Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

Title: The Gilded Lily
Author: Deborah Swift

Genre: Fiction (Historical / UK / 17th Century / London / Sibling Relationships / Criminal Activity / Intrigue / Social Climbing)
Publisher/Publication Date: Pan Macmillan (9/13/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked to love!
Did I finish?: I did -- raced through this one in two nights!
One-sentence summary: Two sisters in Restoration London struggle to avoid arrest, freezing to death, and other challenges in this evocative historical novel.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- I don't hate it but it's just sort of ambigu-historical.

I'm reminded of...: Lynn Cullen, Sandra Gulland

First line: Anyone else would probably scream -- woken in the night like that, with a hand clamped over the mouth in the pitch black.

Do... I love that the author offers writer retreats at her house in a historical village in Lancaster, UK?: YES. It makes me wish I had a novel in the works and the funds to escape!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy!

Why did I get this book?: I'd heard nothing but raves about Swift's first novel, The Lady's Slipper.

Review: Set in the 1660s, the story follows Ella and Sadie Appleby, girls from rural England who flee to London after a tragedy with Ella's employer, and there they find themselves struggling to survive. Restoration London for these two is dark, dank, dirty, and exhausting, and Swift's writing made the grime, fog, and muck all too real. (I wanted to shower every time I put the book down!)

Ella -- beautiful and bold -- gets a job as a sales girl at an unusual ladies boutique called The Gilded Lily. Sadie, marked with a noticeable birthmark on her face, remains cloistered in their rented room as relatives of Ella's dead employer search London for them. Ella becomes enamored of her new employer and her increasing status as a London icon, while Sadie bristles at being trapped -- literally, as Ella locks her away to keep her sister from being tempted out into public, risking capture.

I was immediately grabbed by this book -- the novel opens with a bang -- and Ella and Sadie are fascinating characters. Swift shows their complicated relationship -- selfish Ella, shy Sadie -- and I liked both of them a good deal (even Ella, who did some rather despicable things!). There's intrigue and scandal -- this is Restoration England -- but instead of royal mistresses, The Gilded Lily features common women scrabbling for fame and fortune, safety, some measure of comfort.

One of the things I loved about this book was Swift's use of dialogue. She used what I presume were historical phrases and slang -- at times a little surprising, but I was able to guess the meaning through context -- and I appreciated that never once did the story, or the characters, sound anachronistic. (Or worse, my pet peeve, overly Shakespearean or classical.) I should note I'm reading the UK edition of this book; I don't know if the dialogue will be 'Americanized' for the US edition (I hope not.).

I also appreciated the focus on sisters - sibling relationships in historical fiction is always fun -- and the seedy focus of the story. (It is, however, pretty low on the risque factor, to my surprise.) I was initially apprehensive when I heard this was a follow up to Swift's first novel, The Lady's Slipper, as I hadn't read it, but from the author's note at the end of the book, it seems the main character of that book is a peripheral figure in this one.

At more than 460 pages, this is a chunky historical that raced, with enough intrigue and distinctive characters to keep me glued to the pages. A fun read especially if royal romances aren't your kind of historical.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer one copy of The Gilded Lily to a lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 10/12. For another chance to enter, be sure to check out my interview with Deborah Swift.

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for this giveaway! I've read so many good things about it :-)

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    1. All the good things are true! This was such a good book!

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    2. I found a used copy of the first book to read, excited! :-) Do you think you will read the first one now? I noticed the comments about the cover, but I like this one much better than the US cover!

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    3. I totally want to read the first one now, esp after the things the characters say about the character featured in the first book!

      What I like about the US cover is the hooded woman -- the two sisters run around in hooded coverings for a good chunk of this novel, so that felt more accurate than the ambigu-pretty girls on this one.

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    4. That is true! It does fit the book better. I guess with all the HF you have read, that this cover does seem rather uninspired!! I'm very new to it all, and I'm loving it! So I haven't seen so many covers. I am finding it interesting the covers that they feel will appeal to different countries. I've never given it much thought before :-)

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    5. I don't mean to sound like a snob because, I'll admit, I'm totally a slave to a pretty historical novel cover -- this year I think I'm going to do a roundup of my fav covers (which is probably a different list than my fav reads!) -- I started, but am woefully behind on -- a Pinterest board of fabu (to me) hist fic cover models. I need to get updating with it!

