|The Gilded Lily|
|Paperback edition published by Pan Macmillan|
In 1660, and following the suspicious death of their employer, Ella and Sadie Appleby are forced to flee their native Westmorland. They head for the bright lights of the capital city where the sisters try to eke out a living, first as perruquiers at Madame Lefevre’s wig making shop, and then, when Ella is seduced by the ostentatious glamour of the beauty parlour on Friarsgate, Sadie, the more fragile of the two, is left to cope as best she can.
Whilst there is sometimes an air of romanticism attached to Restoration London, in The Gilded Lily, Deborah Swift has successfully cut through the gloss and glamour, and describes the city as a living, breathing entity. Gloriously atmospheric, the sights, sounds and smells are brought so vividly to life that you watch in fascination as Madame Lefevre controls her girls in the wig makers shop, you sample the potions and lotions on offer in the beauty parlour, and as you climb the rickety stairs with Sadie and Ella and enter their house on Blackraven Alley, the squalid and festering nature of their life is so realistic you can almost feel the flickering warmth from their meagre fire.
The richness of the supporting characters, the grit and realism of the action, all combine to make this a fascinating and strong story about two sisters whose need to support each other is not always successful, and yet when the odds are stacked against them, the overwhelming urge to survive is paramount.
Deborah Swift has undoubtedly captured this niche in the historic fiction market; both her books have captured the time and place with an authenticity which is sometimes lacking in this genre. I look forward to more books by this talented writer.
If you enjoyed The King's Mistress and The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell, then you will also love to read The Lady's Slipper and The Gilded Lily.