To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life…
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 isn’t
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 Fleetwood’s 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.
I’m not usually one for historical fiction but the mention of witches had me pre ordering this. It then sat on my TBR pile until the blog tour request which gave me the perfect opportunity to finally read it. I am so glad I said yes to that email. This book gripped me from the very beginning.
It is told in first person from the viewpoint of Fleetwood Shuttleworth. A young wife (17 years old) desperate to give her husband an heir, having already lost three children. She is now with child again and will do anything to make sure they are born into this world healthy.
I really felt for her. She has been through a lot in her short years and has been married off to merge the families. I am aware that was very common practice back then but I couldn’t help but be angry at some parts of this tale. I loved Fleetwood’s character; I felt she really grew through the course of the story, starting as quite a naïve individual to a woman to be reckoned with. As much as she could in the 1600’s.
Her marriage actually seemed to be a good one at first. As the story progresses, we learn about the lies and deceptions that surrounded many high-class families at that time. My heart broke for Fleetwood on occasions.
Fleetwood crosses paths with Alice Grey. A young girl and midwife. She pins all her hopes on Alice helping her deliver a healthy baby and survive the process. Alice was a very complex character. Very astute and clever in a way people don’t always understand. As we progress through the book, we realise the trauma that Alice has gone through and now she is caught up in the witch trials sweeping through Pendleton.
Fleetwood will do whatever she can to ensure Alice’s safety and in turn that of her own.
The Witch Trials
This is story is all set around the Pendleton Witch trials, I find this a fascinating period in history. I was surprised to learn (half way through the book I started to do my own research) that the characters Stacy has written about where real. That added a sense of jeopardy to the story. The backdrop of the mistrust and the pending trials added real urgency to the story and I felt the desperation through the pages.
The imagery that Stacy creates is beautiful. The descriptions of the time and place really bring it all to life. It was very evocative and I felt very much part of Fleetwood’s life. When she employees Alice to help her have her baby she discovers true friendship for the first time and that is the basis for everything that happens after. Female friendship is a truly powerful force.
I loved this book, it had excellent pacing and characters I could really get behind. I felt the urgency in everything that Fleetwood was doing. The overwhelming need she had to deliver a healthy child but also to ensure her own life was well cared for. This book has changed the way I view Historical fiction and I will certainly be reading more of it. I look forward to what Stacey does in the future.
My thanks to Tracy for inviting me on the blog tour. I purchased the book myself and as usual this is my honest review.
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 worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights have been sold to The Bureau production company.
The Familiars is her first novel and her second, The Foundling, is coming Feb 2020. Say hello @Stacey_Halls on Twitter and @StaceyHallsAuthor on Instagram.