Originally published in Library Journal, May 2019.
Velton’s intriguing historical fiction spotlights both the successes and hardships of Huguenot silk weavers in 18th century England. Young and alone, Sara Kemp, arrives in Spitalfields, London. She is soon swept away to the Wig and Feathers tavern by a forceful brothel proprietress, thus beginning a dangerous, dismal life of prostitution. Esther Thorel, the wife of one of the finest master silk weavers, offers Sara a position as lady’s maid and a fresh start away from her unsavory past. Esther, a painter, longs to design silks, but her husband Elias dismisses her talent while resenting her barrenness and inability to provide a son to teach his trade. Enter Bisby Lambert, an exquisitely talented journeyman commissioned by Elias to weave his masterpiece on the Thorel’s attic loom. As the weaving begins to take shape, the tumultuous Thorel household, full of secrets and longing, begins to unravel. The story unfolds in alternating points of view between Sara and Esther, women of vastly different life circumstances who are both harboring secrets. VERDICT: Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Chiaverini will be captivated by Blackberry & Wild Rose for its atmospheric, historically-rich drama and forbidden romance.