I’d like to say that joining the blog tour for The White Camellia by Juliet Greenwood has introduced me to a new author to add to my “favourites” list – but it really wouldn’t be true. I read – and really enjoyed – Eden’s Garden more years ago than I can remember, and I reviewed We That Are Left here on Being Anne (here‘s the link). Published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press on 15th September (buying links below), reading The White Camellia has only reminded me how very much I enjoy Juliet Greenwood’s writing.
1909. Cornwall. Her family ruined, Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, and self-made business woman Sybil moves in. Owning Tressillion is Sybil’s triumph — but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will Sybil be able to build a new life here, or will hatred always rule her heart?
Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hopeis to marry Jonathan, the new heir. Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, can she pursue her ambition if it will heap further scandal on the family? Will she risk arrest or worse?
When those very dangers send Bea and her White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, the two women must finally confront each other and Tresillion’s long buried secrets.
There’s nothing I enjoy better than being wrapped up in the pages of a book that totally transports you into its world, to such an extent that you really don’t want to leave. There I was, sitting in the White Camellia tea rooms eating my heavily fruited and lightly spiced teacake, joining the clamour on the suffragette marches filled with anger at how the women were treated, wandering the dusty bedrooms of Tresillion House and picking up the embellished hairbrush, down the Cornish tin mine with my torch – oh, it was wonderful!
This was one of those rare books where everything comes together to make it a perfect read. The most magnificent strong women characters (plus the odd dodgy villain and hot romantic lead), a cinematic quality to the descriptions (BBC Wales and South West, are you reading? Sunday night TV adaptation…?), historical background meticulously researched, turned into fiction and beautifully presented, and a story that has you on the edge of your seat as it builds to its dramatic climax. There’s villainy, secrets, a thirst for revenge, families torn apart – oh, and so much more. If I’m honest, I was hooked from the first few pages when Sybil stands on the cliff and considers the crumbling house lying helpless at her feet. What more do you need?!
I’m not going to say any more. Forgive the absence of analysis – I read it, I loved it (as I’m sure you can tell), and if anyone sees me saying “I don’t like historical fiction without a modern thread”, kick me and say “how about Juliet Greenwood?”. Beautiful writing, wonderful storytelling, and onto my Books of the Year list without a moment’s hesitation.
Do take a look at Juliet Greenwood’s excellent blog – you can lose yourself for a little longer as she shares some of her research and discoveries. And I think I must also pay due tribute to Honno Welsh Women’s Press and their wonderful editor Janet Thomas – an unerring eye for the special and different, and a magical touch in bringing the best of books to enthusiastic readers.
With thanks to tour organiser Brook Cottage Books and the author, I’m delighted to offer one lucky reader the chance to win paperback copies of all three of Juliet’s books – with a second prize of an e-copy of The White Camellia. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About the author
Juliet Greenwood is the author of two previous historical novels for Honno Press, both of which reached #4 and #5 in the UK Amazon Kindle store. Eden’s Garden was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize. We That are Left was completed with a Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary, and was Welsh Book of the Month for Waterstones Wales, The Welsh Books Council and the National Museum of Wales. It was also chosen by the ‘Country Wives’ website as one of their top ten ‘riveting reads’ of 2014, was one of the top ten reads of the year for the Word by Word blog, and a Netmums top summer read for 2014.
Juliet’s grandmother worked as a cook in a big country house, leaving Juliet with a passion for history, and in particular for the experiences of women, which are often overlooked or forgotten. Juliet trained as a photographer when working in London, before returning to live in a traditional cottage in Snowdonia. She loves gardening and walking, and trying out old recipes her grandmother might have used, along with exploring the upstairs and downstairs of old country houses.