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The Gilded Lily: A Novel [Paperback]

Deborah Swift

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Book Description

Nov. 27 2012

A spellbinding historical novel of beauty and greed and surprising redemption

 

England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects.  Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer's twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.

Set in a London of atmospheric coffee houses, gilded mansions, and shady pawnshops hidden from rich men’s view, Deborah Swift's The Gilded Lily is a dazzling novel of historical adventure. 


Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (Nov. 27 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250001900
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250001900
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #882,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

DEBORAH SWIFT, a set and costume designer for the BBC, lives in Windermere, England. The Lady’s Slipper, shortlisted for The Impress Novelists Prize in 2007, was inspired by her own discovery of the rare orchid during a summer walk.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Such A Beautiful Piece of Fiction Dec 3 2012
By Chelsey Lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read a lot of historical fiction, so I know that it can get pretty detailed and fairly deep within its context. This book contains so much information and is so powerful with its voice and words, that it definitely lives up to the many other highly influential historical novels that I have read. The thing that I appreciate most about historical fiction is the attention to detail and the author's ability to take readers back to a certain time period. This takes extensive research and appreciation for a time, culture, and the events that were taking place within it. This truly is a beautiful piece of fiction!

The story surrounds two sisters, Ella and Sadie Appleby. They have not exactly had any type of life worth talking about and are used to being abused and mistreated. The sisters are escaping from their lives of servitude when we first meet them, and are running to London in hopes of a better life. Both of these girls are as different as night and day. Ella is described as being very beautiful, and Sadie is described as having a rather large birthmark on her face, which she feels slightly insecure about. Ella is definitely the ringleader and influences Sadie to do a lot of things that she probably wouldn't have otherwise. I have to say that I really did not like Ella. She was harsh and even selfish at times. She used her beauty to her advantage and I often wondered if she even cared about her sister. The way she acts and speaks to Sadie at times made me think otherwise.

Ella and Sadie are running from something and I don't want to lay it all out for you here because it could get a little lengthy. I will tell you that the peril and the danger that both of the sisters face is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. They are constantly hiding and running, for fear of their lives. I loved reading these scenes because I felt like I was in the theater and seeing it all play out in front of me. I felt cozy while reading the scenes that took place in the ratty little place that the sisters rented on Blackraven Alley, with the fire crackling and the laughter they would sometimes share. Alas, good time cannot always take place, and the sisters face things far greater than you and I could ever imagine.

This is a long read and was rather slow in places, but exceedingly fast-paced in others. I enjoyed reading about the 1660's and running a crazy race with Ella and Sadie. This book took me a little longer to read than most do, of course. I found myself really reading slower so as to not miss details of the time and the various places that Ella and Sadie told about! If you have a few days to dedicate to a lengthy, but wonderful, historical novel, then I would highly recommend this one!

***Thank you to the publishers at St. Martin's Griffin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot-On Gripping Historical Fication Nov. 27 2012
By Holly Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Formerly released in England to rave reviews, The Gilded Lily is finally available in the US. Greed, adventure, danger, mystery, and history combine for a memorable, absorbing read.

You will be hooked by this masterfully told story by the middle of chapter one. Sisters Ella and Sadie Appleby flee their home in Westmoreland by night after the suspicious death of Ella's employer. Danger lurks around every corner and the reader is caught up in an engrossing adventure. Can Ella and Sadie stay two steps ahead of the constable? Will they survive this mess they have made for themselves? We read of their blundering persistence amid the squalor of life with the unfortunates on the streets of London. They work for a malicious wig-maker, until Ella lands a job at a ladies emporium participating in a scam to determine what wealthy homes are left empty and open for stealing.

After receiving copious praise for her first novel, The Lady's Slipper, Ms. Swift continues to garner praise for her knowledge of the seventeenth century and her ability to weave complex characters and spot-on historical detail. Restoration London is exquisitely evoked with period detail and dialogue.

Swift imbues her characters with palpable motives and impressive survival skills. The tension set up between Ella and Sadie keeps the reader guessing about their relationship and hazardous exploits. Ella is bold, conniving, and nasty to Sadie. She knows how to keep a secret, and how to use her bosom and dimples to her advantage. She is very smart, but her appreciation for the finer things in life is her downfall. Sweet-natured Sadie is the more layered character. She is hopeful despite being scorned for having "the Devil's paw print" (a birthmark) on her face. A master seamstress with a big heart, she forgives her sister over and over for harsh treatment. The character of Dennis is a special treat--a must-have-friend for any down and out girl. The author paints the poor sections of Restoration London accurately--squalid and hazardous.

