Today we have a review of Sarah Burton’s The Strange Adventures of H. Published by Legend Press and out not in all usual formats. Tanya Kaanta tells us what she thought of the book today.
The Strange Adventures of H by Sarah Burton
rphaned 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?
Book Review by Tanya Kaanta
I’m not gonna lie, as the title implies, this is a strange adventure. But I adore it. The Strange Adventures of H is part historical fiction, part romance, part crime, and part social commentary. The story follows an orphaned girl named H. The youngest of six girls, she and her middle-older sister Evelyn, after their father dies, are sent to Cheapside to live with their Aunt Madge. However, this being the mid-1600s London, life is not all roses and chocolates for Evelyn and H. Especially not when the plague decimates a good number of folks.
Before the plague and after her father passes, life is pretty sweet for H and her sister. But when Aunt Madge is scurried away, and H’s vulgar cousin Roger remains at the home with his *almost* equally offensive wife, the sweetness erodes. H is betrayed, and the people she loves end up leaving or dying.
And so, what is a young penniless teenage female to do? The only thing that many young women of that time could do when they found themselves starving and homeless.
H is taken in by Mother Cresswell, a madam with not one iota of motherly-ness. As part of Mother’s brothel, she gains friends, navigates enemies, and learns first-hand how power and money can lead to independence and freedom. As H’s life unfolds and the adventures continue, she reluctantly falls in love. And while the ending may not seem realistic, it’s such a lovely treat.
I love H. I love the character development of H, how she is multi-layered and likeable despite her faults and mistakes. And her true friends are equally genuine and three-dimensional. Of course, we have villains throughout the plot that create havoc for H and her friends. But there is hope. Especially during a time when not much hope exists.
The author does not skimp on details, and for the faint of heart, this might not be the book for you. There are some gruesome acts of violence, language, and sexual situations, though I never felt them to be gratuitous. Nor are they ubiquitous.
While I am not a scholar of 17th century literature nor an historian linguist, I feel the author does a fine job painting a battered London, where the people’s interactions resonate. I’m fairly certain most impoverished and working-class folks did not fair well, but the happy ending does bring satisfaction for our heroine. And by the end, I really root for H because she’s a kind soul.
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