Friday, June 10, 2011
REVIEW: The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
The civil war is over and King Charles II is in his rightful place on the throne of England. Richard Wheeler wishes nothing more than to leave the violent life of a Soldier behind and embraces his faith and the life of a Quaker. When his neighbor-plant enthusiast and artist Alice Ibbetson-notices the extremely rare Lady's Slipper orchid growing on his land, she resolves to have it all costs and steals it in the dead of night. Now in possession of the precious flower, Alice finds herself the object of unwanted attention-from Wheeler who is convinced she has it and wants it back, from wise woman Margaret Poulter who wants to harness it's medicinal power, and from the loathsome Sir Geoffrey Fisk who hopes to make a fortune with it and thinks it is the magical cure to restore his health. What starts as the seemingly inconsequential theft of the orchid soon spirals into much more as the nobles resentment of the Quakers intensifies and Alice finds herself accused of murder.
I loved the author's approach of using something as ordinary as a flower (even an exceptionally rare one) to paint a portrait of England post Cromwell. In the first couple of chapters I found myself thinking "Okay. She steals a flower. So, the worst that can happen here is she may get thrown in jail for a bit? Branded on the hand?" Wrong! So much happens both directly and indirectly as a result of Alice taking the orchid. The plight of the Quakers shown through Richard and his friends against the local aristocracy led by the contemptible Geoffrey Fisk was very well written. They were given the harshest punishment for the slightest offense and the treatment of these people was absolutely horrible. Also well done was conveying the suspicions of the time. Being a woman who dealt with plants or medicine was most definitely not a safe occupation at this point in history. Geoffrey is quite a character-only cares about himself and the carrying on of his legacy through his son Stephen. He doesn't realize or care that his son doesn't want to be just like him. We also have the devious maid Ella who seeks to advance her fortunes in any manner possible.
Many of the characters also have inner conflict to deal with. Ella seems like a complete cold-hearted trollop but maybe her family situation force her actions. Alice seems a bit in her own little world but that may be the result of her grief for her lost sister. Geoffrey and Richard also have a past which complicates things quite a bit. I liked the multiple layers to the characters very much.
There were a few sex scenes that gave me pause (because they were a little out there? Too much?) but nothing too terrible. Some of the other reviews I have read kind of puzzled me in how they described these scenes because I am Ms. Prude when it comes to this area of a book I have to say that it didn't bother me that bad at all. The second half of the book is more action filled than the first half but that is to be expected when you're trying to show how one little action can snowball into much bigger ones. There are not many historical fiction novels out there that I know of that cover this time period in England and are not entirely focused on Charles II. I am glad to have read this one. I found the Lady's Slipper to be very entertaining and definitely worth a read.
This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.