Monday 7 June 2021

Mrs England by Stacey Halls BLOG TOUR @stacey_halls @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #MrsEngland #BookReview


West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.

Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the 'angel of the house' Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect family - and she should know.

Mrs England by Stacey Halls is published on 10 June by Manilla Press / Zaffre Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I read Stacey Hall's The Foundling in February last year and adored it so much. I was thrilled to be asked to read and review Mrs England and I haven't been disappointed in the least. Once more, Stacey Halls shows the reader that she really is such a talented author. Mrs England is an evocative and enthralling story of a destructive marriage, set in the incredibly atmospheric North Yorkshire moors. 

Whilst the title of the book is Mrs England, the story revolves around Ruby May; a Norland trained nanny. Originally from the West Midlands, she's currently working for a family in London. The year is 1904 and Ruby is caring for Georgina Radlett, the only child of a wealthy couple. 
When Ruby is informed that the family are to move to the US, for Mr Radlett's work, she is devastated. The couple cannot understand why Ruby refuses to travel with them. Their daughter adores her, she's like part of their family, and Ruby has never been happier. However, it becomes clear that Ruby has secrets of her own, things that she doesn't wish to disclose. 

A few months later Ruby finds herself in Yorkshire. Arriving on the bleak, desolate moors to work for the England family. This place is so very different to bright, bustling London, and she has four children to care for here.

Despite the isolation of Hardcastle House and the huge differences from her previous employment, Ruby loves the four England children, and finds their father to be charming and welcoming, always with a smile and a kind word. However Mrs England, and the rest of the household staff are not so welcoming. Mrs England is distant, and cold. Appearing not to care about her children, with little interest in the household, and deferring all responsibilities to her husband. The domestic staff are not friendly towards Ruby, appearing to resent her presence and her new ways of doing things. 

The story buzzes with suspense as the reader gradually realises that beneath the surface, there are is such darkness in the England marriage. Halls is such a clever author, as the reader begins to doubt all of the characters, even questioning Ruby herself at times. 

Whilst Ruby is trying to deal with the complexities of this strange new household, she also has her own burdens to bear. She worries constantly about her Mother, and her siblings back in Birmingham. The reader wonders why Ruby refuses to open letters from her Father, and as Ruby's own history is slowly revealed, along with the emerging menaces she discovers in Yorkshire, the tension and suspense builds. 

Mrs England is stunning and beautifully written Edwardian mystery. The sense of place stunning and each character is fully formed and a joy to discover. In my opinion, this author goes from strength to strength.  I would highly recommend this novel and look forward to her next book. 

Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire.

She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psycholgies, the Independent, the Sun and Fabulous.
Her first book, The Familiars, was the bestselling debut hardback novel of 2019, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards' Debut Book of the Year.


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