      I've only just started noticing the difference in UK/US covers, which is interesting -- cultural/social ideas about what appeals to the reading public, etc -- all v fascinating!

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    6. You don't sound like a snob!! :-) I just admit my total lack of knowledge on the subject! That will be a great post (favorite book covers) when you do get around to it. I will love to see them!

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    7. Those are beautiful covers on your Pinterest board!

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    8. I secretly wish I could wear frilly dresses every day. :)

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  2. Gracious me, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I do not like this cover at all. Why do they slap these images on books just because it's set in a previous time period? Thankfully, the book sounds incredible! Thanks for hosting the giveaway, the plot sounds fantastic and I'm encouraged to read that you went through this quickly because it's that good!

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    1. I know -- and I'm not wild about the US cover, either. I wish they would have used something more Restoration-y -- the costuming of the era is crazy cool. Apparently these covers sell or I guess they'd stop using them -- regardless, this is one case where you shouldn't discount a book because of the cover -- as it is marvelous! Rich, detailed, fun, interesting -- I loved the focus on the sisters rather than love affairs -- and it was a chunkster I raced through.

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  3. A new hist fic in an era I don't read about often? A liked to loved rating from my most trusted blogger? I'm definitely intrigued and adding this one to my TBR! Lovely review - you've made me want to read yet another novel, Audra. I think my TBR has doubled off your reviews alone!

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    1. Jessie, I'm not even going to pretend I'm sorry, either!! ;) I'm actually pretty unfamiliar with the Restoration other than knowing Charles had a butt ton of mistresses and I loved a novel about one of them -- this one rocked because of the non-royal focus and the evocative, need-to-wash-myself sense of grime to the story -- this was hist fic that isn't shiny and clean (in the best way!).

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  4. You found yet another one that I need to read. Sometimes I just need a drama-filled historical in my life. They're kind of the best ones, so long as the telling isn't absurd or the characters THE WORST. :)

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    1. YES -- and the sisters are fascinating -- Ella, the eldest, is kind of villainess only I still really liked her despite her bad behavior -- and the youngest was kind of annoyingly mousy but I loved her for that, too -- they were wonderful. And I loved the thriller-y element that didn't involve royals!

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  5. I just bought The Lady's Slipper Yesterday, and now I am going to have to buy this one! Aarrgh, Audra, you are bad for budgets, but your review was excellent. I need to make some time for these books. They sound amazing!

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    1. I'm dying to read The Lady's Slipper now -- the connection btwn the two books really intrigues me -- can't wait to see what you think of them.

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  6. You're right there, it's difficult to place the dresses in the cover exactly. I'm loving what I've heard of the book so far and your words have added to that. I didn't know about the language, though, which sounds pretty cool.

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    1. The use of language here was really eye-opening for me -- again, I don't know if its that I got to read the UK version and UK historicals are always like this -- but I didn't notice dialogue in the same way I do with other historicals. It was v interesting!

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  7. This sounds really interesting. I don't think I've read anything from this era. I think the fact that it's a story about sisters trying to survive together is really intriguing.

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    1. The sibling relationship was really the thing for me -- I cared about both of them, and wanting them to remain friendly, or at least, sisterly -- and I thought Swift did a fabu job of creating that relationship and the tension with them.

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  8. This sounds like another good one, but the cover really doesn't wow me.

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    1. I can't recall the author now, but on a historical fiction board, someone shared that when they went with the headless model motif for their novels, her book sales increased like crazy. It appeals to someone, obviously!

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  9. Do you think it's the same graphic designer that does all the covers of books set in 17th century England/Scotland? It does immediately tell you what you're picking up, but have the feeling I've seen this before somewhere, probably on a Philippa Gregory novel or other.

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    1. YES -- it sooo reminds me of a Philippa Gregory novel -- which is probably intentional. As I told Serena, a historical novelist mentioned on a board that when they went with headless models on her novels, her sales increased so much it was impossible to argue. So obviously it appeals to someone -- and perhaps it is that combo of pictographic shorthand -- the image tells us what we think we know -- and flashy eye-candy?

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  10. thanks for the sort of review writers dream about!

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  11. I'm on such a historical kick right now, and this one sounds fascinating. I'm particularly intrigued by historical fiction dealing with social climbing and poverty, so your review came at the perfect time:-)

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  12. I've seen a lot about this one as well...would love to read it! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!

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