Love. Desire. Vengeance. A deadly alchemy. When Rebecca Palmer's new husband opens a pharmacy in Victorian Edinburgh, she expects to live the life of a well-heeled gentlewoman. But her ideal turns to ashes when she discovers her husband is not what he seems. As Rebecca struggles to maintain her dignity in the face of his infidelity and strange sexual desires, Alexander tries to pacify her so-called hysteria with a magical new chemical creation. A wonder-drug he calls heroin. Rebecca's journey into addiction takes her further into her past, and her first, lost love, while Alexander looks on, curiously observing his wife's descent. Meanwhile, Alexander's desire to profit from his invention leads him down a dangerous path that blurs science, passion, and death. He soon discovers that even the most promising experiments can have unforeseen and deadly consequences... Reminiscent of the works of Sarah Waters, this is a brilliantly observed piece of Victoriana which deals with the disempowerment of women, addiction, desire, sexual obsession and vengeance.
I was excited to read this book but it ended up being so much more than I anticipated. The plot twists in this book were those you could never have seen coming, which makes you want to read more.
The main character goes on an unintentional journey of self-discovery and finds that she is capable of so much more than her culture, and others, expects of her.
With a little help from others - and a large dose of heroin - Rebecca overcomes the demons she put in her own way and changes her life for good.
Set in Victorian Edinburgh, the narrative of this book really draws you in and immerses you in Rebecca's world. This novel is empowering, unexpected and overall a delight to read. I will be highly anticipating Vanessa's next novel.
Entertaining Victorian tale -
There was less depth than I expected to this enjoyable historical novel, despite the dark subject matter. Although a feeling of menace was established early on, as it became clear Rebecca had been chosen by her husband because of her seemingly friendless state, this sense of jeopardy was never fully realised. Even the tragic elements in the story failed to move me very deeply, though the arrogance of some of the men did make me angry.
Rebecca turned out to be more resourceful than her husband would have imagined, with the ability to embrace attitudes that seemed rather ahead of her time. Both the development of her character and the rather neat ending were appealing, though not convincingly realistic.