Author: Steven Neil
Published by Matador on November 28, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: Rachel's Random Resources
Book Rating: 8/10
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?
Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?
The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.
The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.
Fascinating, engaging, and insightful!
The Merest Loss is an intriguing interpretation about the life of Harriet Howard, a young, impulsive, British girl who aspired early in life to become a distinguished actress but who ultimately became most infamous as the benefactor and mistress to Louis Napoleon.
The prose is descriptive and smooth. The characters are vulnerable, independent, and well drawn. And the story sweeps you back and forth between London and Paris during the mid-1800s and into a world filled with love, loss, deception, manipulation, riches, power, politics, and 19th-century horse racing.
I have to admit that I knew very little about Harriet Howard when I started The Merest Loss but Neil did such a lovely job of blending historical facts with captivating, alluring fiction that you’ll not only be left entertained but questioning whether the Comtesse de Beauregard was really a strong-minded, forthright woman ahead of the times or merely a lonely, heartbroken, naive young girl who was used and exploited by a government looking to secure beneficial alliances.
This novel is available now.
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Thank you to Steven Neil & Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.