This is the best Erica Ridley book I've read so far - and I've read a large number! Why? Because I've learnt a lot of new things about life and shopping in the Regency age. I had no idea that there were so many different weights and measures around in this time. and I've discovered the origin of why the American gallon is not an English gallon. All of which was very mysterious before. So in real life there was an Act of Parliament in 1824 that laid down the exact weights for measures in the UK. A gallon was to be measured as the volume of 10 pounds of distilled water weighed at 62 degrees Fahrenheit, with a barometer pressure of 30 inches or 277.274 cubic inches. So very precise! The old Troy pound was later restricted as being used only to weigh drugs, precious metal and jewels. But it was not until 1963 that the rod and chaldron (who has ever heard of that?! But it was apparently a measure of coal being 36 bushels), were finally abolished. Now isn't that fascinating? But to add to the confusion, the American weights and measures guys adopted the units the English used before 1824. This means that an American gallon is based on the Queen Anne wine gallon of 231 cubic inches and is thus 17% smaller than the English. The Old English (Queen Anne) Wine Gallon was standardized as 231 in3 (133 fl oz) in the 1706 Act 5 Anne c27, but it differed before that, as an example the London 'Guildhall' gallon before 1688 was 129.19 fl oz. And the US bushel is 3% smaller; with the American dry pint being .551 cubic decimeters and the English keeping the wet and dry pint the same at .586 cubic decimeters. Yes the wet American is the same as the English to confuse us all... I do hope everyone followed all of that! So for me, the story was in the usual good form of Erica with a great heroine and a somewhat bemused hero but for me, being a history buff, the weights and measures issue sent me off into research land which doesn't often happen these days. Well done Erica!
Once upon a time there was an Earl who need a bride in order to inherit his estate and sort out the mess and debts his profligate father and forebears had left him with. But where was he to get one? With money? And in need of a hasty marriage and preferably without the need for a marriage bed.
Not that he swung that way, but more that he couldn’t be bothered to have a real wife who would need him to do things with him.
And then there was a girl – or young woman more like, who also needed a hasty marriage, but she didn’t really have a fortune and to cap it all was American! And Trade! So not really a suitable marriage prospect at all.
But as with these novels the two were brought together and a marriage of convenience for them both, was organised.
A nice novel in this genre wit some amusing touches and well written even if sticking closely to the script. I like these as long as the heroine doesn’t simper, and this one didn’t!
Spitalfields is an area of London that has always fascinated me, with its tall houses topped by glassed in roofs.
I knew that it had been settled by the Huguenot weavers when they came to Britain fleeing religious persecution in France, but knew little about the actual people other than their religion and that they wove silk.
This was also the time of the East India company’s explorations and settlement into the Far East, India, Alaska and North America. When they brought back furs, exotica and fabrics never before seen in England – and cheaper than silk too. Which is where this novel comes in.
I really enjoyed this faction/fiction about this period in history but would have been more impressed with the knowledge and storyline if I hadn’t heard about the book published just a year ago by Liz Trenow The Silk Weaver which is the (fictionalised) story of Anna Maria Garthwaite (as her real history has not been fully documented), who was the person who came to London and produced the realistic and beautifully detailed designs for silks, that in this story by Sonia Velton, is Esther’s role. Anna even persuaded a weaver to work on her silk as his Master piece. The flowers are amazingly detailed and must have taken a very long time to weave, stitch by stich, by hand, as mechanized weaving was not yet available for these fabrics, and the designs are woven in and not printed on.
Sonia’s story takes some of the facts about the Combinations, the Cutters’ Riots, and the hangings (there were 2 men hanged historically) and the known riots by the weavers as a direct result of the bringing in of printed calico and thus the drop in demand for silk, and the resultant loss of work and pay. But as my husband would say, there was always a small riot in London, they just never managed a big enough one to rival the French!
I enjoyed Sonia’s story nevertheless and found it well written and I did invest in the characters and the difficulties of life as a woman in this time – and how bad life was in London if you were poor – this is the time Hogarth painted his Gin Lanes and women feeding children gin to keep them quiet as they lacked food or milk.
But 2 novels published in the same year effectively about the same period with a similar cast of characters brings down the ranking of the second one.
Part of the Glass and Steele series #1 and #2
I initially thought that these were Clockwerk Urban/Steampunk novels but realised soon that we were actually talking about the alternate Victorian London where there was magic. So I was slightly disappointed at beginning.
But …. then I liked the stories in these 2 books but agree with some reviewers that the language used was not typical English Victorian, but this didn’t bother me as this was not ‘our’ Victorian world after all.
We did see the typical prejudice of the time against women played out well and hidden beneath it, we finally discover, is the prejudice against craftsmen who have a different and rather special skill – magic.
Book #1 was rather slow at times but I did buy the follow on book – however, found myself not bothered enough to read any more of this series. Book 1 was better than book 2 in my opinion. Book 2 was repetitive of book 1 and the theme not as strong.
We met Penelope before – the scientist who creates perfumes in the castle – somewhat messy and unusual indeed in being a ‘lady’ chemist at these times., in book #1.
Here we find her having successfully created a perfume for men that has proved to be a scent for the male tonthat has taken them by storm – and has made her notable.
Now she has to make a female perfume that will do the same.
Another of Erica’s heroines that is naturally a scientist in an era when women were not that educated and one we can empathise with, one who is a natural philosopher as those who worked with natural essences were called, and one who experimented in a laboratory. A grand example for our own girls.
I always enjoy a novel by Erica Ridley. They are light but also have great heroines who are not conforming to the societal norm. which i approve of. She doesn’t attempt to copy Georgette Heyer even though the books are set in the same time period. Rather she makes the time period her own creation, and this series of short novels is a grand idea – 12 before Xmas – quick writing!