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Eliza Mace by Sarah Burton and Jem Poster - Review

Thursday, June 6, 2024

I really can't remember where I heard of this book but I clearly did because I requested it at the library. I must have been waiting a while because when it came in I was like what the hell is this book! But I picked it up and I ended up really enjoying it, which is the main thing. I think this is going to be the first in a series and I will definitely read the next ones. 

The book is set on the border between England and Wales somewhere in the 1870s. Eliza is sixteen, and lives in the big hall with her parents and her uncle. Her father, Robert, is an unpredictable and difficult human. He has run through the family's money, meaning that they have barely any servants left, and life is difficult. The house and estate belong to Hannah, Eliza's mother, who suffers with her nerves and is quite sickly. She refuses to sell any of the land which would make the family solvent again, mostly because she thinks Robert would quickly spend the money. He is a proper wrong 'un and he's borrowed off absolutely everyone, including his manservant, Jacob Todd. He's nasty and brutish with everyone. His brother, James, has to live with the family because he has fallen on hard times too. He is very close to Hannah and Eliza, which winds Robert up. 

Eliza's sister Charlotte is already married and living in Bristol I think. There are hints that it isn't a completely happy marriage for one reason and another. She and Eliza write to each other. Eliza loves her father even though she realises his faults. Her mother is anxious for her to marry well and wants her to behave like a lady. Eliza is too headstrong for that, though.

Then Robert goes missing. He is last seen in the town getting drunk in a pub, and someone was seen attacking him. His horse was then found and stolen, and the person concerned is arrested. The police are called, and the constable, who is new to the area, is determined to leave no stone unturned. He and Eliza get close, much to Hannah's consternation. Eliza is a sharp, intelligent, quick witted girl. I really liked her. I liked Constable Pritchard too, and James. Really a lot of people had a motive to do harm to Robert, and it was fun to discover so many motives. 

The setting is really good, too. There are definitely elements of gothic in it. I could picture the house and the surroundings so well and I really liked it. I'm giving this four out of five and I really hope there's another one soon! 

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