Author: Charlie Laidlaw
Published: November 2019 by Headline Accent
Category: Mystery, Humour, Romance, Herbalism, Drama, Book Review
Rosie McLeod, pub proprietor and a gifted herbalist of local renown, is thirty-nine and holding, but only just. The talons of her fortieth birthday are in her back and her bloody, bloody husband hasn’t laid a lustful hand on her for months.
Readers can always expect something out of the ordinary with Charlie Laidlaw’s books. Love Potions and Other Calamities is no exception. Each chapter begins with a snippet from The Book of Secrets by Albertus Magnus, 13th century scientist, theologian and philosopher, which relates to the story.
Set in a small rural village in Scotland, Holy Cross is known to be a place of myth and legend. The trouble began with the Reverend Lionel Kennedy during a thunderstorm. A sudden, nightmarish experience on his way home after judging a Women’s Institute jam making competition, sent him hurtling (for him) to the police station. The sight of a very large black cat had completely unnerved him, being aware of the stories attached to Holy Cross from the previous minister.
The legend of Holy Cross relates how Satan rose rose up from the Lower kingdom and rebelled against the angels of the Heavens…
Rosie McLeod, a certified herbalist and landlady of the Fox and Duck hostelry in Holy Cross, is rapidly approaching her 40th birthday and feeling less than desirable. Her husband, Jack, seems oblivious to her charms and Mara the temporary barmaid, is young and beautiful, further lowering Rosie’s self esteem. Rosie decides to take matters into her own hands and give Jack a little push in the right direction.
The shelves in her scullery were packed with tightly stoppered jars and bottles, each labelled with a patch of paper stuck with Sellotape. She arranged them alphabetically with acorn, angelica and averna sativa on the top left shelf, working through bilberry and bittercress to wood sorrel and yarrow on the bottom right.
Rosie’s mood was further darkened by news of the minister’s sighting, and her upcoming birthday seemed less important in the light of the significant vandalism to the pub’s hazel tree and the church wall. The meaning those actions conveyed was obvious to Rosie, if no-one else. I loved the underlying theme of witchcraft and cringed at the situations some characters found themselves in. Perhaps the poor vicar would have been wiser to leave his sermon much earlier.
Rosie’s herbal ‘cures’ had unintended and comical consequences, creating confusion and disorder among the residents the village and total embarrassment to the recipients. Well written with wonderfully drawn characters and a vividly portrayed setting, Love Potions and Other Calamities must have needed a huge amount of research but it has more than paid off, resulting in an enjoyable and quirky read with laugh out loud moments.
I chose to read and review Love Potions and Other Calamities based on a copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher via NetGalley
About the Author
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland (quite near Paisley, but thankfully not too close) and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything. I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember.
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian.