To the Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce grabbed me from the very first scene and wouldn’t let me go.
About the Book:
In 1789 struggling writer Ben Dearlove rescues a woman from a furious Covent Garden mob. The woman is ill and in her delirium cries out the name “Miranda”. Weeks later an anonymous novel about the voyage of the Miranda to the fabled Great Southern Continent causes a sensation. Ben decides to find the author everyone is talking about. He is sure the woman can help him – but she has disappeared.
It is soon clear that Ben is involved in something more dangerous than the search for a reclusive writer. Who is the woman and what is she running from? Who is following Ben? And what is the Admiralty trying to hide? Before he can discover the shocking truth, Ben has to get out of prison, catch a thief, and bring a murderer to justice.
I was immediately captured by the very first scene in To the Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce. The curtain opens in the year 1789 when the protagonist, Ben Dearlove, an aspiring author, is at the theatre in Covent Garden. He is watching a play that depicts Captain Cook’s adventures in Hawaii. Seated next to him is a mysterious young woman who seems to be deeply troubled by the culturally insensitive portrayal of the indigenous people. She vents her frustration and then faints. The kindly protagonist saves her from an angry mob and the story is off and running.
Who is this mysterious young woman? Who is she running from? And what is her connection to the ship The Miranda? Ben, the very likeable protagonist, soon finds himself in way over his head each answer only leads him to more questions.
I felt compelled to keep reading to find out the truth behind this complex and enthralling mystery. Historical fiction set during the long eighteenth century is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and Boyce does a fantastic job transporting readers back in time. Her writing is immediately engaging and she leads the reader on an exciting adventure. A word of caution: As the story unfolds, some of the things that are revealed are deeply troubling. The secrets drive the story forward, but I found some of the reveals to be thoroughly disquieting.
Every scene is painted with vivid detail and the characters seem to jump off the page. I had a smashing good time as I tried to unravel the mystery along with the protagonist. If you’re a fellow fan of classic literature, you’ll discover lots of fun easter eggs, including references to Ben Johnson, Dryden, Swift, and Mr. Pope. The author does such a skilled job and blending history and fiction that I found myself Googling Ben Dearlove to discover if he was also a real writer.
I devoured this book in just a few days and I recommend it to anyone else who is a fan of historical fiction— as long as you don’t mind books with dark twists and surprisingly gritty secrets. If you love the long eighteenth century like I do, this is one finely crafted tale you won’t want to put down!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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About the Author
Lucienne Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA in English Literature, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical novel, To The Fair Land (SilverWood Books, 2012, reissued 2021), an eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.
Her second novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (SilverWood Books, 2015) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, was published in 2017 and was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction, was published in 2019 and is also an IndieBrag Medallion honoree, recipient of Chill With a Books Premium Readers’ Award, and a joint Discovering Diamonds Book of the Month. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was trade published by SBooks.
In 2013, Lucienne published The Bristol Suffragettes (SilverWood Books), a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west country. In 2017 she published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign.
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If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I also recommend…
Out of the Bower, a Jane Austen-esque romance with an endearing young street preacher as one of the protagonists.
Discerning Grace, a nautical adventure on the high seas!