Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting a stop on The Merest Loss Blog Tour
My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to be part of this blog tour
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?
The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.
The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.
My thoughts about it...
Harriet Howard is feisty and ambitious and, from the very beginning of the novel, it would appear that she lived her complicated life in a way that very few women in the mid- nineteenth century could ever have imagined. Born into a fairly nondescript country family, Harriet is determined to make her mark on society and in doing so gets embroiled in the social and political turmoil of nineteenth century polite society.
Based on the true story of the red-haired beauty, Harriet Howard, who became the mistress and financial backer of Louis Napoleon, later Napoleon III of France, the author cleverly takes us through Harriet's turbulent life, from her tumultuous early relationship with Jem Mason, a well known and successful jockey, to her complicated, romantic, attachment with Louis Napoleon.
The author writes well and seamlessly blends fact with fiction creating a sense of style and a dangerous sense of the illicit game Harriet is forced to play. The story covers a lot of ground and yet, it does so with a flair for history and a distinct sense of time and place. I knew absolutely nothing about Harriet Howard before I read The Merest Loss and all credit to the author for bringing this rather unknown woman to life in such an enjoyable, fictional account of her life and times.
About the Author
Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.