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A spellbinding historical novel of beauty and greed and surprising redemption
England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects. Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up ...
A spellbinding historical novel of beauty and greed and surprising redemption
England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects. Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer's twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.
Set in a London of atmospheric coffee houses, gilded mansions, and shady pawnshops hidden from rich men's view, Deborah Swift's The Gilded Lily is a dazzling novel of historical adventure.
Posted December 25, 2012
I didn't know it was possible to dislike a character as much as I did Ella and still like the book. It's really Sadie, Ella's sister, that makes this story worth reading.
I wasn't sure what to think about Ella right from the start. To take her dead employer's things and flee was just crazy. She didn't even leave the watch he was wearing! I admired her determination to take her sister, but her actions throughout the book left me surprised that she even did it. Ella is entirely selfish and I often wondered if she was delusional as well. She was enamored with her new employer who obviously led her on. But, she hints at things with her old employer that left me wondering just a little bit. She convinces herself that she's moving up in the world, but I wasn't buying it. She had to know that there was no way that the nobility wasn't going to accept her in their world. I was absolutely appalled at the way she treated her sister to get to that place.
I loved Sadie. No matter what Ella puts her through, she can't help but see the best in her. She never gives up on her and the idea that blood is thicker than water. It's her courage, determination, and endurance that really pull this story along. She's willing to put up with anything to let Ella have her time in the spotlight. I think it's a truer testament to her character than any of Ella's actions.
I also really enjoyed the darker side to this story. I've read a lot of historical fiction and seems so many times that nobility are shown in a positive light. Yes the many do some nasty things from time to time. But, in this book there are a few characters who seem to do it for sport. It's sad to see how they can get away with it. I'm sure it happened way more often than we every read about.
A very enjoyable historical fiction if you can get past Ella. She's very hard to stomach in some cases. I'm looking forward to reading more from Deborah Swift
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Posted January 20, 2013
My favorite novels not only tell a captivating story but also sweep me away to a time and place I've never seen. The Gilded Lily, a dark tale set in 17th century London, expertly does both. Part historical novel, part psychological thriller, this book touches on some of the most sinister and deplorable aspects of human nature and is by no means a light read.
It's clear the author did her homework, though the historical detail she weaves never feels heavy handed. Her vivid descriptions of the bitter cold, filthy living conditions and callous actions of many of the characters evoke strong emotions. I often felt frustrated, disgusted, depressed and uncomfortable as I read. Thankfully, there were also several scenes and characters that restored my hopes and lifted my spirits. I found the ending to be satisfying, though a bit too neatly drawn.
One historical element I found particularly fascinating was the Frost Fair, held during the bitter cold winters in which the Thames river actually froze solid; and I appreciated the author's note in the back of the book that listed sources for additional reading about the subject.
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Posted December 18, 2012
How I enjoyed this historical fiction! "The Gilded Lily" is a large book with some 470 pages, but worth every word read. I wasn't very well versed in the Reformation and the historical details of that period of English history, so I found the book fascinating in costume detailing and incidences of the times. This is a beautifully developed novel that captivated and held me spellbound.
Characters Sadie and Ella are sympathetic and living creatures in this story. Ms Swift immediately draws a natural connection with them for us She holds us rapt with attention as they forge their way through the tough streets and warrens of London in the 1600's. I found the development of their hard-scrabble lives provoking an anxiety in me that matched what they must have been going through, and Ella's small successes made me feel relief, as well.
My favorite character was Sadie, who was a kinder and more empathetic figure throughout the novel. Ella was tough and feisty as she needed to be for the two of them to survive! Jay, under world fop and proprietor's son of the town's famous pawn shop, is a complex character I loved to puzzle out.
I thought the visual creation of the settings of London were wonderful in this book. The pawn shop in particular came as alive as a Dickens novel! For instance, I climbed and explored the rafters with Ella as she toured them initially with Jay who took her there with his vision of a glorious "lady's beauty" secret getaway. The creation of the actual "Gilded Lily" was fascinating. This is a book with ambiance.
This is a historical novel that moves swiftly, telling the story of two sister's survival against all odds. It's a feminist novel of sorts, and that made it a great find, as well. Not a sappy novel where the women are pawns of the men. I highly recommend it for a good read.
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Posted July 7, 2014
I Also Recommend:
I discovered The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift while wandering around our local Barnes and Noble shortly after Christmas. The novel was the only book facing out when I rounded the corner from the horribly organized Young Adult section into the General Fiction Adult area. The cover immediately caught my eye--a young lady in a hood cloak with an amazing red dress. After reading the back of the novel, I knew I had to use the last of my remaining Christmas gift cards to purchase this book.
The Gilded Lily is a mystery novel that includes characters from Swift's first novel. However, you don't have to read the first novel to understand what's happening in The Gilded Lily. There are hints of events that happened in The Lady's Slipper, but it isn't key to the story told in "Lily."
My favorite part of this novel were the two main characters, Ella and Sadie. Their personalities are richly drawn and you can feel them struggle to make it in the slums of London with little money. I was particularly drawn to Sadie. She was a hard worker and empathetic to everyone around her. She wanted to do what was right, but her sister, Ella, was a bit of a scamp who lead Sadie astray many times. Honestly, I wish the story had been focused more on Sadie. However, Ella's plight and actions really were the driving force behind the plot and gave purpose to Sadie's actions and reactions. I also had a soft spot in my heart for Dennis, the young boy that Sadie and Ella rented an apartment from. He was a true gentleman to Sadie and a reader who shared his love of stories with Sadie.
The rich characters were a huge plus for a mystery plot that was quite predictable. The girls' adventures in the city as they tried to avoid trouble and stay under the radar kept me reading until the end. This is a mystery novel where everything does get tied up neatly in the end which did get a bit saccharine for me after living on the streets with Ella and Sadie for 400+ pages.
Overall, I would give The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift a thumbs up. The streets of London and the characters create an atmosphere that draws you in and won't let you go until the final page is turned.
Posted July 5, 2013
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