Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton - my Review
Anyone who knows me, even the tiniest bit, will know, as surely as I did the minute I saw the cover of this book, that it is exactly the kind of book I fall head over heels in love with.
And I did. For several reasons.
(1) I swooned when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art. I am loving the current trend for historical novels to have a rich tapestry of all-over design and this one is covered with a lavish illustration of the woven floral silks which wind their way through the story.
(2) it is highly recommended by one of my very favourite authors the sublimely talented Laura Purcell (If she told me I'd enjoy reading the labels on sauce bottles, you wouldn't be able to get in my kitchen for ketchup and pickles)
(3) It is set in England, Spitalfields, London to be precise, in the late 18th century - Mmmmm it's piqued my interest.
(4) it is peopled with strong, willful women, who are all utterly believable and their stories individually are compelling. When they begin to overlap and weave together, the chemistry ignites causing an explosive tale of betrayal, deceit, ambition and politics that had me reeling.
(5) It is a luscious, competent and exciting debut brimming with the promise of so much more to come, from this author, who is a wonderful discovery.
So, you will gather, I liked it! I hope you'll be intrigued enough to put this book on your 2019 wishlist, although it isn't due out until early in the New Year, it is most definitely one to wait with bated breath for.
I am writing my review now as I was one of the VERY lucky few to receive a copy in advance of publication and I want to share the love whilst my feelings aout it are still quite fresh.
So let me tell you a bit about it to whet your appetites:
It is the 1760s and we are in the city of London where Spitalfields, an area filled with merchants houses occupied by Huguenot weavers, jostles side by side with less wholesome neighbours, including brothels and pubs and a bustling marketplace.
Into this area arrives innocent young woman Sara, fresh from the countryside, smarting from what she sees as rejection by her Mother, just wanting someone to care for, brimming with hope for a new life and ready to seize any opportunity which comes her way.
But before the dust even settles she is "helped" by a wily old madam and inveigled into living and working at a notorious brothel.
Esther's life is very different, a respectable married woman living in one of the tall merchants houses with her Huguenot silk weaver husband, although her marriage lacks in love she hopes her husband will understand her desire to be involved in his world and reveals her ambition to be a designer of silks by showing him the delicate floral designs she has drawn. When he scorns and belittles her aspirations, she resolves to make her way despite him not because of him.
A foray into philanthropy sees Esther trying to help their less fortunate neighbours, and whilst distributing Bibles in the poorer quarters of Spitalfields she comes across Sara being bullied by her Madam and takes a chance on offering the girl employment as a maid.
Sara finds attending to the mercurial merchants' wife little less tiresome than lying down for a living, but she manages to make the best of what she's offered and a tentative friendship of sorts, begins between the two women.
But men, as they always do, disrupt the womens lives as they become embroiled in sinister and dastardly doings in the world of silk weaving and still Esther harbours her passion to create her own designs.
There is very much a sense of who is using whom and why. Everyone has ulterior motives, nobody is perfect and those with minor imperfections meet the deeply flawed head on as we are treated to a whirling and writhing tale of dishonesty, abandonment, determination and recklessness.
It follows therefore that I am urging you to read this book because I ADORED it and if you follow my blog and like similar books to those I enjoy you will love it. It is clever and cunning, literary without being preachy, lush and lavish and never prosaic and it lulls you into several senses of false security before leaving you reeling.
When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.
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