My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Just like that dazzling cover image, Lying with Lions is a novel rich in the lush descriptions of the era that the story has set in. Edwardian England vibrates thru the different hues and colors that the author, Annabel Fielding has captured in its vast canvas.
Lying with Lions is the tale of a young girl Agnes Ashford whose ambitions and desire to make something of herself catapults her into the limelight of the dysfunctional Bryant family. Employed first as an archivist, it is not long before she discovers that the winding tunnels of Hartfell Hall have hidden a gruesome secret and the price of silence could be her own life. With a clear outlook of what her place in the house should be, she forges a path ahead that sees her move from a mere employee to the companion helper of Lady Helen Bryant.
The story progresses through the political ups and downs of the time and the repercussions of the war and it is Agnes who sometimes with a whisper here and a whisper there who pulls on the threads that run the house smoothly. There’s something Machiavellian about the games that both Agnes and Helen play that was absolutely thrilling. Lady Helen, a force to be reckoned with, was an impressive character using her cunning and wiles to get away with everything and thus seeing to the core of the desire hidden in Agnes and making her a mirror image of herself.
The author’s research of the era is definitely admirable as is evident in the weaving of historical events that move the story forward. The relationship that develops between Agnes and Helen is kept as a background to the main story of the events that circulate around the Bryant children, Harold and Meredith, and the growth of the characters is captured wonderfully as each incident unfolds to reveal a different facet to all the players involved. The ending was twisty which I was thoroughly surprised as I had no inkling that there were more secrets to be unearthed. It is not often in historical fiction that you have a lead protagonist who is not a goody-good girl, but the author has kept the sketch of Agnes as stark as possible with the kind of ruthless ambition that one can’t help but admire.
Excellent plotting with a deep sense of gothic allure, Lying with Lions is a must-read for all fans of historical fiction.
Fascinating 5 stars ☔☔☔☔☔
Many thanks to Net Galley, Publisher, and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily.
Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.
They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…
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