Published by: Piatkus
ISBN 13: 9780749959272
Published: August 2013
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five
Related Reviews: The Apothecary’s Daughter / The Painter’s Apprentice
‘The Spice Merchant’s Wife’ by Charlotte Betts is a historical fiction romance novel, set in 1666 which follows Kate Finche who is newly married and hopeful for her future, before the Great Fire of London changes everything.
Kate hasn’t had an easy life, and it doesn’t get any easier from here on in. The city is devastated and times are hard, and then things take a turn for the worse once again. Kate is a reliable and strong lead character, and it’s inspiring to see how she handles what is thrown at her, and how she makes the best of a bad and desperate situation.
It’s odd to read about something so historically important described so believably. You tend to expect such instances of non-fiction to be text book, if that makes sense, but here the fire and London itself are very much alive. You can feel the terror and the utter sense of loss experiences when so many people have lost everything they’ve known – way of life, finances, their own home… and then the sense of helplessness and anger at those who take advantage of the situation.
This is a great book for character progress. We see characters in one frame of mind with their own, perhaps limited abilities, naive view of life. By the end they have flourished and we are able to join them on their journey which ensures you are invested in their story.
In parts this book may be a little melodramatic. So much happens to the main character you almost grimace at the next poor turn her life takes, thinking she’s had enough angst, give her a break! It certainly keeps you turning the pages, though. I think it suits the novel, and at no stage is it annoying or cringe-worthy, it is simply melodramatic novel and best read when you’re in the mood for such a thing.
This is a book that’s not of huge literary merit nor swamped with historical fact in a way where you learn intricately about the past – if you removed certain facts like the fire you could almost think this book was set in any ol’ time, but regardless, this is an entertaining read that you can’t put down and often we need this type of book. People seem to look upon historical fiction as something that should be of award quality, instead of simple joy and captivation.
I will always pick up the next Charlotte Betts novel, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 28th February 2014.