I’ll be reviewing each book in turn, starting with Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat
1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.
Terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.
Héloïse, with all her tragedies and triumphs, celebrates the birth of modern medicine, midwifery and thinking in late medieval times.
Amazon UK purchase link
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and have to admit to being one lucky reader to get my hands on this gem of a boxed set, and I’m basing that on simply having read just one of the five books in the collection. If the others are half as good, then I am in for a treat.
Blood Rose Angel is the third book in Liza Perrat’s series: The Bone Angel. And, yes, it’s very typical of me to come late to the party, but all three books can be read as standalones. So, phew! On the plus side, I now have two more books to add to my TBR list.
Set in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France in the year of our Lord, 1348, it follows the life of midwife Héloïse, whose mother died giving birth to her and so she was raised by her aunt, Isa (her mother’s twin sister). The nature of her difficult birth and the identity of her father unknown led to superstitions running amok labelling her as “unborn” and subjecting her to taunts from child- to adulthood.
Since her mother was also a midwife, Héloïse picked up the mantle determined to be the best healer and midwife she could be. Given her lowly birth, she was not expected to be “worthy” of marriage, but nonetheless fell in love with stonemason Raoul and gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Morgane, before suffering two stillbirths – sons – in the years that followed.
For two years, Raoul worked away in Italy, returning to Lucie as the pestilence took root, spreading like wildfire and killing many, including one of his apprentices, Toubie. His return is welcomed by Héloïse and his family, but the arrival of the pestilence is not.
Over the years, Héloïse has fallen foul of many locals, some who – for reasons known only to them and their faith – blame her for the death of their father, mother, child, dog, rat and fleas – in fact, anything they can blame her for, they will. Fortunately, more see her as the competent, respectful and caring person that she is.
However, when things take a turn for the worse, it is the naysayers who seem to have the power to control her fate, and she must use all her strength and faith in her mother’s talisman to fend them off. But it’s not easy, and her life is endangered by these suspicious and vengeful folk.
Without spilling any of the beans – plotwise – let me just say that I defy you not to be transported back in time by this book, and to feel immersed in the daily life of villagers in Lucie. Héloïse is a woman to root for, as injustices pile upon her, yet on she goes. It’s evident the author has researched the era with precision; her words conjured up images in my mind so vivid in sight, sound and smell (many of the latter are far from pleasant too). While the author admits to fictionalising her characters, what she puts them through is drenched in fact and very believable for that era. I did feel the ending lost some of the earlier momentum, but I imagine that’s often the nature of things as loose ends are tied up.
Having read this whilst we are still living through a pandemic ourselves, it didn’t pass me by that there existed then – as now – the same division between those who believed in masks and distancing. Humans, eh, we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Anyhow, pandemic or plague aside, this is a great read and fans of historical fiction will relish in the detail of the scenes portrayed and the lives of the characters within those scenes. As for me, I’m adding Liza’s earlier books to my reading list.
See you next time with my review of Hidden, by Linda Gillard (not sure when that will happen, but it will happen) If you’re interested in the other books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!
Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.
Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.
Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.
The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.
The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?
Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.