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Blackberry & Wild Rose

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,647 ratings  ·  391 reviews
WHEN Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two wome
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 10th 2019 by Quercus (first published January 8th 2019)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  2,647 ratings  ·  391 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
‘’But there are no secrets in London. Even the houses lean across the narrow alleys towards each other and offer up their scandals in the blink of an open curtain.’’

A woman is trying to break the norms of an oppressive society whose chances are reserved exclusively for men. In an era when silk is considered equal to gold, Esther struggles to convince her husband of her talent as a pattern designer. Her kind nature leads her to Sara, a young woman trapped in a brothel, and to a complex networ
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sonia Velton writes beautifully sumptuous and atmospheric historical fiction set in the late eighteenth century amidst the Huguenot silk weavers of London's East End that reminded me strongly of Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist. It begins in Spitalfield in 1768, and the naive, unlucky Sarah Kemp has been tricked into working in a brothel. The wife of a Huguenot silk weaver, Esther Thorel, rescues the desperate Sarah from being a whore by offering her employment as her maid, an act of Christian ch ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This novel's setting was the main reason I decided to read it: London, 1768, the world of the Huguenot silk-weavers. This is a solid HF, with a good story behind, and my only complaint is that I expected even more historical information on the diaspora even though the Author did her job well and while reading you receive substantial insight into the world of this particular Diaspora in the 18th century London. recommended to all HF fans. ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written debut novel,
Blackberry & Wild Rose​
is set during the mid-eighteenth century in London and tells the story of Sara, a young woman forced into a life of prostitution. It is also the story of Esther, wife of a silk weaver who longs to create beautiful silk herself. The style and subject matter are reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier's books and has several intriguing twists. It is exquisitely written though occasionally I found my attention wandering. The reason for this was not
Umut Rados
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I love historical fiction, and I enjoyed this book. It has a gorgeous cover reflecting the Silk weaving times back in times, in London. I think the author did a good research.
I liked to read about the silk weavers, the tension between masters and the journeyman. I found it original and was curious to learn about these.
The household part where we had 2 women narrating the story was a bit predictable. Romances, revenge, love, etc. The combination of these 2 aspects made the story an easy, entert
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Who has not loved the texture and beauty of silk? Whether you wear it, sleep on it, or have it incorporated into your furniture, silk is a part of your life. In the book Blackberry and Wild Roses, we learn of silk making in the eighteenth century and also of the beginnings of labor unions. I must also say that this exquisite cover so mimics the gorgeous patterns that silk has often incorporated.

Esther Thorel is a wife of a prosperous silk maker. She is drawn to a young girl, Sara Kemp, a woman o
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Blackberry and Wild Rose, Sonia Velton's historical fiction debut, is based around the silk workers in 1860s Spitalfields, London. From the alternating perspectives of Sara and Esther it illustrates the hardship and destitution present at that time. It also explores many more important but overlooked issues of the time such as the conflict between journeyman weavers and master weavers and the fact that women are forbidden to work in certain professions. This is a beautifully written, atmospheric ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I love historical fiction and was very much looking forward to starting this. The context of the silk weavers of London and the competition with French and Belgian silk; the banning of Indian calico cotton; the London setting- these were very interesting details to me. However it felt like nothing really happened (not true but that's how it felt!) and there were no sympathetic characters. Not a bad read. Just not a great one. ...more
Rating: 3.5 stars rounded down the 3 stars

Sonia Velton has written an interesting work of historical fiction set in London in the 1760’s. I knew very little about the silk weaving trade concentrated in the Spitalfields area of London at that time. Nor did I realize that there were actual riots then as the weavers rebelled against the lowering of their piece rate wages when the industry started losing business to the Indian cotton calico trade.

The story is told from the dual points of view of Sar
Evie Braithwaite
Historical fiction wins my heart once again. The cover art for this alone was enough to make me fall head over heels in love with this book.

