On Amazon UK
How I discovered this book: The author has been a great favourite of mine ever since I discovered her books on her history blog, via her Twitter page. I was sent an ARC, but would have bought it anyway!
Set in 17th century London, the two main character points of view in this excellent novel are Deborah Willet, a young girl who goes to work as a lady's companion for the wife of Samuel Pepys, and Abigail Williams, an actress and mistress of a lord, who has a tragic past and a dangerous present, working as a spy for the Dutch. Deb unwittingly gets more involved with Abigail than she intends, and before long finds herself a part of a terrifyingly dark world.
It is clear, all the way through, that Ms Swift's knowledge of 17th Century London is extensive; I particularly enjoyed this rare look at how life was for Londoners, post plague, Civil War and, of course, the Great Fire. The depiction of the dark alleyways, filthy lodgings, women of the night and the poor, unpaid sailors was so good I could see it all. Abigail Williams, though a 'baddie', is written in such a way that I liked and felt sympathy for her, and, indeed, for all the women, simply because of the social restrictions of the time.
The plot itself is cleverly executed, building up pace gradually; by half way through the book I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, so eager was I to find out what happened. This novel works well on so many levels: as a thrilling tale of espionage, as a peep into the world of 350 years ago, as an historical education and also a love story, that of Deb Willet and the delightful curate, Jeremiah Wells.
The Author's Notes at the end of the book were quite a revelation, as I discovered I'd been reading more of a true story that I'd thought; I deliberately left them to the end. Pleasing Mr Pepys is one of those pieces of historical fact/fiction that makes you want to find out even more. :)
If you're as fascinated by this period of history as I am, you might like this 'fly through' of 17th Century London (pre-Great Fire), which I have looked at several times, and gave me an even better idea of what the capital was like in those days.