Sue Millard has a long association with horses and carriage driving and has used her expertise to create an informative and entertaining narrative around a mode of transport that is long gone. Coachman is a fascinating insight into the organisation and resources needed to run such an enterprise, and the calibre of the men required to drive the coaches. I didn’t envy them working in all types of weather, night or day, dealing with disgruntled passengers, bad roads or any mishaps that occurred.

I enjoyed everything about this novel. The dialogue, often filled with banter, added humour and a sense of camaraderie, but most memorable are the historical details that enriched it and transported me to Victorian England, into the everyday lives of the characters. George's games of cribbage with Cherry, his friend and fellow coachman, and the coach's guard tootling a few bars of a bawdy song, The Young Coachman, on his key-bugle when he realises that Sarah Chaplin is flirting with George, particularly spring to mind. Sue Millard also includes more serious issues in her tale, which reflect the attitudes and prejudices of the era.

Coachman is a wonderful snapshot of life in Victorian England at a time of change and how a young man learns some valuable lessons regarding the importance of honesty, love and friendship! Yvonne: Goodreads, Jan 02, 2017

***** Wonderful research went into this story.

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! 14 January 2016 Amazon UK

***** You don't have to love horses or carriages to love this account

This is a book I didn't want to end. You don't have to love horses or carriages to love this account of the life of a coachman. I so enjoyed the story, the history and the detail. Sue Millard's scrupulous research results in an accurate portrait of a coachman's life in Victorian England. This book deserves a sequel. E. L. Allen, April 28, 2015. Amazon USA

***** This was a five star book for me

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.

Most of the characters ... 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, Coachman has been a very satisfying book to have read, and I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone interested in the changes Britain faced in the mid-19th century, as seen through the eyes of one man from the provinces. Richard Abbott: The Bookworms Fancy, 10 October 2013

**** Thoroughly enjoyable

A 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. Carol W, Amazon UK, 15 Sep 2013

**** The pages fairly flew by

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, set in Victorian times. Just as the golden age of the mail coach is coming to an end with the building of the railways: a 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 ;)

Jonathan Hopkins (unclearthur), 23 August 2013, Cavalry Tales, and Amazon UK

***** Excellent Book

This is a fascinating insight into the world of the coachman in Victorian times, well researched and a good story to boot. I congratulate the author on this excellent tour de force! MAB, 13 Aug 2013 Amazon UK

***** Coachman

This was both interesting and fun. It was nice for the main protagonist to have a romantic interest. It seemed very well researched and written and was enlightening to see that time period and cultural aspects of England from the side of the providers of services, opposed the side of the gentry lighting from the curb to hail "Cabby!" There were many more providers of services than gentry, after all.

Definitely a good read. Perhaps eventually our hero could have his own team and we could get to learn even more about the horses themselves - characters, foibles of their equine own personalities as well as their trials and tribulations. Speaking about 'providers of services!' Coachman was very well done and author Ms. Millard did a lovely job with it. I could definitely see myself purchasing the sequel as well. "Horse Driver" Deborah D., July 15, 2013 Amazon USA

I just purchased your book "Coachman" and am hot into the part where the mail coaches are in the procession in London a week prior to the Queens birthday and Sarah appropriates George at a street corner (I wonder if trouble is coming there, can't wait to find out). I received it yesterday, opened it this morning with brekkie, and could barely leave it to go out and work horses this morning. I could still nearly see in my mind's eye the glistening gold on the mail coaches (yours, not mine) as I groomed my beloved beasts and thought about your book. It is a great read (which I am sure you have just heard and heard). Deborah Dickerson, 15 June 2013

***** This story has it all

...with a setting descriptively displayed in historic England. The background, down to the tiniest of details has been diligently researched by the author, and it shows. You'll find details of the driver's abilities that only someone who actually drives horses could understand. Add to that the story of the horses and all involved in the coaching industry along with their combined daily trials of the job make this a most interesting read. The best part is the tale behind these details, the heroine and the hero surviving the worst of times. It's a must read with many surprises!!! 2 April 2013 Amazon USA

***** Coachman - a colourful tale of speed, greed, love and ambition!

Sue has written an exuberantly descriptive, romantically lively, authentically colourful story - as faced-paced as the Mail Coaches she describes!

The era of the English Mail Coach (which quickly became the fastest transport system in the world for 40 years and constituted one of the most innovative advances in the annals of Speed) is the setting for 'Coachman' by Sue Millard. Her tale of high and low times is set in the late 1830s as the advent of the railways threatens the future of coachman, horse and coach who made up the network of Royal Mail Coach services. Her colourful, atmospheric descriptions of the coaching Inns, where maids and ostlers, coachmen and guards, owners and passengers hustle, bustle, live and love proudly and precariously tell a taught tale of ambition, love, greed and romance on and off 'the open road'.

Her deep love and knowledge of horses, carriage driving and her impeccable research into this flamboyant yet highly successful system brings palpable authenticity to her writing ...she tells the story of an ambitious young Coachman George, his lady-love Lucy - and other distractions - set during the commercially wild, woolly and competitive Mail coach era in Victoria's Great Britain. Her three dimensional characters live and love faced with the daily pressure of delivering Mail and passengers in all weathers and all conditions, whilst enduring all of Love's trials and obstacles - as they live with the threat of loosing their way of life as a new era of speed dawns - the Age of Steam.

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

**** Well Researched

The characters and the dialogue were charming... the information about the coaching... fit with the personality of the lead character. Cynthia McArthur, 6 January 2013, Amazon USA

*** 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, December 2012, 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. Kathleeen Hunter, 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

***** A Heart-warming lovely read!

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. 4 Nov 2012 Amazon UK

For anyone that likes the England that was

...or, for that matter, the English language that was, this is a nice book. For those who look lovingly at those traditional Christmas cards showing Royal mail coaches being dragged through snow storms by valiant teams of horses, this is also a lovely book. The hero is George, a young and ambitious coach driver. In those times, he would have been the equal of a brash young 747 pilot in our own times; well paid and confident. But, when the new railway steals his favourite run, the Carlisle to Newcastle Mail, it is time for him to move to London to seek a greater fortune. This requires him to leave Lucy, his lady love, behind in Carlisle, while he establishes himself with Chaplin, England’s greatest mail coach Master. Lucy does join him and all ends happily ever after. But, the railways are closing in on the whole business and they must move North again to survive. The subject matter is very novel and obviously the work of someone who knows a lot of horses as well. There is also a “Hardy touch” in the treatment of Cumberland and the North with good dialogue and plain, but, fluent, English. Entertaining and gripping, Coachman is narrative too; one of changing times and hardships not unlike our own. A very satisfying read indeed! Rod Wout, Researcher, Alan and Sarmatian histories. 1 Nov 2012

***** An interesting window on the past.

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. 12 Oct 2012 Amazon UK

***** Easy and informative read.

I enjoyed the story and really enjoyed the historical notes included in 'about this book'. It was interesting to read more detail of the time and how this was woven into the story. I like 'historical novels' where the writer 'fleshes out' the rather dull historical facts. It helps to imagine what life was like in those times. 7 Oct 2012 Amazon USA

One customer wrote about the matt covers we're using: As the sales guy handed the book to me, he snatched it back out of my hand and said, 'Ooh! that feels nice. Is it laminated, or something? Seems like good quality.' Then he gave it back and I never got the chance for my 'Ooh!' Still I find myself idly smoothing my fingers over the cover from time to time.

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