Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The House in the Hollow by Allie Cresswell. My thanks to Allie for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy of the book.
About the Book
The Talbots are wealthy. But their wealth is from ‘trade’. With neither ancient lineage nor title, they struggle for entrance into elite Regency society. Finally, aided by an impecunious viscount, they gain access to the drawing rooms of England’s most illustrious houses.
Once established in le bon ton, Mrs Talbot intends her daughter Jocelyn to marry well, to eliminate the stain of the family’s ignoble beginnings. But the young men Jocelyn meets are vacuous, seeing Jocelyn as merely a brood mare with a great deal of money. Only Lieutenant Barnaby Willow sees the real Jocelyn, but he must go to Europe to fight the French. The hypocrisy of fashionable society repulses Jocelyn – beneath the courtly manners and studied elegance she finds tittle-tattle, deceit, dissipation and vice.
Jocelyn stumbles upon and then is embroiled in a sordid scandal which will mean utter disgrace for the Talbot family. Humiliated and dishonoured, she is sent to a remote house hidden in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. There, separated from family, friends and any hope of hearing about the lieutenant’s fate, she must build her own life – and her own social order – anew.
Format: ebook (300 pages) Publisher: N/A
Publication date: 10th November 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
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The House in the Hollow (a prequel to the author’s award-winning Tall Chimneys ) opens with Jocelyn Talbot’s journey to the house of the title, with its eerie atmosphere of gloom and melancholy. For Jocelyn it is the beginning of a period of exile the full reason for which will only gradually be revealed. As she gets used to the isolation of her new surroundings she recalls earlier, happier days when, as the daughter of a wealthy family, her expectations of life were very different.
As an aficionado of Jane Austen, the author does a great job of replicating the satirical edge that Austen brought to her observations of contemporary society. For example, the disdain with which an offer to take tea is greeted rather than the sign of more favoured status, an invitation to dine. I particularly enjoyed the description of a dinner party at Binsley House, home of the eccentric Sir Diggory, at which casual snobbery, social pretensions, “fashion and empty affectation” are laid bare. Fans of Pride & Prejudice will also enjoy the efforts of various ladies to procure advantageous marriages for their daughters.
By introducing the point of view of Annie Orphan (so named because she was taken from the workhouse into service in the Talbot household along with another orphan, Sally), the reader gets a fascinating insight into the daily routine of servants in a large house. It also provides another perspective on the events that have led to Jocelyn’s exile. There are moments of melodrama too, many of which involve the magnificently named Lord Petrel.
I liked that the author took the opportunity to add diversity to the story by introducing a couple of characters who would definitely not have found a place in a Jane Austen novel. Moreover, that these characters are given responsible and useful positions in society. Continuing this egalitarian theme is Jocelyn’s gradual unpicking of the barriers that society imposes between her and the household servants, what she describes as a ‘very ridiculous, utterly artificial separation’.
I really enjoyed The House in the Hollow which, for me, had just the right combination of period detail, social history, romance and skillfully constructed storyline. No surprise then that Tall Chimneys has been added to my wishlist. To find out more about the inspiration for the book and how it became a lockdown project, check out Allie’s guest post hosted by Nicola at Short Book and Scribes.
In three words: Dramatic, engrossing, assured
About the Author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London. She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B&B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners. She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.