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Lady Gardeners Rule OK: Book Review

botany - Lady Gardeners Rule OK: Book Review The Fair Botanists
Sara Sheridan
Historical Fiction | Romance | Women's Fiction
Hodder & Stoughton
Pub Date 5 Aug 2021
five star - Lady Gardeners Rule OK: Book Review

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's aunt Clementina, she's determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant's impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don't last long in this Enlightenment city . . .

And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.

20210219 125643 1024x768 - Lady Gardeners Rule OK: Book Review

I loved this book – but then I am a keen gardener and plant afficionado and as it happens I collect agaves and aloes especially, of all succulents and exotic Mediterranean plants. Not cactii. But a few euphorbia. Preferably not too prickly! I do have an Agave Americana in my collection, and interestingly of all agave, these are now the most common, even though, to be honest, I have never seen one flower in a garden. I have seen them flower on Mediterranean mountain sides. The flower is not very exotic. Normally they grow a lot of offsets and propagation is through them. I have masses of grey agave from offsets.

I thought that the sensory discussion about smells having colours was interesting as this is a well known phenomena – people also have music colours and taste colours.  And I liked the idea that smells produce emotions as people often associated perfume with a particular time, place, or person.

The setting up of the new Botanical Garden was fascinating. And how they transplanted the trees. In barrels. I always thought that they used sacking round the roots to transplant and to remove the soil. This was clearly a very different, and perhaps less brutal way, as the finer roots wouldn’t be damaged.

The argument over whether a botanical garden is for medicinal uses still ranges – especially now that we discover that many plants that were once thought to be ornamental – such as green beans – are now used for food; and others such as yew are used to extract (a cancer) drug from it called paclitaxel (Taxol), which is an antimitotic agent which stops cell division, resulting in cell death and this prevents cancer growth.

I knew about pineapples being a status symbol and that many wealthy plantation owners put a pineapple finial on their gates to indicate that they had grown them, but I was unaware about strawberries being a new plant. According to wikipedia, the garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Amédée-François Frézier in 1714. Strawberry fragrance is extremely complicated – it has 31 elements that give it its flavour and scent and it is claimed to be useful in alleviating diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.

I did like the idea of a bath oil to help alleviate period pains – the doctors all being male (at this time, and what about later researchers and grants?) would think that was nothing to concern themselves over. And so it has continued for many years. As has been said, if only male doctors got periods there would have been a cure for the pain and discomfort long ago! Today the use of oil for cramps is common in the complementary medical world, and they recommend: peppermint, lavender, cypress oil, clary sage, rose, copaiba, cinnamon, and bergamot peel, roman chamomile flower, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, geranium, fennel seed, carrot seed, palmarosa herb, and vitex leaf berry, not to mention siberian fir. So there is a large number of essential oils that can help and special blends are available.

So what did I think of the book apart from all this wonderful plant knowledge? I loved it. I thought it very clever the way the various stories about the people of Edinburgh were blended into the story of the Botanical garden move and the excitement over a unique flower and other special, and new to that time, plants. The style was good and easy to read as well as being informative. We well understood that this was a blend of historical facts and fiction. The visit in 1822 of the Prince Regent to Edinburgh was real. Sir Walter Scott and his insistence on tartan for the dress code elevated the fabric to become again symbol of identity – as it had been forbidden after the Jacobite Rising.

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Cressmouth to Christmas: Book Review

merry - Cressmouth to Christmas: Book Review Making Merry
12 Dukes of Christmas
Erica Ridley
historical fiction,
Erica Ridley
OCt 2020
Kindle
Erica Ridley VIP list
five star - Cressmouth to Christmas: Book Review

Prologue novella exclusive to VIPs.

Free book for VIP Readers only.

This book actually talks about the background history to Cressmouth and how it became a Christmas village

It tells you of the people who were instrumental in setting up the various elements that produced the final village and the rationale for how it was set up – so for instance the villagers paid for a 100 years lease with no further rent with one Guinea. This ensured that no greedy landlord could impoverish them in the future.

It was also agreed that the food and entertainment and so on would be free to all, but when you take into account the amount of rent that they were going to charge for the Castle apartments, in fact the food and all the entertainments would be paid for with a hefty profit. Because every time they talked about the rent for the Castle apartments, the price went up, until it was over a year’s rent for a London town house. So this meant that if you could afford to rent one of the Castle apartments you got bragging rights, and your name would be inserted into the regular newsletters that was sent out by the Christmas owners and management, which therefore would bring in money, rather than paying out for adverts in other people’s newsletters.

There was also to be an annual edition which would bring out all the annual highlights, and would be charged for as a picture book that would be kept.

We know about the stringent terms on which the shops were leased from the previous story about the jeweller in which there were seven years to pay back the loan or you lost everything.

All of which meant that Christmas was profitable and yet appeared to be free for all to enjoy.

It was therefore organised so that the nobility and the rich paid up and those with no money paid nothing.

I’m going to give this one five stars because I like the rational of how Christmas was arranged. Below are the 12 books that complete this series.

image 6 1024x521 - Cressmouth to Christmas: Book Review
image 7 1024x500 - Cressmouth to Christmas: Book Review

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What happens at house-parties – don’t tell!

batchelor - What happens at house-parties - don't tell! The Bachelor Earl
Book 1 of 13: The Untouchables (13 Book Series)
Darcy Burke
Fiction, Historical, Regency
Darcy Burke Publishing
(17 Nov. 2020
four star - What happens at house-parties - don't tell!

