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The Merest Loss

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  47 ratings  ·  30 reviews
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 mee
Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 28th 2017 by Matador
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  47 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 worl
Karen Mace
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a thoroughly fascinating and engaging story that has a great mix of characters and backgrounds and just made me want to research more about the woman behind the story - Harriet Howard.

She was a young actress in the 1840's who was 'encouraged' by the British Government to strike up a relationship with Louis Napolean so he can be kept an eye on as it was such a tumultuous time historically and politically for both countries. But her rise to the top was questioned by so many cons
Helen Hollick
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has received a Discovering Diamonds Review:
Helen Hollick
founder #DDRevs
"The majority of the book is written in the present tense, which I often find off-putting. However, in the hands Mr Neil it is easy to overcome such prejudice, for I found myself imagining that I was in a theatre, listening to an unseen narrator setting the scenes for the audience, whilst the players made their entrances to present the dialogue."
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
To does that follow my reviews, you know ho much I love Historical books, especially those that have romance because they just make the experience of reading much more dreamy. This book is a Historical fiction with romance and some political aspects. Plus it's based on a true story, so facts and fiction are intertwine in an amazingly written and interesting novel.

I must say that I knew nothing about Harriet Howard before I read this book, I did some light research just to know some basic things
Diana Febry
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating story, well-researched and well-told.
The story is set around the life of Harriet Howard, a young actress coerced by the British government into forming a relationship with Napolean III.
Full credit to the author for including an incredible amount of historical fact while maintaining a credible, flowing and intriguing storyline. While enjoying the story I learnt a great deal about the politics of the day. There was the odd occasion where small sections read a little like a history te
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a historical fiction set in the mid-1800’s. Harriet Howard was a bit of a handful growing up, something that definitely continued into adulthood, to say the least. A woman who finds herself in an impossible situation working for the British Government.

This for me came across as a very well researched story that mixes backroom deals that have implications both in Britain and France, with the corruption and “Gentlemen’s Agreements” of those in a position of authority and power. Ha
Zoé-lee O'farrell
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
I have said this many times before and I will say it again, I am a book cover hoe! I saw this cover and I had to read this book, just look at it! To me, it looks like Scarlett Johannson on the cover!! So, of course, reading this, that is who I imagined! So you know Hollywood if Scarlett needs a job this is the book for her!

I am beginning to reignite a passion for historical fiction and this book helps me along the way. Before Napoleon came along, Harriet’s personality shone through the book, th
Donna Maguire

I love this period of history and after reading the blurb for this one and seeing the cover I knew it would be a book for me.

I really enjoyed the story and I thought that the author did really well bringing this era to life. There was plenty of detail and I was drawn in, it was clearly well researched.

The characterisation was excellent and the plot line was really strong it was a very enjoyable read for me. Will definitely be looking out for me from this a
Olive Sparrow
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Merest Loss is a fictionalized account of the life of Harriet Howard and the people she was involved with throughout her life. While the author adheres to historical accuracy, there's a reason why this is a work of fiction rather than a stylized biography. Rather than restructure and create an altered history to accommodate the plot, the author has modeled his story of difficult romance and murky Victorian politics around historical fact.

It's evident from the start that a huge amount of rese
Lynn (Ellesea Loves Reading)
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
The Merest Loss is a fascinating fictional portrayal of several equally captivating characters who lived in Victorian times. The focus is on Elizabeth 'Eliza' Ann Harryet, a headstrong young girl from Norfolk and how she became known as the actress Harriet Howard, mistress to Louis Napoleon and later Comtesse de Beauregard.

I enjoyed the contrast between Harriet Howard's life and Jem Mason's racing world. I respect how the author wove their lives together to create an enthralling narrative and I
Jo Barton
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Harriet Howard is feisty and ambitious and, from the very beginning of the novel, it would appear that she lived her complicated life in a way that very few women in the mid- nineteenth century could ever have imagined. Born into a fairly nondescript country family, Harriet is determined to make her mark on society and in doing so gets embroiled in the social and political turmoil of nineteenth century polite society.

Based on the true story of the red-haired beauty, Harriet Howard, who became th
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy books with fierce female leads & The Merest Loss was no exception - Harriet Howard was a real woman that worked her way up through society using only her wits, & who died a very wealthy lady. This uniquely written story tells a version of her life that relies a lot on fiction, but is based upon fact, that left me hungry for more details about her life - so much so that I spent hours researching her. Anyone who loves female-lead historical fiction will adore Steven Neil’s The Meres ...more
Denise  Edmondson
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
While this book took much longer for me to finish reading than most, I did enjoy the story as a whole. Steven Neil's attention to details throughout the story was meticulous. The Merest Loss flows between Harriet's struggles through entrampment by the British Government and the life of jockey racers. Each chapter brings new struggles for Harriet and the love her life. Through riches to rags, marriages and estrangements Steven Neil does a great job keeping true to the historical era and keeping t ...more
Sandra Jeffs
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
I picked this book up thinking it would be a great read because I like historical novels. However, half of the story was simple reporting and read more like a history book or a "this happened, then this happened, then..." When the author deemed to tell a story it was good but, overall, it was boring.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A well researched book with fascinating main characters set in an intriguing period of European history. A great read.
ChillwithabookAWARD With
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Merest Loss by Steven Neil has received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award

"Very well written & researched."

