The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Review)

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Blurb

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn¹t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood¹s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Review

After reading Mrs England I really wanted to read more of Stacey Halls’ work and thankfully I remembered I had The Familiars on one of my many TBR piles. When I started reading this I struggled to get into it to start with as it didn’t seem to hook me in like Mrs England had but once I was about a third of the way in I couldn’t put the book down. 

This book is based on the real Pendle witch trials that happened in 1612 and the characters are named after real life characters from that period but the story is devised by Stacey Halls. 

Fleetwood is the main character in this book and to start with she comes across as rather immature and a little bit spoiled but as the book goes on you see her grow up and become a strong woman. It is just sad that the reason she grows up so quickly is because of the blows that life throws at her during this book. 

Alice is Fleetwood’s first real friend and her midwife. She is also Fleetwood’s only hope to bring into the world a healthy baby and keep her own life. Alice is a lovely character and clearly a woman who knows her own mind, she is intelligent and knows the way to help people medically with the items available for the time period. She is also lost and needs someone to be her friend and fight her corner. 

Richard is Fleetwood’s husband and to be honest I did not like him. He gives Fleetwood more freedom than most women would have had in the 1600’s but it also seems to come with a price. He comes across as vain and rather big headed. 

The story is really about strong women who are not understood by men and so they are punished because of it. It shows just how tough life was for a woman in the 1600’s and that even wealthy women were not well treated at times. I really enjoyed this book but I did struggle at the beginning so I am giving this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Product Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.

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Mrs England by Stacey Halls (Review)

Mrs England by Stacey Halls 

Blurb

West Yorkshire, 1904.

When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.

Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.

Review

I thought I was in the beginning of a reading slump but then I started reading this book and the reading slump soon disappeared. I just could not put this down it kept me riveted from beginning to end. 

This book is mainly set in Yorkshire and is a true gothic novel with more than one mystery to solve. Ruby May is a Norland nurse who spends her time keeping busy with her charges and sending all the money she can afford home to help her family but it is also clear that Nurse May has a secret in her past and this secret she keeps locked up in a tin in her trunk but you can tell that the secret weighs heavily on Nurse May and she is never free from it. 

Nurse May finds herself working for the England family but soon realises something is not right with her mistress Mrs England but she can’t work out what it is. Due to Mrs England’s aloofness Nurse May directs all questions about the children to Mr England and  soon finds Mr England to be the perfect master. However, something is still not right about the house and Nurse May can sense this and you soon realise as the reader that there is another mystery to try and work out that surrounds the house.

The setting in the Yorkshire countryside really adds to this book, the wild crags, waterfall and forest all make the characters seem isolated and in danger. The other fact that all doors need to be locked at all times really adds to this fear of something or someone. 

I loved reading this book the atmosphere and the mystery meant that I just could not stop reading the book until I had all the answers I wanted. I will definitely be reading more books by Stacey Halls and I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you