Formerly released in England to rave reviews, The Gilded Lily is finally available in the US. Greed, adventure, danger, mystery, and history combine for a memorable, absorbing read.
You will be hooked by this masterfully told story by the middle of chapter one. Sisters Ella and Sadie Appleby flee their home in Westmoreland by night after the suspicious death of Ella’s employer. Danger lurks around every corner and the reader is caught up in an engrossing adventure. Can Ella and Sadie stay two steps ahead of the constable? Will they survive this mess they have made for themselves? We read of their blundering persistence amid the squalor of life with the unfortunates on the streets of London. They work for a malicious wig-maker, until Ella lands a job at a ladies emporium participating in a scam to determine what wealthy homes are left empty and open for stealing.
After receiving copious praise for her first novel, The Lady’s Slipper, Ms. Swift continues to garner praise for her knowledge of the seventeenth century and her ability to weave complex characters and spot-on historical detail. Restoration London is exquisitely evoked with period detail and dialogue.
Swift imbues her characters with palpable motives and impressive survival skills. The tension set up between Ella and Sadie keeps the reader guessing about their relationship and hazardous exploits. Ella is bold, conniving, and nasty to Sadie. She knows how to keep a secret and to use her bosom and dimples to her advantage. She is very smart, but her appreciation for the finer things in life is her downfall. Sweet-natured Sadie is the more layered character. She is hopeful despite being scorned for having “the Devil’s paw print” (a birthmark) on her face. A master seamstress with a big heart, she forgives her sister over and over for harsh treatment. The character of Dennis is a special treat—a must-have-friend for any down and out girl. The author paints the poor sections of Restoration London accurately—squalid and hazardous.
The story is not sunshine and flowers. It is real. The dark nature of the book is balanced by a surprising redemption at the end.
Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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