The story is not sunshine and flowers. It is real. The dark nature of the book is balanced by a surprising redemption at the end.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like the main characters, rather a "blah" book Nov. 30 2013
By K. Dieng - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I apologize for my review on this book, as I have read a few books in the interim and therefore have already forgotten many details of this book. Which, alas, does say something about my feelings for this book. I wasn't terribly excited to review it. I felt very "comme ci comme ca" about it.

I normally love historical fiction, and this book has SO many great, high reviews. So I thought, wonderful! Of course I'll love it. But I didn't love it. I understand that the central fact of the story (i.e. Sadie's birthmark on her face made her and her sister unable to disappear into London, thereby adding suspense since the law could continue to search for them) was necessary to give movement to the book, it did rather make the character of Sadie rather pitiful (not her birthmark, but the fact that she had to hide all of the time, and therefore had no real growth to her character). I found Ella quite simply... mean, lacking compassion for others and a narcissist. And Ella's employer, Jay Whitgift, a central player throughout most of the book, is disgusting with no redeeming qualities. There are a couple of "nice" characters (a couple of friends of Sadie), but they play relatively small roles, and they don't balance out all of the negative qualities of the rest of the characters in the book.

I didn't really enjoy the overall story of the book, and didn't find a lot of historical, period information (i.e. politics of the time, health of the time). I know there was general background information (i.e. clothing, housing, economics of the classes, cosmetics, employment), and I DID appreciate this aspect of the book... I like to have all of this as well as historical context (i.e. historical political players, events, etc.). So, I thought the book was okay. But I've read other historical fiction that I really loved. The quality of the writing was good, but I would have liked to have at least like either 1) the story 2) the main characters or 3) more historical facts.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and Exciting Historical Fiction - Reviewed For LuxuryReading.com Dec 3 2012
By Colleen T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After her employer dies suddenly, Ella Appleby grabs everything of value and her younger sister, Sadie, and runs for the anonymity of London. Believing she is destined for a better life than as an obedient servant to uncaring masters or an abusive father, she sees London as her chance to start fresh with endless possibilities. But 1661 London is filthy, overcrowded and cruel and while Ella's country beauty blends in with others around them Sadie's distinctive port wine stained face sets them apart, something that is dangerous for two girls trying to lay low. Even more dangerous is the angry twin brother of Ella's previous employer, a man who believes the girls not only robbed but murdered his brother and will stop at nothing to seek justice.

As her former employer's brother gets closer to tracking the girls down, offering a hefty reward to anyone who can lead him to the "Savage Sisters", Ella believes Sadie is keeping her from fully realizing her wish for a new life and begins making dubious decisions to further separate them. However, when the gilding of this much sought after new life begins to chip away, Ella realizes that she has lead them both into a web that they might not be able to survive.

Described as a companion volume to Deborah Swift's The Lady's Slipper, The Gilded Lily works perfectly as a stand-alone novel. The descriptions and dialogue immerse the reader in Restoration era London and it really is a shock to look up and realize that you aren't actually slinking down the cramped back alleys with the Appleby sisters. Everything around the girls is harsh - from the weather to the people to their circumstances - and the reader is hard pressed not to wish right alongside them for a chance at a happy life.

The sisters could not be more different - Ella is beautiful, hot tempered and selfish for the majority of the time while Sadie is shy, sweet and innocently oblivious to a lot of what happens around her - and while I can't say I was a fan of Ella's decisions they are both very real representations of poor women trying to survive on their own in this time and place. Every single character highlights a different form of desperation and serves to show that money, status and belongings do not guarantee happiness. Far from a feel good story it is very real and raw and does hint at some good things to come in the future for certain characters.

Loving the dark corners and shiny optimism of the possibility of a better life when it couldn't get much worse, The Gilded Lily is a great example of realistic historical fiction. I am excited to read The Lady's Slipper and see how it ties in to the atmosphere and world this book makes me want to linger in a little longer.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A suspenseful and satisfying visit to Old England! July 25 2013
By Cynthia G. Neale - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Deborah Swift's style portrays old England in the 1600s vividly and realistically.I am right there running through the streets with my heart pounding, right along with the main characters and sisters, Ella and Sadie. I didn't like Ella (secondary character) in the first book, 'The Lady's Slipper,' but by the middle of The Gilded Lily, I sympathize with her and not only do I want her to get her comeuppance and must keep reading to find out if she indeed does, I also want her to be redeemed. Ella's sister, Sadie, is my favorite and I also must stay with the story to see if she triumphs over her sorrows and predicament. There's suspense, a little romance, and excellent character development. I can't wait to read the next novel by this knowledgeable and skilled historical fiction writer.

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