Book Review – The Merest Loss by Steven Neil #RRBC

Well I appear to have another book review ready for you – I guess there are some advantages to this unemployment lark – now if only I could find the motivation to use the time to write as well as read!  But in the meantime let me tell you about:

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil

lossBlurb: When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: I was given this book for an honest review and as this is not my normal genre I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to enjoy. I found the first couple of chapters a little slow as I settled into the era and got to know the characters but before long I was hooked by the story and eagerly devouring each new chapter.

The story is generally split between two themes – Martin Harryet’s search to discover the identity of his father, and also the life of his mother Eliza Harryet and how she became Harriet Howard one time actress and one time mistress to Louis Napoleon.

This is a well crafted tale with believable, sometimes unlikable, characters, secrets and lies, and lost loves. One of the overwhelming feelings this story left me with was a real sympathy for Harriet Howard, a young woman who had dreams and love, and then had them taken from her at the whim of men who had other uses for her.

If, like me, you didn’t think this genre is for you I would suggest you still give the book a try as it is far more than just a period piece and is a brilliant and enjoyable read.  I would certainly happily read more by this author.

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