I’ve been wanting to try one of Jean Fullerton’s books for a very long time, and when I saw that Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources was organising a blog tour for The Rector’s Daughter, I just couldn’t resist any longer. Published by Corvus on 7th November, this book is now available for kindle via Amazon in the UK and US, and also as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel for the blog tour support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
The references to Dilly Court and Rosie Goodwin in the book’s Amazon listing are, I must admit, rather lost on me: I very rarely pick up a historical saga, but it was the story line of this one – a stand-alone read – that particularly attracted me, as well as its setting. But I do know that Jean’s previous books – featuring the East End Nolan Family, Nurse Millie and Connie, and the East End Ration Book series – have been loved by many, and I’ve now had the immense pleasure of meeting her at a number of bookish events. I do recall a particular act of kindness from her, that I’m sure she won’t remember. I was feeling very out of place once at an RNA event early in my blogging days, surrounded by faces I’d only before seen on book covers: Jean was particularly warm and friendly, immediately putting me at ease, making me feel considerably more comfortable. So, let’s see if her books are as lovely as the lady herself…
Charlotte, daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton, has been content to follow the path laid out for her. Charlotte has an understanding with Captain Nicolas Paget – every inch the gentleman – who she expects someday to marry. But then she meets Josiah Martyn, and everything changes…
A driven and ambitious Cornish mining engineer, and the complete opposite to Captain Nicholas, Josiah has come to London to help build the first tunnel under the river Thames. When unpredictable events occur at the inauguration of the project, Josiah and Charlotte are suddenly thrown into an unexpected intimacy.
But not everyone is happy with Charlotte and Josiah growing closer. As friends turn to foes, will they be able to rewrite the stars and find their happy ever after, although all odds seem to be stacked against them…?
Well, now I know why people so love Jean Fullerton’s books! She’s a wonderful story teller, and the twists and turns of this book kept me reading into the early hours with hopes of a happy ending. Her meticulous research is evident – the detail around the construction of the first tunnel under the Thames, with a recreation of what life was like for the workers and the introduction of a few real-life historical figures, was simply fascinating, and so well brought to life.
There’s a tremendous authenticity about her fictional characters too. Charlotte’s quite wonderfully drawn – real kindness and selflessness in her involvement in her father’s parish duties, and with a nice wry humour about the ups and downs of her personal life. Her father’s a total horror, but so well depicted through those statements that make you cringe – and he really does rather deserve the predatory attention of Mrs Palmer, another character who leaps off the page quite wonderfully (as does her obnoxious spoilt son). Although attracted to Josiah, the second engineer at the tunnel (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be?), Charlotte sees little possibility of overcoming the class divide or of escaping her duties and obligations – and she has the additional complication of being “promised” to slimy Nicholas Paget, although the demands of his mother consistently prevent a marriage being in the offing.
The setting’s so vividly described – life in the East End at all levels, the detail around the construction of the tunnel and the conditions suffered by those who build it – and it also deals well with the issues of the time around class divides and the position of women, while capturing the change in the air in its pre-Victorian period. Even the writing itself feels right – it wouldn’t be difficult to think this was a story written in its time, in both its use of language and the development of the story.
There’s high drama, there’s romance, there’s a lot of bad behaviour – and the book really is a quite gripping read as it unfolds, with characters you grow to love at its centre. So well done – I really enjoyed this one.
About the author
Jean Fullerton is the author of thirteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She is also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing, and is half way through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.