One will find a truly unconventional heroine in Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke. If that sort of thing piques your interest then you’re sure to love Lizzie Hardwicke, a gentlewoman turned prostitute, who finds herself trying to clear her name from suspicion of murdering a client.
Death and the Harlot
Death and the Harlot takes place during Georgian England. It’s always a nice change from the often used Victorian era. The author makes good use of the seedy underbelly of England in what was a time during the Industrial Revolution.
Lizzie’s character is quite unlike those one would expect to read about. She’s not shy about being a prostitute and frankly I don’t mind. Her exploits are not completely detailed except for the key descriptive factors of her clients. So it’s not all about the act of prostitution, but more about the lives of herself and the girls she lives with, including the madam of the brothel.
But boy howdy the opening scene is one to really set the tone of her character and the rest of the story. Her disgust with her current client is felt thoroughly and was utterly cringe worthy. It had me thinking, “This is our heroine?” The answer to that my dear reader is a resounding YES!
“I am a whore, not a fortune-teller.”
Lizzie’s character grew on me slowly and her interactions with her fellow brothel mates actually made me grin on a few occasions. She’s a total sweetie, but also hardened by the lifestyle that she was not expecting to happen to her. Her fortitude is put the test when she finds herself as a key suspect in a client’s murder.
Enter Constable William Davenport, a sort of quintessential gruff guy who disapproves of Lizzie’s “occupation” and totally doesn’t trust her. (Okay, if that doesn’t count for some sexual tension, I don’t know what does.–Which, btw, I’m totally banking on to blossom and grow in future installments. *Fingers crossed*). They incidentally do have the certain chemistry developing and he grudgingly approves of her help to solve the murder. Because her livelihood is at stake and those of whom she has grown to think of as family.
The story picks up pace after the main event and I grew to love the mystery even more. Lizzie’s adventure takes her around the shady streets of London and although her character doesn’t take offense to her being shunned and called “whore” by “respectable” people, then I did for her. I felt protective of this harlot (sorry Lizzie) and was rooting for her wherever she went.
Lizzie does keep some strange company as friends but that’s what makes this an even more enjoyable read. I liked the semi surprising ending ( I really did have my suspicions), I like how all the clues added up to that plausible result.
I’m really hoping for more in this series, since it is called “A Lizzie Hardwicke” novel, so I’m kind of impatient. Wonder what else could happen to her?
–Looking for more harlots and unconventional heroines, check out my review for Tyburn by Jessica Cale.–
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Death and the Harlot
The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.
Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.
Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…
Have you read about any unconventional heroines or heroes?