Wednesday 5 June 2024

The Fascination by Essie Fox PAPERBACK BLOG TOUR #TheFascination @essiefox @OrendaBooks #BookReview


Victorian England. A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres. A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions…

Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn't grown a single inch since she was five. Coerced into promoting their father's quack elixir as they tour the country fairgrounds, at the age of fifteen the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as ‘Captain’.

Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook, a man who has a dark interest in anatomical freaks and other curiosities … particularly the human kind. Resenting his grandson for his mother’s death in childbirth, when Seabrook remarries and a new heir is produced, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name.

Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical ‘family’ of performers, freaks and outcasts.

But it is Theo’s fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a web of deceits, exposing the darkest secrets and threatening everything they know…

Exploring universal themes of love and loss, the power of redemption and what it means to be unique, The Fascination is an evocative, glittering and bewitching gothic novel that brings alive Victorian London – and darkness and deception that lies beneath…

The Fascination by Essie Fox is published in paperback on 6 June 2024 by Orenda Books. The hardback edition was published on 22 June 2023. As part of this paperback publication Blog Tour, I am delighted to re-share my original review of this wonderful book. 

Fans of historical fiction, with an incredible gothic feel, populated by colourful characters who creep into your head will love this. If you like Laura Purcell's writing, then this author is for you. 

Fox takes her readers back to Victorian England, the story is set in and around London, taking in the travelling fairs so popular then, along with some of the darkest corners of central London, where anything is permissible, especially if you have status and money. 

Narrated in turn by three main characters; twin sisters Tilly and Kaziah Lovell, and Theo Seabrook; an orphan brought up by a vicious uncaring grandfather who resents him and eventually puts him out on the street when he finds himself a new wife who bears him a son. 

Tilly and Kaziah may be twins, born on the same day, and facially they are very alike, but Tilly stopped growing at five years old. Forever destined to be fairy like, she's the perfect fit for her father's travelling show where he sells an elixir to gullible crowds.

Theo finds employment with Doctor Summerwell, at the Museum of Anatomy. It is here that he can continue his fascination with the freakish, bizarre and strange that began when he discovered his grandfather's atrocious private collection years ago. 

When Tilly and Kaziah cross paths with Theo, another obsession begins for him, and this will eventually lead all three of them into danger, whilst also gaining the friendship and support of amazing characters such as Captain and his 'family'.

Essie Fox is a master in all things Victorian Gothic and The Fascination is one of those books that really transports the reader. The writing and the language are beautifully structured, the characters are so well created, they almost jump from the page. The description of London in this era is just marvellous, with the dangers fully explored, and the evil and wicked deeds carried out in the name of entertainment for the wealthy. 

There's a real magical feel to this story, with hints of sorcery and lots of superstition, suspicion and twisted minds. It's a story to savour. A wonderful, evocative read. Highly recommended

Praise for The Fascination

Makes skilful use of the tropes of Victorian gothic fiction… a story of society’s outsiders seeking acceptance and redemption' Sunday Times Book of the Month

‘Mysterious, sometimes shocking, full of surprises and twists … brimming with Victorian wonders!’ Sean Lusk

‘A magical, macabre masterpiece’ A.J. West
‘Fascinating and immersive’ Anna Mazzola

‘Essie Fox follows in the footsteps of Angela Carter and AS Byatt with an adult fairy tale that delves into the darkest compulsions of human nature …  an opium trance of a novel, a vivid fantasmagoria’ Noel O’Reilly
‘Deliciously dark, full of twists and surprises’ Liz Hyder
‘Filled with gothic darkness and glorious hope’ Liz Fenwick
‘Rich, dark and heady … a glorious gothic carnival’ Kate Griffin
‘Truly unexpected and original’ Kate Forsyth
‘Beautifully researched, full of horrors and delights … a chilling, thrilling slice of Victorian gothic’ Bridget Walsh

‘A cast of characters Dickens would be proud of’ Frances Quinn

Essie Fox was born and raised in rural Herefordshire, which inspires much of her

After studying English Literature at Sheffield University, she moved to London where she
worked for the Telegraph Sunday Magazine, and then book publishers George Allen & Unwin, before becoming self-employed in the world of art and design. 

Essie now spends her time writing historical gothic novels. Her debut, The Somnambulist, was shortlisted for the National Book Awards, and featured on Channel 4’s TV Book Club. The Last Days of Leda Grey, set in the early years of silent film, was selected as The Times Historical Book of the Month. Essie is also the creator of the popular blog: The Virtual Victorian. She has lectured on this era at the V&A, and the National Gallery in London.

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