Pauline Barclay - Founder of Chill with a Book Awards
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I really liked this story, even though the latter parts could've been better. Ordinarily, historical fiction is a genre I try to keep at bay, so much for reading two historical fics in one week merely because history doesn't interest me as much. However, I found this one so much more than I'd anticipated. I'd dived into The Merest Loss thinking about a romance set in the times when political circumstances were taking over the world, but I was both pleasantly and not-so-pleasantly surprised
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Marshall has wanted to know who his father is from the time he was very young. His mother would not tell him. Eventually she gives him a list of men in her life and tells him to go out and find the facts for himself. Along the way he not only learns about the men on the list but becomes great friends with some of them. Harriet Howard became a great actress who the government takes her life away to get her to do what they want. They are wanting to have an alliance between Queen Victoria's England ...more
Amanda Brown
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Finally finished this. Not my normal genre, enjoyed when I finally got into it.
Joy Lo-Bamijoko
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating read! The character, Tom Olliver, who told the story was clearly an insider. The events that took place in the story could only be told by someone who lived it.

I couldn’t believe what Harriet Howard had to go through just to survive. She grew up and lived her life as a stubborn girl, yet of such great beauty, but in the end, life tamed her albeit not in the way she had intended. All through the story, it wasn’t clear why Sly, her mimesis, was bent on torturing her and crea
Maria Sinclair
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
The Merest Loss is a book to be enjoyed by fans of historic fiction and historians alike, finding, as it does, a delicate balance between the facts of a tempestuous period of European history and a fictionalised account of the life of one of the women caught up in the political negotiations of the time.

Reading at times a little more like a history book than a novel (albeit a far more interesting history book than any I read at school), the facts behind The Merest Loss are interspersed with splas
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was given this book for an honest review and as this is not my normal genre I wasn't sure if it was something I was going to enjoy. I found the first couple of chapters a little slow as I settled into the era and got to know the characters but before long I was hooked by the story and eagerly devouring each new chapter.

The story is generally split between two themes - Martin Harryet's search to discover the identity of his father, and also the life of his mother Eliza Harryet and how she beca
Mark Bierman
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found the story to be a captivating medley of incidents and circumstances that satisfied the multi-genre reader in me.
Set in the Victorian era, with its strict social and life-station protocol, young Elizabeth Harryet defies the established order to follow her dream of becoming an actress. Her parents, of course, disapprove of her career choice and the company she keeps.
That’s where the adventure begins. As mentioned earlier, Merest Loss contains something for the fan of almost every genre.
Karen Black
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Merest Loss, by Steven Neil, is a beautifully written novel, with a bit of mystery woven throughout. This historical saga tells the story of the lives of the Harryet family and those who impact it. The main character, Eliza, also known as Harriet, is a headstrong young horsewoman, who leaves her parents and finds success as a Shakespearean actress. Politics and power, however, force her into a different kind of acting and for years, her life is no longer her own. The novel is set the in the ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
When a book starts with a Character List that is four pages long, it is hard not to be a little apprehensive about reading it. I think there were far too many characters in the book and it was very hard to remember who was who and what they were there for.

The story itself started a bit slow, but improved as it went along. It was interesting to read about events in history that I knew little about. Historical fiction always gets me interested in what ACTUALLY happened, so I have now done a bit of
Karen Ingalls
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love historical and historical fiction books and The Merest Loss is now in one of my favorite books for its genre. It is based on Harriet Howard who rose to the top of British and French societies. The story begins with her only child searching for his biological father. There are many characters, events, and time periods yet the author moves the reader throughout the book without ever being confused or lost. An excellent read and I look forward to reading more by Mr. Neil.
Proud Book Reviews
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This week's book had me a little stumped as I thought there'd be more direct political espionage happening throughout the book. Yet it felt more like a biography of a political mistresses life.

At the start of parts 1 and 2 the book is written from Tom's point of view about a young man named Martin coming to meet with him about solving an old family mystery. At this stage I was thinking we'd be reading about the espionage as Martin discovers more about his family mystery. However I was quickly pr
Jo - Cup of Toast
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The narrative voice of The Merest Loss took a little while to get used to, flitting between third and first person but in the present-tense. I confess that as a result it took me a chunk of time to make connections with the characters when reading the third person present-tense. It’s just not a narrative style that I expect in this type of fiction. After a few chapters I was engrossed though. I wanted to know more about the main character, Elizabeth Ann Haryett, and the era. The intrigue ramped ...more
Emily Jaquez
Jun 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018
I got this book from NetGalley for free to review. I was really intrigued by the synopsis and was excited to start reading it but quickly became disappointed. I stand by my first thought that this could have been a very interesting and compelling book and while I know the version I got was not a finished copy, it needed a lot of editing to become a story.
This book was choppy, was basically ALL tell and no show, and I was trying desperately to make it work. I finished this so that I could give it
Muhemed Masika
rated it it was amazing
Nov 24, 2019
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