I enjoyed reading The Lady’s Slipper so looked forward to the companion novel, The Gilded Lily, which continues the story of Ella Appleby. I wasn’t disappointed. Deborah Swift’s lush writing carries you to another, darker, time and place.
In the harsh winter of 1661 Ella Appleby and her sister, Sadie, flee Westmoreland in the dead of night after Ella robs her dead employer. They hope to hide themselves in the teeming streets of London but a game of cat and mouse ensues as the dead man’s brother makes it his mission to bring them to justice.
Seduced by the tawdry glamour of the city, Ella sets her sights on flamboyant Jay Whitgift, owner of a society ladies’ beauty parlour. Nothing is what it seems, least of all Jay Whitgift, a satisfyingly nasty villain who has dangerous secrets of his own. Soon a rift has formed between Ella and Sadie, and the sisters are threatened by a menace more sinister than even the law.
Ella behaves badly but it’s hard not to hold a secret admiration for her as she seeks to improve her life by ruthless ambition. Utterly selfish, she displays casual cruelty to her younger sister and yet, somehow, I began to feel sorry for her. Ella, in turn, is cruelly used by Jay Whitgift but not in the manner you might expect.
The author’s previous career as a set and costume designer is evident from the richly detailed descriptions, while the superbly written dialogue makes the characters absolutely real.
Deborah Swift’s assured and carefully researched writing makes The Gilded Lily an unputdownable read and I eagerly anticipate her next novel.