Mary Hooper is one of my favourite historical fiction writes of all time, and I devoured her books when I was a few years younger but I haven’t actually read any of her books for quite a while so this one was a much anticipated re-read for me. And I really, really enjoyed it. Mary Hooper is an expert at creating really vivid and lively settings that seem to jump of the page – and are bursting with historical details that please my inner historical buff in so many ways – and this book was certainly no different. All of the characters on this book were all really engaging and very entertaining to read about and I really liked the intelligent, strong-willed yet slightly naïve character of Eliza. The plot of the book was very easy to follow as well as being interesting and full of twists and turns. And while the writing may have been slightly better suited to someone a few years younger than me – I can see why I loved it so much a few years ago – there are so quite serious themes in this one so it can still appeal to older teenagers and adults alike. I really enjoyed re-reading this and was able to fall in love with Mary Hooper all over again.
Ousted from her family by her new stepmother, Eliza Rose makes her way to London – only to be thrown straight into prison for stealing a bite to eat. Her life takes a remarkable twist when she is rescued and befriended by the infamous actress Nelly Gwyn. Nelly introduces her to the courtly intrigue, politics, and glamour of the court of King Charles II, as well as to a handsome young man known as Valentine Howard. Eliza is smitten, yet their love cannot be, as she is only a lowly maid and he is an aristocrat. From orange seller to mermaid and to a lady about town, Eliza will take on many remarkable guises, but will she ever find what she yearns to know–a place where she truly belongs?
Something that I really like about the character of Eliza is that she doesn’t have everything figured out and she makes mistakes along the way. But, just because she makes mistakes and is sometimes a little naïve – or just optimistic, whatever way you want to look at it – doesn’t mean that she is a pushover and lets people walk all over her. She stands up for what she believes and always shares her opinion – but not in an arrogant or pushy way, and is actually always pretty tactful with what she says. She is also a really kind and gentle person too. I also really liked the character of Valentine Howard, and I just wish that he got a little more character development and we got to find out some more about him. This ‘bad guys’ in this book are also really interesting because they are all very complex and interesting, and not inherently ‘bad’. I also really liked to see the handful of historical characters that appear in this book, because I’m all for reading and learning at the same time.
I know that the whole ‘switched-at-birth’ storyline isn’t particularly original, but considering that this book is set in the Georgian period and the ‘switched-at-birth’ thing happened a heck of a lot more and was more of a unique and different thing to happen in the world, so I don’t mind reading something that would be considered a bit of a cliché nowadays. The main thing that I love about Mary Hooper’s books is just how vivid and vibrant the whole world seems. Everything is explained and described so brilliantly that I can always imagine myself in the worlds that she describes. This book combines a lot of different elements – there is a really sweet romance, which you know is a really important point for me, as well as action, drama and some suspense which kept me hooked throughout the whole thing.
I love Mary Hooper and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for her, and this book was a really nostalgic read for me. I’d give this one a 4 out of 5 stars, and I really want to re-read some more of Mary Hooper’s books soon.