The romantic prequel to the USA Today bestselling series, The Untouchables! This book includes bonus scenes from The Untouchables series featuring many of your favorite characters.

For two years following the death of her beloved husband, Eugenia, the Dowager Duchess of Kendal has grieved and kept to herself. Her cousin is hosting a house party and has persuaded Genie to attend—it’s the perfect opportunity to emerge from mourning. Genie is looking forward to seeing old friends but is shocked when she learns the true purpose of the occasion: to match widowed ladies with widowed and unmarried gentlemen.

Once infatuated with a young Eugenia Aldwick, Edmund Holt, Earl of Satterfield is thrilled when Genie arrives at the matchmaking house party. Mutual attraction sparks between them immediately, however he is in need of a wife who can provide an heir and she is unable to do so. Genie would also dearly love to be a mother after losing her daughter several years before. Can they embrace a second chance at love or will the demands of his title and the pull of her maternal heart prove too strong to ignore?

 Matchmaking in a quite different way – Darcy finds us a new take on regency house parties.

Here’s what you never knew about Regency house-parties – they are intended – often – for matchmaking – and that doesn’t necessarily include marriage! If you are eligible – i.e. a widow – you can find a ‘match’ at some of these parties – rather discretely – but not so much if the hostess gives you a map to who’s sleeping where!

Well who knew…. swingers and all.

Except that sometimes the people attending are not in that scene and didn’t realise just what kind of party they had been invited to and then get rather a shock.

But why not? Why assume that affairs are something we invented? We certainly didn’t, and if house parties for partner swapping or just discrete enjoyment happen now then why not then? I don’t know if it historically accurate but who cares, it is a fun scenario to imagine and a vastly different setting for a romance.

I enjoyed it.

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Kisses under the Mistletoe?

content?id=DCnWDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&source=gbs api - Kisses under the Mistletoe? A Mistletoe Vow To Lord Lovell
(Mills & Boon Historical)
Joanna Johnson
Fiction
HarperCollins UK
October 1, 2020
368

Will their vows last a lifetime... Not just for Christmas? Abandoned by her husband, and society because her father was a slave, Honora Blake will never rely on anyone again. Until dashing Lord Lovell breaks the news that she is a widow – and penniless – and insists she spend Christmas with him and his pregnant ward. Beneath the mistletoe, passion flares between Honora and Isaac. Then childbirth places his ward’s life in jeopardy, and these strangers suddenly face marriage to protect the baby!

Another in the Black Lives Matter and slavery theme. Set in the time period (1817) when being Black in England was unusual and not always recognised well by Society. Even when people were born free. And the ideas that brought about Abolition of Slavery were still in their infancy.

Honora came from America and had been courted for her dowry by a scoundrel – of which there were quite a few as Society men didn’t dabble in Trade or work to make a living – other than gambling of course! She existed, one can’t really say lived considering the state of it, in a house her husband had left her in, 3 years previously, with no money and no way of gaining any – her only options being to wait on her husband to deign to send her some, or for her to sell her possessions. She was far too proud to go home – even if she could afford the fare – and admit just how right her family had been about Frank Blake.

We also have the illegitimate children theme added in to this story and the need to conceal a pregnancy from Society as it would impact on future marriage possibilities let alone the difficulty of concealing the existence of the child if you were a woman and the father did t take responsibility. It was not uncommon for a rich man to require his wife to take into her family the offspring of his lovers – as long it wasn’t too many! It was easy enough to isolate yourself in the country if you were married, for a few months after a discrete bit of padding to enhance the lie…

A nice story line bringing out some of the social issues of the time. And a promise to kiss under the mistletoe…

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A Watery Tale

thames - A Watery Tale Once Upon a River
Diane Setterfield
Fairy Tales, Myths, Historical Thrillers, Literary fiction
Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday
(29 Aug. 2019)
five star - A Watery Tale

It was the longest night of the year when the strangest of things happened . . .

____________________

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.

Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

And who does the little girl belong to?

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

Once upon a time – we still see echoes of it today – people gave offerings to the water goddesses. And in this story we delve back into the myths surrounding these water goddesses and fairies and the birth caul, as well as the River Thames.

In the time when traffic on the river was heavy and barges came and went loaded up with goods that were easier to transport on water than road, we find ourselves stopping at ancient inns along the towpaths. And in the dark evenings, sitting around the fireplace, stories were told to keep the travellers entertained.

The Swan Inn was such an Inn situated in the watercress fields – fields nourished by the dead bodies of those that fell in a long ago battle. The Thames has been fought over for many centuries – from Alfred onwards. Later than the time of this story, a railway was built – called the WaterCress Line (!), just to bring this prized salad crop to London. Watercress is an aquatic plant species with the botanical name Nasturtium officinale.
In former times there was little choice of green vegetables in Winter and Watercress filled that gap with its ability to crop at least 4 times a Season. https://astonrowant.wordpress.com/ewelme-watercress-beds/

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I really liked the way the story was told. The sentences and phrasing reminded me of nineteenths century novels. It is slow and detailed and the characters come to life and talk to you. There is a narrator too who tells a different story – the story of rivers, the Thames and links into the various lore of the different traditions.

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