Hi everyone, welcome to my post where I will tell you why exactly you should rush to Amazon or Waterstones and buy it now! Blood & Sugar is now available in both hardback and e-book format. Congratulations Laura on your first published novel *applause and cheers*.
I have recently become a member of the wonderful bloggers page ‘Back a Blogger’ run by the equally wonderful Tracy Fenton who runs her own blog Compulsive Reader. Blood & Sugar is the first book that I received for review and I was thrilled!
Laura Shepherd – Robinson is a Bristol born writer who has worked within the political industry before completing a masters in creative writing. Blood & Sugar is her first novel and can be categorised as historical fiction, published by Pan Macmillian.
The Blurb (Amazon)
“June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.
Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .
To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.
And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .”
I’m not a huge historical fiction reader, especially if it’s a completely made up story with no aspects of authenticity. So, the first thing I googled when I got 1/3 of the way through reading Blood & Sugar was the British Slave Trade industry. It is true that due to the dock in Deptford, where this novel is set, it was easier for slave merchants to bring in ‘cargo’ with its connection to the sugar trade. The sugar trade relied hugely upon the slave labour of Africans on the plantations in the Caribbean. The slaves would be voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean, some were killed or died from disease etc, to England where they would be sold to members of the higher class, placed into brothels or sold to plantations.
I love that Blood & Sugar revolves around true British history, many of us are so unaware of our dark history and this has shone a light on how cruel the British slave trade industry was. I’m glad that there is such a well written book that highlights this. I am partial to an author that researches so in-depth the basis of their books, such as Laura Shepherd – Robinson has.
Things I liked about Blood & Sugar
Firsty, I want to say that I LOVE that Laura was so thoughtful to put in a cast of characters. When you get a book that contains several intense characters it’s easy to get confused, but if I got confused during reading, I was always able to flick back to the beginning and just check who was who. This usually occurred in the first few chapters, after which I was ‘pint down the pub’ acquainted with the characters, you know if most of them weren’t racist individuals.
I enjoyed the harrowing storyline, which follows Harry; politician turns detective after a murder has occurred in an old slaving town. This is where Harry stumbles across secrets which could threaten both his future career in politics, as well as his life. There are people lurking to take Harry down, especially when he begins to question the deaths of hundreds of slaves. He must tread likely or risk becoming another victim of a horrific murder. Undertones of conspiracy and black magic this story is not for the faint hearted, it has everything a gripping dark historical thriller should have; murder, gore and a detective who will not stop until the guilty pay for their murderous acts.
I really liked that old English wasn’t used to write this novel (so many historical fiction writers feel that they must write their novel in a language matching the era they are writing in; they don’t!), but rather it was articulated so well in contemporary English that you could still visualise Georgian England. I found the setting and characters to be expertly described and I could imagine them vividly, for instance Harry is a red coat Captain with a wig; yes your back in the Georgian era.
The language used was raw, creating the correct emotional response needed for the atmosphere in each chapter, including pity and intrigue. There were plenty of sit on the edge of your seat, stop breathing then *gasp* moments. I just loved this book, I usually freak out when broadening my genre and can be put off it completely by a few DNF’ed books, but I am so thrilled that I was lucky enough to read Blood & Sugar before publication. I shall never judge an historical fiction read by its cover again, although the cover of this one is just undeniably wonderful!
Now let’s talk about the most important part of the book, the murder (I said that in such a cockney accent, muuuurrrddder), and descriptions of slave violence. It was both harrowing but so needed for the whole story to be grasped. The bloody events and dialog were harrowing, like a car crash that you just could not turn away from, darkly gruesome; that’s how I would describe them, and really made me squirm at the edge of my seat (where I pretty much sat the whole time reading this). It was so uncomfortable to read, but the kind of good uncomfortable because it’s so real, if that makes ANY sense at all?
I could just say WOW and to me that would cover every thought I had during my reading of Blood & Sugar, but unfortunately you’re not mind – readers (if that’s what you can call it through a screen of some sort). Therefore, I will be kind enough to elaborate on what I mean by wow, just for you!
The characters and their relationships have been written with so much thought and depth, especially Caro and Harry, you can’t help but feel for them all, like they are actually real people! I found Harry to be a sympathetic fellow, who although appeared selfish at the beginning appears to have a rather big heart.
The way that the whole story was written provided a cut-deep honest image of the slaving industry, especially when collars for slaves are described as ‘for ages 4 years and up’ my heart just shattered. We may be reading it as a fictional piece of literature but historically this was the reality of the lives of African – Caribbean people in Britain unless you were one of the minority; ‘free slave’. It’s just harrowingly real.
I have to keep telling myself that this novel is of the debut kind, although Laura has a masters in creative writing, this book is still of the debut kind and it is such an expertly written one, from the language to the way an uncomplicated yet unpredictable storyline has been constructed. It’s full of political scandals with a large pinch of greed, harrowing details and blackmail thrown in for extra measure. It can be described as a Georgian detective thriller novel with extremely dark undertones. I was shaken at each twist, I never saw them coming and there are many!
As well as being spine chilling and cruel the book is also heartbreaking, I couldn’t help but shed a little tear. So beware, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of feels when reading this novel!
I really wanted to review this book with the justice that it deserves and is one of the best books that I have read in 2018, and I know I have said that about a lot of books but I have been so lucky with all the amazing books, especially debuts that I have read this year. It’s going to be a loudly shouted about read in 2019!
As you may have noticed, I haven’t included a ‘what I didn’t like’ section, I loved it that much! So, it’s nothing to see here! *Disclaimer; this novel does use both racial and homophobic slurs,. Please be aware that these have been used for comprehension with the era the book is set in before reading and this has not affected my review at all!
All the views in this review are my own, I was provided with a free copy of Blood & Sugar in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve also seen that Laura is in the process of writing her next novel and I can’t express how excited I am to get my little grabby hands on it! But for now, this novel is available for purchase in both hardback and e-book format. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I have.
If this isn’t on your TBR list, it really should be! If you liked this post, please leave a like, comment or make my day and follow me you lovely person!
Until next time!