Release Date: June 10th 2021
Publisher: Zaffre Books
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars
West Yorkshire, 1904.
When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
Mrs England is the third book from historical fiction writer Stacey Halls. I read and love both The Familiars and The Foundling, so this was an incredibly anticipated release for me. The story follows Nurse Ruby May a graduate of the Norland Institute. When she is forced to leave her position she knows she needs to find another as soon as possible. When the opportunity comes up to be a nurse to the four England children, Ruby takes the position immediately. When she arrives in Yorkshire she soon finds things aren’t right with the family. Mrs England is detached and mysterious, and the servants won’t talk to her. As Ruby spends more time with the family, she uncovers more than she could possibly imagine.
Stacey Halls is one of those authors where you start reading the book and then become immediately torn between reading it slowly to savour the beautiful writing, or racing through it in a single night because of the compelling story. For me I ended up reading this until the wee hours of the morning, I just had to know what was happening with the England family. The story is really addictive and it has such a fascinating premise. It really focuses on the idea of marriage and power in a relationship. Yorkshire really comes to life in the beautiful and vivid writing and I felt completely transported back to that time period.
Like her previous novels, you can tell an immense amount of research has gone into this story. I loved the slow-building feeling of menace in the story, it’s so atmospheric and there were some moments that definitely gave me a feeling of dread. One of the most compelling things for me was the complex characters – so many of them are way more than they seem on the surface. Mr and Mrs England were brilliant characters and Halls has a brilliant way of making you question who they truly are. Ruby is a really interesting protagonist and I loved learning about her family and her past alongside her time with the Englands.
Stacey Halls is rapidly becoming my favourite historical fiction writer. This is another brilliantly plotted and well-executed tale, one that I will be recommending to everyone I know. If you love historical fiction this one is a must-read.