The fabulous Molly Campbell is back today with a great book review. Here’s Molly:
I am not normally fascinated by historical fiction. I think it is partly because I know next to nothing about historical fact, and so much of what surrounds the plot is lost on me. However, I love a great story, and when it is comes with lush descriptions that carry me right into the center of the character’s lives; I am hooked, no matter what the century the characters live in.
Harriet Smart knows how to tell a story. She also knows how to get into the heads of her characters. She isn’t a romance novelist, and so the ‘boy meets girl’ aspect of so many books is not the centerpiece. Instead, in “The Butchered Man,” we get a troubled young doctor, trying to make a way for himself in a world dominated by his noble father—who wants to make amends for fathering Felix Carswell out of wedlock. There is a thrilling murder for Felix to solve. In addition are squalor, prostitution, politics, manners and morals, and even the occasional card shark.
Smart has also perfected the art of description. Her filthy pubs, school for wayward ‘girls,’ and the boudoir of Mrs. Hilliard, the mysterious beauty who rules over her charges with an iron determination to save them, are as clear to the reader as the scenes from a movie. I hope this one becomes a movie. I think it would be a smash.
Part of Smart’s fiction comes from a love of Victorian art, which she has studied since childhood. Many of her characters begin from work that fascinates the author. On her web site, http://harrietsmart.com, she shares with her readers some of the Victorian paintings that have captured her. We see the hero of “The Butchered Man,” Felix Carswell, as he peers out of a murky canvas, his hand shading his handsome forehead.
No spoilers here. It’s a mystery, and the ending has a satisfying twist. Harriet Smart is a gifted writer who takes her readers back with her into a time when women wore stays, men could easily ruin lives with one careless flirtation, and when revenge often ended in murder. Read all of Harriet Smart’s books. There is a world of romance, Victorian intrigue, and fascinating people awaiting you.
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