Blackberry and Wild Rose is an atmospheric novel set in Spitalfields, a parish in London in the late 18th century. Now I love a historical fiction novel. But, tell me it’s historical fiction novel set in England? You’ve instantly piqued my interest. This is an area filled with the homes of respectable merchants and Huguenot weavers. Neighbouring them, howev
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blackberry and Wild Rose tells the story of two women, one a naive fallen woman and the other the wife of a Huguenot silk weaver, during eighteenth century London.

The highlight for me was the relationship played out between Ethel and Sara, and the many parallels between them. It’s a relationship built initially on the supposed charity of Ethel, however it soon becomes clear that the two women have a lot more in common that they fi
MaryannC. Book Freak
This was absolutely wonderful and it earns a place among my favorites. I know this is a simply stated remark but I don't think my review would it do it justice because sometimes I get too tongue tied trying to describe the depth and eloquence of a book that has me enthralled like this one. Recommended. ...more
Tricked into prostitution as an innocent newcomer to London, Sara’s rescue by Esther from the clutches of the awful Mrs. Swann offers her the possibility of gaining control over her life. However, Sara soon finds that is seems she may have swapped one form of dependence for another, constantly at the back and call of her new mistress. Furthermore, the possibility that the shameful details of her previous life may be revealed is a constant fear, particularly since not everyone in the Thorel house ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, netgalley
Thank you Netgalley and Quercus Books for the ARC.

"You are but a woman."

But hell has no fury like a woman scorned!
Meet Esther, wife of London master silkweaver Elias, a firm Huguenot. The year is 1768 and Esther is a good christian and dedicated wife. When accidentally seeing Sara being boxed by her madam, she decides to offer the desperate girl a position as lady's maid in her household.
Meanwhile husband Elias takes on an apprentice journeyman who uses the looms in their attic to weave his mas
Rachel Hall
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Set against the backdrop of the silk weaving rebellions in 1760s Spitalfields, Sonia Velton’s debut historical fiction novel brings to life the story of two woman from very different backgrounds in one household and captures the fraught relationship between them which threatens to be both of their undoing. When genteel Huguenot wife, Esther Thorel, catches sight of ill-dressed Sara Kemp being berated by deceitful ‘madam’, Mrs Swann, it is 1768 and she can only guess at the unfortunate circumstan ...more
4.5 stars rounded up

Inspired by the life of Anna Maria Garthwaite, "Blackberry & Wild Rose" is a fictional rendering of the mid-eighteenth century silk industry in Spitalfields, London.

Esther Thorel - married into money and privilege, she is an Englishwoman in her late twenties.  Her husband Elias is a master silk weaver who married her to the displeasure of his Huguenot family. Vain and self-centered, he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with Esther when she fails to provide him with a child. E
Roman Clodia
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
What really made this book for me is the history of the silk weavers of East London and the industrial unrest between the master weavers and journeyman. The story in the foreground is easily predictable, a standard tale of rivalry and tentative empathy between a mistress and her personal maid, of a loveless marriage and doomed romance.

Velton writes well but technically the voices of the two women of different social strata shouldn't sound the same as they do here: the craft isn't here to differ
Lucy Banks
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A twisty-turny tale of female relationships, male dominance and deception, centred around the Huguenots.

I really enjoyed this book! I generally enjoy well-researched historical fiction anyway, but this one had the pleasant additional extra of being extremely well-plotted and clever.

Sara arrives in London and gets snared by a notorious Madam, who forces her to work as a whore. By chance, Esther, the wife of a Huguenot
“Esther’s character is loosely inspired by Anna Maria Garthwaite, the foremost designer of Spitalfields silks during the mid-eighteenth century. She is credited with bringing the artistry of painting to the loom, although her success predated the industrial troubles of the Spitalfields silk industry by some years. Many of her patterns and silks have survived and can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London).

The eighteenth century Spitalfields silk weavers were a militant bunch and forme
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who has recently rediscovered her love for historical fiction, I’ve truly been spoilt lately. Sure, a nice gruesome murder or a bunch psychological games is fun to read about but there is something about being transported to ages long ago that totally captures my imagination.

Upon arriving in Spitalfields, Sara Kemp immediately lands herself in a whole heap of trouble. She is rescued by Esther Thorel, the wife of a prominent silk weaver, who offers Sara the position of being her maid.
Patty Smith
Many thanks to NetGalley, Blackstone Publishing and Sonia Velton for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy.

