by Dilly Court
This was such an enjoyable book to read. I couldn’t put it down. If you like Historical Fiction and Women’s Fiction then this is a book for you. It’s got everything you need in a book. It’s got a great plot, that takes you on a journey from London and though Europe, with lots of twists and turns filled with lots of intrigue along the way.
The year is 1875 and Nettie Carroll lives in Covent Garden, a district in London England, with her father Robert Carroll in a rented attic studio. Her father used to be quite a popular artist to the rich and famous, until his style of painting portraits lost popularity.
So now he spends his time making copies of other peoples works. This work doesn’t bring in the same amount to what he used to make. It doesn’t cover the cost of food and rent and if he does have any money he usually spends it before Nettie manages to pay the bills. Some nights she’d go to bed hungry.
Luckily for Nettie she has some good friends who live on the 2nd floor, Byron Horton who is a clerk in a law firm, Philip Ransom who also works at the same firm and Ted Jones (aka Tender Heart as women are always breaking his heart) and he works for the Midland Railway Company. They sometimes invite Nettie down to share their supper and on other occasions they take her with them when they go out for a meal and treat her.
Nettie aspires to being a published author but to make a little extra money, she mends clothes for the people who can afford to let others mend them. When she gets paid for this she try’s to save a little of the money. She also try’s to make sure that Ma Burton their landlady is paid. As the last thing you want is to be owing Ma Burton as her 2 son’s don’t mind bashing people up for unpaid debts.
Nettie takes her fathers finished painting to an art gallery owned by Marmaduke Dexter, known as Duke to most people. He says that he is selling her fathers paintings a copies, but Nettie thinks that her fathers work is so good Duke is actually selling them as originals. Making himself lots of money and only paying her father a pittance. Nettie always disagrees with Duke about the amount he pays her father, as she believes he should be paid more, but Duke doesn’t agree as he says he’s the one taking all of the risks.
One afternoon as Nettie reaches the art gallery she notices a man acting strangely and it’s obvious that he’s watching the gallery and making notes of who is going in and out. She mentions this to Duke. It turns out that this man is called Samson Wegg and he’s a PI who the police have hired to look into the goings on at the art gallery.
Just before Nettie leaves Duke tell’s her that it would be best if she and her father left London for a while and the sooner the better. In case the police decide to arrest her father. Nettie demands extra money off Duke so that they can leave London.
Nettie and her father quickly pack up their essentials so they can flee London, but Nettie can’t just leave without saying good bye to her friends on the 2nd floor. When Byron hears about this he insists on accompanying them, so he can protect Nettie and help her with her father.
So the 3 of them set of for Paris in the hope of meeting up with Duke. As Duke has another art gallery in Paris and they know that he’ll have connections there so her father can make some money.
Things go from bad to worse and they end up having to flee Paris, because Samson Wegg has found them and he’s ready to summon the police. During their time in Paris Byron has been making enquiries down at the river. Trying to find any trace of his mother and her side of the family. His mothers family are known to have been water gypsies who made a living by sailing up and down the river. As luck would have it Byron found the only person on the river to have known his mothers family and he says he can take them further up stream to the little village where his uncle still lives.
It takes them a few days to reach Byron’s uncles village, but they all have a great time meeting the locals every time they dock for the night. The locals at every dock seem to know their hosts and every night turns out to be a party with singing, drinking and dancing. When they have finally reached their destination Nettie and her father let Byron go and find his uncle on his own, while they find a nice cafe and before Nettie knows it her father is the life and soul of the cafe. He’s drawing funny caricatures of the locals in exchange for wine and food for them all.
Before long Samson Wegg catches up with them again, so they find themselves on the run again. With not much money between them and with Nettie and her father having nowhere else to go they decide it’ll be best to go with Byron. He has been told roughly where he might find his mother. It’s another long arduous journey through some of toughest terrains through Europe, but every day is like a new adventure not knowing where they’ll end up.
They eventually find Byron’s mother, she is living in an old castle on a hill and everyone refers to her as the Countess. The castle is very grand in a bit of a dilapidated way on the outside, but inside it’s far brighter and very homely.
They all stay with Byron’s mother for a while and Byron finds out things that his father never told him, as it turns out that there were many secrets. One big secret is that his mother is as broke as they are. When the Count died he didn’t leave her anything, apart from her clothes and the jewellery he gave her.
While they are staying with Byron’s mother who should turn up on the door step? Non other than Duke and his young wife. They also end up staying at the castle, but they have no idea about the Countess being broke and Duke is trying to sell her artwork that she can’t afford.
Within a short time after Duke and his wife arrived Samson Wegg has caught up with them yet again. He threatens them all from outside of the castle and they all know that time is running out for them. So they decide the best plan of action is to go back to London and try and clear Nettie’s fathers name.
Once they land back on British soil and due to the lack of money they find that they have to get jobs and work to make enough money to travel the last leg of their journey to London. Then to hopefully get everything sorted out once and for all.
As I said at the beginning this is a really good book it’s full of adventure and intrigue . Taking you from London to the continent during 1875, when not many people travelled that far. If you love historical fiction I’m sure you’ll just love this book and fall in love with the huge array of characters.
Pages: 528. Publication Date: 15 May 2019. My Rating: