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The Spice Merchant's Wife Paperback – 2 Jan 2014
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Perfectly hits the spot . . . Charlotte Betts has clearly established a niche for herself, combining history with a dash of adventure (Newbury Weekly News)
The stunning third novel from award-winning historical fiction author, Charlotte Betts, opening in 1666 at the time of the Great Fire of London.See all Product description
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Katherine’s husband is a wealthy spice-merchant, their marriage arranged, her inheritance plundered by a greedy aunt. Although clearly unsuited, the couple are determined to make the best of things. As the story opens Katherine is looking forward to Robert’s return from a long voyage and to moving out of her in-laws home into one of their own. However, the fire sweeps through the city and puts an end to her hopes and aspirations. Everything, including their warehouse that is ‘stacked to the gunnels’, is lost. The family are utterly down on their fortunes. Debts cannot be paid, prison threatens, and, as London begins to recover, work is hard to find and the city is lawless. The narrative moves with as many twists and turns as the dark London lanes that is its landscape. Enter a rogue builder and the narrative’s thriller element follows. The plot turns on Katherine’s attempts to expose Mr Hackett the builder who is out to ruthlessly deceive and make his fortune out of Christopher Wren’s new plans for the city.
Will Katherine survive as this man determines to destroy her future? She does have a potential saviour, of course, in Gabrielle Harte, the perfume maker. Along with his wife, Jane, he befriends Katherine in a relationship that, as the story evolves, becomes a little reminiscent of Jane Eyre. The characters are all very well drawn, the in laws, husband Robert, Gabrielle and the hideous, evil Hackett who could even be one of Dickens’ meanest 19th C constructions and Jane who becomes Katherine’s close friend which presents yet another dilemma.
The narrative is written in first person past tense which brought me particularly close to Katherine. I stood in her shoes, saw others through her eyes and travelled London’s streets smelling and seeing as she did. The sights and sounds are there lurking about Fish Hill, Thames Street, Mincing Lane, Lombard Street and the wharves. There are link boys lighting the dim thoroughfares, swaying coaches, smells such as rotting fish, mud and rubbish and a dreadful cellar with a suspicious stink. I was especially party to Katherine’s emotions and wanted her not to make mistakes as she navigated this landscape. Most of all I wanted her to find happiness and, since Ms Betts presents her readers with a deal of jeopardy threatening this possible outcome, the novel is extremely engaging.
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I was a Little disappointed that this was not written in the discription when I ordered it !