The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The Fair Fight
Anna Freeman

Riverhead Books

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“Readers of historical fiction will cheer . . .”

The Fair Fight follows three people whose lives come together in the world of pugilism in late Eighteenth century England. Ruth Webber is a capable woman pugilist from the dregs of society. Gentleman and inveterate gambler George Bowden is torn by love for the drunkard Perry Sinclair and that for Perry’s sister Charlotte. Charlotte has her own hurt to bear as a woman scarred in mind and body by the smallpox outbreak that killed her parents and other siblings. Hated by her brother, a feeling she reciprocates, she’s nothing but a pawn in his machinations.

Ruth, Charlotte and George come together through the boxing mania sweeping the country. Ruth’s husband Tom attracts the attention of Charlotte’s husband Granville during a boxing match. Cold and calculating, Granville takes Tom under his wing, aiming to see him challenge for the title of pugilism champion of Great Britain. Betting on the outcome is likely to make or break fortunes. As Granville’s ruthless plan develops, Ruth and Charlotte meet and find an unlikely friendship and mutual support that enables them both to rise above their circumstances. George Bowden, unable to stay away from Charlotte, has his own high stakes in the oncoming match. When it takes place, more than mere money is gained and lost.

With its masterly use of contemporary language and idiom The Fair Fight brings eighteenth century England to life. The main characters are fully-rounded individuals, each with unique flaws and virtues. Even the minor characters are drawn with a fine brush that makes them real. Readers of historical fiction will cheer on Charlotte and Ruth especially as they fight to overcome their expected roles in the social stratification of the time.

Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews