Published by: Manilla Press
Date Published: 10/06/2021
Date Read: 20/06/2021
West Yorkshire, 1904.
When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes on 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.
CONTAINS MILD PLOT SPOILERS
I admit, I was probably in the minority when I say I struggled with both Stacey’s previous novels, The Familiars and The Foundling. They just didn’t grab me enough to continue with them, but I never say never when it comes to trying them again. But there had been nothing but praise for Mrs England so I thought I’d try it. I was instantly hooked. It drew me in right from the very start and I was constantly hungry for more.
I felt the book had a very long buildup before the action started, before we started to see why the England’s aren’t the perfect family, but it’s not drawn out. You don’t feel cheated. You’ve got a thorough understanding of who everyone is, what their position is, their history, their temperament, and it then makes the action parts more impactful. I also like that the periphery characters such as the household staff are fully fleshed out, they are their own characters rather than just being there to move the main story along.
There are crumbs throughout the first half of the book, giving you something to chase and focus on. These crumbs stay at the forefront of your mind, which then makes the ending really pay off.
I didn’t realise this was actually based on a real story of Ruby and Elsie Browne who were thrown from Clifton suspension bridge by their father in 1896.
Even after finishing it I’m not 100% sure why Stacey chose “Mrs England” to be the title of the book, as in my personal opinion, she is not the character to be focussing all our attentions on.
Overall, it is a very immersive book and you can’t help but be right in the action, in the setting with the characters. It’s a transfixing and mesmerising book, perfect for historical fiction lovers.