Title: Blackberry & Wild Rose
Authors: Sonia Velton
Length: 399 pages
Publisher: Quercus Books
The synopsis for this book sounded so interesting to me so I was very grateful to be set a copy.
When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk – weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will, although Sara is not convinced being a lady’s maid is better than being a whore. Inside the Thorels’ hope two women forge an uneasy relationship. Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to notice. It is silk that has Esther so distracted. She longs to be a silk designer. When her husband laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of them all and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.
‘It is a woman’s duty to bear children no matter if it kills her. And I have seen that happen often enough, not least to my own sister, who painted and screamed her way to God for the sake of a half-formed infant who outlived her by less than an hour. As they put her into the ground, along with the child who had killed her, my mother turned to me and said, this is what it means to be a woman.’
What a wonderful historical fiction novel. It was absolutely captivating, and I struggled to put the book down.
What instantly struck me about this book was that it’s characters, Esther and Sara, are both fantastic. They’re clearly distinguished from each other and it allowed me to get into the book right away. For me, it’s always refreshing to read Historical Fiction novels that have strong women at its centre, and ‘Black Berry and Wild Rose’ certainly did.
They both had compelling storylines. I liked that Sara was trying to make a better life for herself, after leading such a brutal life, at the beginning of the book. I loved Esther had a dream and was willing to go after it, against all the odds. You could feel her passion for designing silk and I was rooting for her. I love that in a book, and especially when it would’ve been so hard for in those times. It just felt a connection to Esther and Sara instantly. That’s a hard thing for a writer to accomplish and Sonia does it so well.
While both Sara and Esther had romances in the book, the relationship that I really enjoyed was theirs. Even though they were employer/employee and sometimes on opposite sides even, they still had a level of respect for each other. You could also feel the tension between them. It was truly fascinating. Their connection was a real highlight and that really gave some heart to the book. That’s what was so charming about this book, it was full of heart.
Another fantastic aspect to this book is the silk weaving. It was so detailed, it gave the novel a real richness. It also didn’t get bogged down in the details, Sonia gave just enough for the reader to truly appreciate the beauty of silk and hard work that goes into the weaving. I love it when a book teaches me something.
You could feel this book was leading up to a big ending and it did not disappoint. It kept me hooked until the last page. I didn’t expect it to turn into a courtroom drama but it was enjoyable with some revelations I didn’t see coming. I made me pause a few times to take in the shocking twist. That’s the sign, to me, of a great book. This novel really did have a satisfying conclusion.
I really recommend this book, especially if you love detailed historical fiction with fantastic characters. The fact that this is Sonia Velton’s first novel is amazing and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Thank you to Querceus books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out October 3rd.
Until the next review