The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . . 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I enjoy historical fiction and with this book also being set In Edinburgh I was looking forward to reading it. It is a city I have visited a few times but know very little about and I found the story set around the building of the new town very interesting. 

I knew from reading the author notes that she liked to promote women’s role in history. I don’t think I’ve read a historical fiction book that had so many strong female characters in before. Some of male characters were important to the storyline too but they were in the background, this is predominantly about females who weren’t prepared to stay silent. In particular Belle and Mhairi. There are others, Elizabeth, Clementina and Mrs Dickson but it was Belle and Mhairi who captivated me. I liked their independence, and their determination to live their lives the way they wanted. Mhairi coped slightly better than Belle whose vulnerability became more evident as the novel progressed.

These must have been unusual and exciting times in Edinburgh. A city that once  had strong connections to the slave industry, trying to become the Athens of the North and also coping with the excitement of a possible Royal visit. Because King George had to go somewhere. And for some there was also the prospect of a very important plant flowering. I enjoyed the way that this part of the story created drama. How everybody wanted the seeds, and the trouble it caused. The furore created once it did flower and many plans became undone. 

I’ve never read a book like this before, I enjoy looking at flowers but can’t easily identify many. But that didn’t stop me enjoying and learning about the moving and planting of the new gardens in Edinburgh. It was a novel that sent me to the internet often, which for me means the book has made an impact. And I want to go and visit. 

But most of all I enjoyed meeting all of these characters, I hope to read more like this in the future. 

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