Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding [Book review]
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Hello and welcome to my spot on the blog tour for Annabel Fieldings novel 'Lying with Lions' A huge thankyou to Annabel for reaching out and offering me a spot on her tour, I was gifted a copy of her novel in return for an honest review and this has in no way influenced my review.
To begin I need to say that Historical Fiction is not really my go to genre and I haven't read many. It's never a style of book I would pick when compared to my preferred genres. However this one intrigued me from the onset.
Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit - and into the clutch of their ambitions.
They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail - and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch - the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen's plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice...
The story follows Agnes a young single woman, without a family in the Edwardian times. It shows how life is very difficult to those without status and money, how choices are limited and you have to work extremely hard to get anywhere. She manages to instill herself into the lives of an important family and work her way up from archivist in the tunnels beneath, into the heart of their home. Her character is an interesting one, she is a strong capable woman who is able to work behind the scenes to keep power maintained. She is very astute and clever and seems to have no major morals, although she seems to be on the side of right she also does morally questionable things that make you wonder what lengths she could go to to keep secrets for herself and those she loves.
Her progress is fascinating to watch, how she becomes invaluable to the head of the household, she is a shadow in the home always watching and using information to her advantage. Her relationship with Lady Bryant is written sensitively and in a very genteel fashion, suitable for the time the book was staged. It winds an element of LBQT fiction within the narrative which was surprising but also understandable within the remits of their lives.
I found the historical elements very interesting as she includes lesser known events such as the Denaby Miners Strike and Gun running on behalf of Ulster loyalists, and larger well known events such as the start of WW1. I enjoyed the acknowledgements at the end which depicted the events she had used as inspiration. I found it very interesting learning all about different events that occurred over that period of time. I also do find texts depicting the class system people adhered to so religiously back then absolutely fascinating. To see the differences between those born into money and those that serve them is so interesting. Society in Edwardian times was completely different and the status of a woman was held in much lower regard than those of men at the time regardless of money. It is sad to read how they were treated and the things that had to be done in order to stay in power. We have come a long way since the Edwardian times.
There are some trigger warnings worth mentioning. The death of a child plays quite heavily within the early narrative. There were also mentions of suicide, abortion, rape and abuse. These are worth noting before reading if the themes may affect you.
All in all this was a very interesting and enjoyable read. It had dark, gothic elements, death, love and all that falls between. The Bryant and Davenport families were strong, powerful and extremely dangerous Agnes truly was a character who was 'Lying with Lions'
A recommended read from me.