Review

“A deftly crafted and thoroughly fun read … especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Fantasy Fiction collections.” —MBR Midwest Book Review

The Secret of Blythswood Square

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Sara Sheridan’s novel, The Secrets of Blythswood Square, immediately draws the reader into the captivating world of 1846 Edinburgh and Glasgow. This historical fiction masterpiece seamlessly weaves together an intricate tale of three remarkable female characters: Charlotte Nicholl, Ellory Mann, and Jane Ramsey. In a society that strictly adheres to church and societal norms for women’s roles, these three protagonists courageously navigate their own paths towards independence while harbouring secrets that challenge the status quo.

Wealthy Charlotte has recently inherited a dark family secret, while working class Ellory is given an unexpected chance at independence and success as a photographer and Jane progresses from kitchen skivvy to photographers assistant.

Sheridan’s meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout the novel, as she effortlessly transports readers back in time to the bustling cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Through her vivid descriptions, we are immersed in the rich tapestry of Victorian Scotland, witnessing the struggles and triumphs of Charlotte and Ellory as they forge their own destinies. In a period where the Victorian notion of “the angel in the home” was the standard by which all women should adhere, it is truly gratifying to witness these characters’ growth, their unlikely friendship blossoming as they embrace their true potential and independence.

What sets The Secrets of Blythswood Square apart is Sheridan’s ability to intertwine additional contemporary issues seamlessly into the narrative. By incorporating the contentious story of Frederick Douglass’s visit to Scotland to demand the Free Kirk return start up money it received from slave owners, readers gain a deeper understanding of the historical context surrounding the events in the novel. Furthermore, through the character of Jeremiah Catto, Sheridan shines a light on what it meant to be a gay man in the mid-19th century. This thoughtful exploration of social issues adds an extra layer of complexity to an already compelling story.

The depth of research conducted by Sara Sheridan is commendable, as it shines through in her portrayal of 19th-century Scotland. Moreover, her commitment to historical accuracy is further evidenced by the inclusion of additional reading material at the end of the book, offering readers a chance to delve deeper into this fascinating time period.

In conclusion, The Secrets of Blythswood Square is yet another testament to Sara Sheridan’s immense talent as a historical fiction writer. This novel surpasses expectations, captivating readers from beginning to end with its engaging plot, well-crafted characters, and meticulous attention to detail. As a reader, I eagerly anticipate what Sheridan has in store for us next, as she continues to push the boundaries of the genre and transport us to new, captivating worlds.


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