Synopsis: Winter, 1661. In her short life Sadie Appleby has never left rural Westmorland. But one night she is rudely awoken by her older and bolder sister, Ella. She has robbed her employer and is on the run. Together the girls flee their home and head for London, hoping to lose themselves in the teeming city. But the dead man's relatives are in pursuit, and soon a game of cat and mouse ensues amongst the freezing warren that is London in winter. Ella is soon seduced by the glitter and glamour of city life and sets her sights on the flamboyant man-about-town, Jay Whitgift, owner of a beauty parlour for the wives of the London gentry. But nothing in the capital is what it seems, least of all Jay Whitgift. Soon a rift has formed between Ella and Sadie, and the sisters are threatened by a menace more sinister than even the law. Set in a brilliantly realised Restoration London, The Gilded Lily is a novel about beauty and desire, about the stories we tell ourselves, and about how sisterhood can be both a burden and a saving grace.
My Thoughts: I read Deborah Swift's novel The Lady's Slipper last year and remember thinking that I wish the character of Ella, the opportunist maid had featured more prominently because she was one of my favorite characters of the book. My wish was granted in the form of The Gilded Lily which follows Ella and her sister Sadie as they flee to London after the death of Ella's lover Thomas Ibbetson-but not without stealing everything of value in his house first. On their trail is Thomas' twin brother Titus who vows to see the girls caught and punished for their theft. Ella and Sadie arrive in the bustling, dirty city of London and with their money running out they have to devise ways to survive in the city. Ella lucks out and gets employment (at an establishment called The Gilded Lily) with Jay Whitgift, son of the most prominent pawnbroker in the city. Always one that lets her ambitions overcome her common sense, Ella sets her sights on Jay but Jay has other things in mind for Ellie.
I really liked the polar opposite sister duo of Ella and Sadie. Ella is one of those characters that you originally dislike but that subtly grows on you as the story progresses. Sadie-the younger, quiet, more sensible sister who has always been ostracized because of the large wine stain birthmark on her face, is often at the whims of her impulsive sister. You can tell that underneath the tough exterior Ella loves her sister but she has a poor way of showing it at times. I also loved the involved descriptions of Restoration period London and the sinister turn the story takes. It was definitely not what I expected but the story really sucked me in because I became so involved with Sadie and Ella and really wanted everything to come out ok for them. They had a lot to contend with throughout the story-poverty, running from Titus Ibbetson, the danger posed by Whitgift and his ilk-I gobbled this book up in two days to find out what happens to these girls!
The first half of the book I think was more focused on developing the characters than building up the suspense so other than the flight from the country to London you don't get a lot of action right away. It is more the girls adapting to life in London than anything else in the first half of the novel. If you are a reader who likes a lot going on right up front I recommend you stick with this one if you feel there isn't a lot of action at first. It is the second half that the book really gets going. One thing I do recommend is reading The Lady's Slipper first and then moving on to The Gilded Lily. You can definitely read The Gilded Lily as a stand alone but I think reading Lady's Slipper first enhances the story. I think the author has a knack for writing convincing unconventional heroines. Really enjoyed this one!
I received this book from the publisher to review for participation in the author's tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. These are my honest thoughts on the book
*NOTE* This tour is in celebration of the UK release of The Gilded Lily. US readers-The Gilded Lily is being released here on November 27th.
For more reviews, giveaways, guest posts and interviews with author Deborah Swift, you can view the rest of the tour schedule here.
View the book trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSXtKFVGGV8
Follow the tour on Twitter: #GildedLilyVirtualTour
About the Author:
Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady's Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.
Visit Deborah at www.deborahswift.co.uk.