“ The Gilded Lily is a tale of two sisters, Ella and Sadie, and their struggle to survive in Restoration London.
Country-born Ella steals from her dead employer and to avoid arrest the sisters run away to London -a city so vast as to render them invisible; but this is a grave error of judgement, especially as Sadie has a distinctive port-wine birthmark on her face. With the deceased man's brother hot on their trail, to avoid detection Sadie must become dependant on Ella and hide out of sight.
After weeks of hardship, at last it appears their luck improves when Ella lands a job at The Gilded Lily, an emporium for upper class ladies run by the dapper, man-about-town, Jay Whitgift. But as Ella's fortunes rise, she resents Sadie for holding her back and goes to ever more extreme lengths to hide her sister. However, in their anxiety to avoid arrest for murder, the sisters overlook another and altogether more sinister threat from Jay Whitgift….
In The Gilded Lily, nothing is as it seems: a son deceives his father and sisters each other, whilst brotherly loves proves stronger in death than it did in life. Sadie and Ella squabble as only sisters can, and yet need each other to survive. The glitter of city life proves to be superficial and destructive, just like the cosmetics Ella sells in The Gilded Lily as Sadie's reticence to wear make-up to cover the port-wine birthmark becomes a metaphor for truth versus deception, as Ella eventually learns to her cost.
Lovers of historical fiction will adore this book and I have no hesitation in recommending it as a deliciously evocative read, bringing to life the sights, smells and sounds of Restoration London. It is a book to immerse yourself in, that you won't want to put down and be eager to pick up again - to read on and discover what has become of impetuous Ella and circumspect Sadie.
Set against the backdrop of the frost fair on the frozen Thames, I was utterly caught up by Ms Swift's superb writing and the rich story, eager to find out if the better side of human nature triumphs in the end…