This story is inspired from the real life of Anna Maria Garthwaite, a prominent designer of Spitalfields silks in the mid-eighteenth century. This story tells the tale of two characters, Esther and Sara who come from very different worlds. Esther is married to a Hugenot master silk weaver and although she is kept bu
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I received this from for a review.

When Esther Thorel, wife of a master silk weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel, she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara quickly realizes that the Thorel household is built on hypocrisy and lies and the two women’s relationship becomes increasingly fractious.

Good story telling. An interesting look back into England's 18th century life and politics. The characters were well developed and the story is plausible.

Charles Edwards-Freshwater
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Blackberry and Wild Rose, Sonia Velton's debut, is set in the late eighteenth century among the exiled French Huguenot community of silk weavers in the Spitalfields district of London. The story is told by two female first-person narrators: Esther, the wife of master weaver Elias, who feels isolated in the community because she was not born into it, and her maidservant Sara, 'rescued' by Esther from prostitution and becoming increasingly embroiled in the affairs of the household. This novel join ...more
La La
This book didn't even make it to my currently-reading shelf because I couldn't put it down! I basically read it right through with one sleep in the middle. I really wanted to give this five stars and 4.5 on the blog, but... the scene that starts the events of the story in motion was almost unbelievable; one of the main characters is sent to a city with the name of a family member and address to go to, and she loses the paper it is written on and cannot remember any of it. Not even the woman's na ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG I LOVED this book. Review to follow soon .... OK I couldn't wait any longer to shout about it - get it on your wishlist NOW.

Read my review in full on my blog

Anyone who knows me, even the tiniest bit, will know, as surely as I did the minute I saw the cover of this book, that it is exactly the kind of book I fall head over heels in love with.

And I did. For several reasons.

(1) I swooned when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art. I am loving the curre
Silk and sedition!

A fascinating tale using as a backdrop the troubles faced by weavers in eighteenth-century Spitalfields, London, whose jobs are under threat as the market is flooded by cheap Indian calico.
Two woman are the catalysts for much that happens. Master weaver Elia Thorel's wife Esther Thorel, is a gifted painter who wants to be involved in her husband's work.
The other woman is Esther's maid Sara Kemp, a young woman who ended up in the hands of a heartless procurer, a older woman who
Blackberry and Wild Rose

Visit the locations in the novel

In BlackBerry and Wild Rose, Sonia Velton has written a gorgeous novel as smooth as the silks in the Spitalfields market she writes about. A plot as interweaving as the threads in the garments.

The novel is set deep in the heart of the Huguenot silk weavers of London’s East End. This was a evocative and interesting period of history and that comes across in leaps and bounds. A silk weaver’s wife rescues Sarah, the main character, from a life of working in a brothe
Dora  (Swift Coffee Book Blog)
Full review (available from 9th Jan, 2019):

Have you ever simply loved a book BECAUSE you basically hated all the characters?

I know it sounds wrong. I should maybe say 'disliked' instead of 'hated'. Some I disliked strongly, some I even liked at times - but no character in this book was the kind of people I like.

And that's exactly what I loved about them!

Because they were... human. And humans act like they did. We are flawed, fallible, infuriating at times
Debi Hawkes
18th century London, abandonment, a loveless marriage, a naive barren wife, a cheating husband, a dashing rogue, an honest man, masters and servants, a fallen woman, an evil madame, an unwed pregnany. I do believe we've covered all the bases in this romantic, quasi historical novel.

I loved learning about weaving silk and designing the patterns.

I enjoyed my time spent with these characters, the book is nicely written. A perfect choice for when you need a break from your heavier reading.

I receiv
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Sonia Velton has been a solicitor in Hong Kong, a Robert Schuman Scholar in Luxembourg and spent eight years being a full-time Mum of three in Dubai. She now lives in Kent. Her first novel, BLACKBERRY AND WILD ROSE was short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, long-listed for the HWA Debut Crown and has been optioned for film. Her second book, THE IMAGE OF HER, is a literary thriller abou ...more

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