The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon reviewed for #RBRT #HistFic @MadameGilflurt

  • Author: Catherine Curzon
  • Published: March 2017 by Endeavour Press
  • Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Book Review, Reading

In 18th century Covent Garden, Madam Moineau, is the mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment catering to the finest clients in London.

The mysterious, always heavily veiled in public and very French Madam Moineau, Georgina Radcliffe in a former life, is the mistress of the hugely successful brothel, Blackstairs, in Covent Garden. It’s the winter of 1785 and Georgina’s life is about to be changed by two men. It’s almost ten years since, as Georgina, she was left for dead by her abusive husband and she hasn’t seen him since. Until he turns up at Blackstairs, about to be married and looking for a mistress he can set up for his exclusive pleasure.

Artist Anthony Lake, recently returned from Europe with the realisation he is the father of a young girl, is searching for his daughter. He finds her under Georgina’s care. When Anthony learns his daughter’s mother was murdered, he vows to find the person responsible and avenge her death. The fates of the three become more and more entwined as events unfold and danger looms.

Bonsoir, Mademoiselle,” Georgie called, standing up straight behind her table; there was a moment in which Molly clearly weighed up the wisdom of simply abandoning the coffeehouse but instead she shrugged, the attempted winsome smile more of a grimace.

“If you please, miss,” Georgie told her, crooking her finger to beckon the girl over. “There will be no brandy this evening or any evening for a good many years.”

Her earlier vigour replaced by childhood insolence, Molly dragged the soles of her shoes as she sloped towards Georgie. Though her head had dropped in contrition and her chin now rested against her breastbone, Molly’s dark eyes were large and innocent, lingering pointlessly on her guardian. She trailed her coat along the ground and Georgie smiled beneath the veil despite her annoyance, seeing not a flicker of genuine humility in Molly’s performance.

Obviously very knowledgable about the era, Catherine Curzon portrays the more unsavoury aspects of 18th century London vividly, the atmosphere of the time and place apparent and believable throughout, with realistic dialogue and clothing descriptions. I like the way Molly, Anthony’s daughter, sometimes seems older than her years, due to life she leads, but at other times appropriate to her age. 

Secrets abound and are about to be laid bare. Only a select few know the results of Georgina’s traumatic past and her real identity, but the reappearance of the husband she hoped never to see again forces her to confront the past. Anthony isn’t all he seems, either, and his former life is revealed as the story progresses and the threads are drawn together. The plot is good and I really liked Georgina, Molly and Anthony, but the narrative just felt quite slow in places. Perhaps tightening it up would add to the suspense and keep the reader more engaged. 

I chose to read and review The Mistress of Blackstairs for Rosie Amber’s book review team, based on a digital copy from the author.

About Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian better known as Madame Gilflurt, the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life where she blogs on all matters 18th century.

She has been published on matters as diverse as Marie Antoinette’s teeth and Grace Kelly’s love life. Her work has been featured by BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre. She is thrilled to provide an online home for An Evening with Jane Austen, and her additional material for the show was performed at the V&A.

Catherine has performed with An Evening with Jane Austen at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and has spoken at Lichfield Georgian Festival and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s in Film Studies from the University of Nottingham. When not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She resides atop a steep hill in Brontë country with a rakish colonial gentleman, a boisterous hound and a tranquil feline.

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