Based On A True Story. Rosie’s #Bookreview of #BiographicalFiction Lies That Blind by E.S. Alexander @penguinrandom #TuesdayBookBlog

Lies that Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century PenangLies that Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang by E.S. Alexander

4 stars

Lies That Blind is eighteenth century biographical fiction set in the East Indies, based on a true story. 

Narrated by Jim Lloyd, a young aspiring journalist, the story is set around the life of Captain Francis Light. He was a British pioneer who created the settlement of George Town on the Malay island of Penang. He also renamed the island the Prince of Wales Island.

In the late 1700s the East Indies were a popular trading area, particularly for spices, and there was much rivalry from European nations over the control of trade. The Dutch East India Company, the British East India Company, the Portuguese and the French all vied for power. At the time, Penang Island was host to a great mix of people; many had fled from their own oppressive leaders. Malays, Indians, Chinese, Arabs, Burmans and Siamese had all found their way to the island which, despite Light’s leadership, became a lawless place. Pirates prowled the coast, and there were frequent trade embargoes caused by breakdowns in negotiations with the local sultan.

It’s here that Jim Lloyd plans to make something of his life and hopes, thus, to impress his overbearing father. Taking a job as Light’s clerical assistant, Jim’s primary plan is to write Light’s biography. However, it soon becomes apparent that Light’s visions for George Town and reality are far apart. Jim’s naïveté sees him stumbling along believing much of what he is told and what he sees, until he grows into this experience and finds some much needed direction for his life.

This is a medium-paced story; the author’s research shines through and it paints a good picture of the era and the people. It interested me enough to seek out a map to check out some of the places mentioned in the story and it brought back to mind some of my history lessons about the East Indies. This is the second book that I have recently read with the Dutch East Indies as a theme; it certainly filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge for that part of the world.

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Malaya, 1788:
Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father’s wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company’s new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim—as Light’s assistant—hopes that chronicling his employer’s achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang’s legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light’s monopolies, and inhabitants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him and Light perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light’s young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutchman.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from AJ Lyndon. She blogs here http://ajlyndon.com.au

#RBRT Review Team

AJ has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate.

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This historical romance, by the Scottish author of The Mermaid and the Bear, continues following the Monteith family. Sinclair’s second novel is set in the 1740s during the fateful years leading up to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion and its aftermath. Beginning in the castle near Aberdeen, the action quickly shifts away from Scotland however, with most of the story taking place on a tobacco plantation in Pennsylvania.  The Scottish heroine, Lady Elizabeth Monteith from “the castle” is kidnapped from her native Scotland and views its tragedy from the far-off American colonies. She is sold as an indentured servant, cook to an enlightened, mysterious “master”, Michael.

The novel is written in the first person with Beth relating the events in chronological order. Elizabeth, or “Beth” as she becomes, is a warm, likeable and very determined character. Her humanity and sense of humour rarely desert her. It is only in the aftermath of Culloden when she hears of the Jacobite defeat that her resilience flags and she succumbs to depression. Wisely, Sinclair chooses not to second guess the events of Culloden. Although most readers will already know the outcome of the Jacobite rising, Beth does not and a suitable period of time rolls by until the news crosses the ocean from Scotland.

The story follows Beth’s transformation from scared teenage captive to a capable and confident, practical young woman as she adapts to her new situation, ultimately leading to a decision between the old life and the new. It is set against the background of slavery, the social inequalities between free whites, indentured servants, native Americans and black slaves. Beth has a disarming acceptance of all races which today might be dismissed as “colour blindness” but in the context of an 18th century character is refreshing. Relations between the different racial and social groups are handed sensitively, even if it is sometimes a little difficult to believe in Beth’s naïve and childlike views.

There is an interesting range of characters from the evil (historical) Alexander Young, first mate on the ship which transports Beth to her new life, to the central figures of Sarah, the unpleasant Mrs Sauer, the elderly man Comfort and the two men in Beth’s life. Peter, her young companion in captivity, a fellow Scot, disappears from the story for much of the book, while Michael, the manager of the estates, emerges from the shadows in a series of revelations and surprising twists. 

The sense of time and place is well drawn; and the modest sprinkling of Scottish dialect words adds to the authentic voice of the narrator. Despite the central themes of slavery and racial intolerance, the occasional savagery of a scene (the pregnant Nivvie being whipped by the foreman) and the references to the brutal traitors’ deaths of the captured Jacobites, this is a gentle, hopeful and entertaining book. The plot keeps the reader guessing its outcome until the very last page.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from Liz. She blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

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The new novel written by Ailish Sinclair, Fireflies and Chocolate is set in the 1740s in Scotland and colonial Pennsylvania. Young Elizabeth Manteith tells her own story of boredom in a lonely castle replaced by a terrifying adventure on the high seas, leading to forced servitude in America. A spirited teenager, she survives the deprivation and threats on board ship due to her own determination to survive and the friendship of a young boy, Peter Williamson, who had also been abducted on the streets of Aberdeen.

The plot is based on the true story of 600 children and young people to whom this actually happened. If they managed to stay alive through the perilous journey, they then had to face being sold in a market without knowing where they would end up. Parted from Peter, Elizabeth is taken by an arrogant old woman to be a housekeeper for an invalid on a tobacco plantation. Not meeting her master for some time, there is a hint of, “the beauty and the beast”.

Finding some of the local community kind and helpful, Elizabeth sends letters to Scotland in hope of rescue, but her father is engaged in fighting with Bonnie Prince Charlie and her mother lies in bed under the influence of laudanum. Soon Elizabeth is actively involved with her new friends and finds some happiness, but she longs to find Peter and return to her home.  Is this to be her future or will she spend her life in lonely drudgery?

This is a wonderful story of fortitude and kindness against a background of prejudice and misadventure. Ailish Sinclair writes vividly of carefully cooked food which sounds delicious and amazing scenery in the countryside. She entices you to engage with the heroine and believe in her values, with just a hint of magic.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of #HistoricalFiction Inspired by London’s Foundling Hospital THE SERVANT by @maggiedavieswr1

The ServantThe Servant by Maggie Richell-Davies

4 stars

The Servant is an historical fiction story set in London during the 1760s. The story was inspired by the author’s visit to London’s Foundling Hospital Museum.

This is Hannah’s story; she is a girl of fifteen employed as cook and housekeeper. Unusually taught to read and write by her previous employer, Hannah is able to detect possible illegal activities undertaken by her current employers. She is placed in terrible danger as she learns more, but what can one servant girl do? Who will listen to her accusations?

Although the subject matter was dark and disturbing, this was a well-written and interesting story; I immediately wanted to know more about Hannah. I read the first half of the book easily in one sitting. Poor women and young girls had so few opportunities to live better lives; I’m glad there was someone who gave Hannah hope. I would easily recommend this to historical fiction fans.

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Book description

1765.

London.

Young Hannah Hubert may be the granddaughter of a French merchant and the daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.

Sent one spring day as maidservant to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries – with a locked room and strange auctions being held behind closed doors.

As a servant, she has little power but – unknown to her employers – she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house, that she realises the peril she is in.

Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.

But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates?

Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.

She must act alone, but at what price?

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