Orphaned young, H is sent to live with her doting aunt in London. H’s life is a happy one until her lecherous cousin robs her of her innocence, and the plague takes away the city and the people she loves. H is cast out – friendless, pregnant and destitute – into the rapidly emptying streets of London under quarantine.
Forced to fend for herself, she is determined to gain back the life she lost. H will face a villain out for revenge, find love in the most unexpected places, and overcome a betrayal that she never could have foreseen. Weathering it all, can H charm, or scheme, her way to the life of freedom and independence that she longs for?
Who was H? To begin she was the young orphan sent off with elder sister, Evelyn to live with Aunt Madge in London, a far cry from their humble rural home, but then something happened as Burton took us and H through some pivotol moments in London’s history that shaped the new H.
From the start you couldn’t help but love H, the naive young girl who delighted at the new sights of London, to the unknown quantities of the characters that entered her new life. They were characters that would have a distinct impact, especially that of her cousins Frederick and Roger. They were light and dark, good and bad, the bad the start of her downfall but also, in my opinion, the making of her.
Yet Burton was clever, her use of two major events in London history, the Great Plague and Fire gave her licence to describe a London under siege. The horrors of the plague were graphic and chilling, you felt yourself recoil in horror at the selfishness that pervaded, of the fear and dread that encapsulated the city. You could see H’s instinct for survival kick in, hard choices made before Burton gave us the Great Fire of London, the destruction and turmoil for H and fellow Londoners. It gave her the opportunity to be her own person, as she exploited men’s weaknesses for her own gain, as she achieved notoriety, wealth and independence.
Burton gave her a hard, determined exterior but maintained her femininity, her vulnerability, and as the story progressed the real H slowly began to materialise. We witnessed her own slow acceptance of who she was, what the people in her life meant to and the slight chink in her armour as she learnt to trust.
H was a wonderful character but she wasn’t the only one. There were her sisters, all so different, her gentlemen friends, Lord H and Charlie and my favourites Jasper and Godfrey who added colour and a measure of fun.
What I admired most about Burtons narrative was her portrayal of women, of their lack of standing, the derision men poured on them, yet who relied on them for more than simple household duties. Burton showed what happened when one woman opposed them, stood up for herself and in some instances outwitted and rose above them.
Above all The Strange Adventures Of H was that wonderful mix of the historical with a dawn good story and characters that transfixed and entertained.
I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Strange Adventures of H to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF H is Sarah’s debut novel for adults. Sarah was the course director of Cambridge University’s MSt in Creative Writing. She has written for BBC History Magazine and reviews for the Times, Spectator, Guardian and Independent.