Thursday 19 October 2023

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson #TheSquareOfSevens @LauraSRobinson @MantleBooks @panmacmillan #BookReview #HistoricalFiction


A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar.

Now raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendour of Bath, her fortune-telling is a delight to high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?

The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red's quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads her into grave danger . . .

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson was published in hardback on 22 June 2023 by Mantle/Pan Macmillan. The paperback will be published in March 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. I also treated myself to the special-edition, signed copy from Waterstone's.

I absolutely adored Laura Shepherd-Robinson's previous two novels and had been looking forward to The Square of Sevens for a long time. Time ran away with itself, and I didn't get a chance to read it until recently. I made great use of a seven hour flight to Canada recently and totally immersed myself into the story on the plane. 

Once again, this author has delivered a novel that is rich in historical detail, the breadth of her research is overwhelming, and the reader really does feel transported back to mid-eighteenth century Bath and London.

We meet lead character Red as she travels the countryside with her father; a fortune-teller from Cornwall. They attend country fairs and tell fortunes using an ancient method known as the Square of Sevens. They are loving and close father/daughter partnership, relying on each other constantly. When Red's father suddenly and tragically dies, it seems that she will have to be taken into the care of the local poorhouse. However, she is saved by a gentleman called Robert Antrobus and soon finds herself living as a lady, mixing with the elite and high society in the city of Bath. 

Despite the wealth and apparently gentile society, this community are also intrigued by fortune telling and Red continues to tell the fortunes of those that she meets. However, her main aim is to discover more about her mother. Red is convinced that her mother was a lady. Another misfortune finds Red in London, alone and having to deal with people who have a vested interest in the Square of Sevens, whilst still searching for the truth about her heritage. 

This is a colourful, rich novel, filled with characters who burst from the pages. There is magic, and wickedness throughout the tale. Readers are treated to visions of fine dining rooms, incredible wealth and also the darker side of humanity. 

Red is an incredible character, heading up a vast cast in a story that will delight fans of historical fiction. Once more, this author has delivered a rich and revelatory novel, dealing with social issues and throwing twists along the way. Highly recommended. 

Laura Shepherd-Robinson worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-enteringnormal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing. 
Her debut novel, Blood & Sugar, was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and won the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown and the Specsavers/Crimefest Best Debut Novel prize. 
Her second novel, Daughters of Night, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Book of the Year, the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, and the HWA Gold Crown. 
The Square of Sevens is her third novel. 
She lives in London with her husband Adrian.

X / Twitter @LauraSRobinson

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