I am delighted to be sharing my review for Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton. I have had this on my kindle for a little while now and I am so glad I chose to read it, it is a stunning story.
Let’s see what it’s all about…
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.
Why have I waited so long to pick this book up? A fabulous Historical Fiction that has a smattering of romance, once I started it I didn’t want to step away from it for a second.
Starting in 1768 as a naive Sarah Kemp arrives at Spitalfields, London. She is basically scammed and is tricked into working in a brothel. With no prospect of leaving because of mounting debts, she is fortunate indeed that Esther Thorel takes a chance on Sarah and gives her employment.
Esther is the wife of a Huguenot Silk Master. She is the dutiful wife who fills her days with painting, embroidery and charitable works. A journeyman silk weaver works in her home. During the day he works on his employers’ silks, in his own time he works on his own with the hope that he will be able to become a Master himself. Seeing him work, Esther has an idea of her own.
I immediately felt wrapped up in this novel. Sarah was so naive and I felt for her and the situation she finds herself in. Esther I didn’t immediately take to, she felt a little too goody two shoes for me. It isn’t until the arrival of Sarah into the household that I saw a different side to Esther asnd my opinion of her definitely changed. In some ways, the women have similarities in their naiveness, but gradually they bring out the best in each other. They gain a sort of strength from each other.
It is soon apparent that as much as the household looks like it runs smoothly, there is a tension lying just below the surface. The tensions of the silk weaving community gradually make themselves known as silk prices fall due to cheaper calico imports. It threatens not only the silk masters but also the lower down the ladder weavers.
The author has done a great job of incorporating some of the techniques and terms of silk weaving into the story. It has literally been woven in strand by strand to create a stunning story. It compliments the story of the two women so well. Not only giving a great story but also something new that I was able to learn about.
The setting mixes the contrasts between the different social classes, the workers and the masters. Using the tension of the cheaper imports to build tension and an air of unrest in the community that also affects homelife.
This is a stunning story that took many surprising turns, it was insightful and an absolute pleasure to read. If you love Historical Fiction then you really should pick this one up, totally absorbing and addictive.
This is a book with such a stunning cover that I am probably going to buy the hardback even though I own the e-book version!
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