Today I am delighted to be taking part in the social media tour for Blackberry And Wild Rose by Sonia Velton. Back In October, I was lucky enough to attend an evening at Quercus Books showcasing their forthcoming releases for 2019. Here I was able to hear Sonia talk about her debut, which is set among the Huguenot silk weavers in Spitalfields in the 18th century. And as historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, this immediately became one of my most anticipated reads for this year.
Blackberry And Wild Rose is the story of two women and the way in which their lives become intertwined. It begins with Sara, a young woman who has arrived in London in search of a new life and new opportunities, only to find herself working in a brothel, from which she fears she may not escape. That is until she meets Esther Thorel, an aspiring silk designer, who offers Sara a way out of the grim confines of the tavern, offering employment as a maid for her household. However, whilst Esther believes she is doing God’s work by rescuing Sara from a bleak future, her arrival results in a series of events which have an impact not only on Esther but her entire household, as the women learn more about each other, and the secrets they each hide. This along with a building tension in the surrounding weaving community means that there is a rocky path ahead for these two women, as they fight for their place in the world, and for what they each hold dear.
I loved this book and it didn’t take me long to become immersed in 18th century London, and the fascinating world of the silk weavers of Spitalfields. One of the things I always enjoy about historical fiction is when a story broadens your knowledge or introduces you to an aspect of history you may not be familiar with. This is certainly the case here as the story was inspired by that of Anna Maria Garthwaite, a master silk designer who was credited for her stunning artistry and patterns. The conflict between the journeyman and master weavers in Spitalfields is also explored and this made for fascinating and compelling reading. I was gripped by the story of these women, the differences in their backgrounds, but the way in which they both have challenges to face. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of Sara and Esther, which worked really well in getting into each of their minds, to uncover their differing interpretations of each other’s actions. The chapters were also fairly short so it has a definite ‘just one more chapter’ feel – and I sped through this very quickly as I couldn’t put it down!
Blackberry And Wild Rose is a wonderfully written, immersive debut which transports you back in time. It is a story that had me hooked, and introduced me to a part of history I hadn’t read about before, the world of the Spitalfields silk weaving industry, and the lives of the characters at its heart.
Blackberry And Wild Rose was published on 10th January 2019 by Quercus Books with thanks to Quercus for providing a copy for review!