Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Entertaining Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift, published today in paperback by Headline Accent but also available as an ebook. Entertaining Mr Pepys is the third in the author’s trilogy bringing to life the women in Pepys’ diary. Each novel features a different character and can be read as a standalone book.
About the Book
London, 1666. Elizabeth ‘Bird’ Carpenter has a wonderful singing voice, and music is her chief passion. When her father persuades her to marry horse-dealer Christopher Knepp, she suspects she is marrying beneath her station, but nothing prepares her for the reality of life with Knepp. Her father has betrayed her trust, for Knepp cares only for his horses; he is a tyrant and a bully, and will allow Bird no life of her own.
When Knepp goes away, she grasps her chance and, encouraged by her maidservant Livvy, makes a secret visit to the theatre. Entranced by the music, the glitter and glamour of the surroundings, and the free and outspoken manner of the women on the stage, she falls in love with the theatre and is determined to forge a path of her own as an actress.
But life in the theatre was never going to be straightforward – for a jealous rival wants to spoil her plans, and worse, Knepp forbids it, and Bird must use all her wit and intelligence to change his mind.
Based on events depicted in the famous Diary of Samuel Pepys, Entertaining Mr Pepys brings London in the 17th century to life. It includes the vibrant characters of the day such as the diarist himself and actress Nell Gwynne, and features a dazzling and gripping finale during the Great Fire Of London.
Format: Paperback, ebook (400 pages) Publisher: Headline Accent
Publication date: 21st November 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find Entertaining Mr Pepys (Women of Pepys’ Diary, #3) on Goodreads
In Entertaining Mr Pepys, the reader gets a portrait of (at least) two unhappy marriages: that of Bird and her uncouth husband, Christopher Knepps; and Elisabeth, long-suffering wife of diarist Samuel Pepys who possesses a roving eye when it comes to the ladies.
Despite what you might expect from the title, it’s quite a way into the book before Bird and Pepys encounter each other in any meaningful way. (In the author’s historical note she records there are 108 references to Elizabeth Knepp in Pepys’ diary.) Once they do meet their relationship develops through a shared love of music and the theatre. Up to that point, this is largely Bird’s story and it’s a powerful tale of a woman trying to rise above the confines of marriage, domestic drudgery and social convention to exert her own independence.
The author gives the reader some insight into the past of the detestable Knepp in an attempt to make him a less unsympathetic character. I have to say it didn’t completely succeed with me and both he and his arch-rival, Viner, seemed to deserve each other.
Set against the backdrop of Restoration England, it’s a time of political intrigue, spies and the threat of war. There are a few nods to issues that have contemporary relevance such as gender identity, religious and racial prejudice.
I loved the descriptions of the theatre that so dazzles Bird when she first experiences it and the details of everyday life help to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the period. Later in the book there are some dramatic and vividly depicted scenes of key events in London’s history.
Entertaining Mr Pepys has an interesting cast of supporting characters (some invented, some based on real people as the author’s historical note reveals). These include maidservant Livvy, watchmaker Robert Hubert and troubled actor Stefan. They add background colour to the main storyline and, in some cases, will turn out to play a pivotal role in events.
I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Headline Accent.
In three words: Well-researched, spirited, dramatic
Try something similar: The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst (read my review here)
About the Author
Deborah lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, a beautiful area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. In the past she used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so she enjoys the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something she loved doing as a scenographer. Each book takes about six months of research before she is ready to begin writing. More details of her research and writing process can be found on her website. Deborah likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events. (Photo credit: author website)