Published in January 2016 Published in August 2016
Being a lover of book cover design, I favour the covers of other Betts titles published by Piatkus that are rich in colour and design, with a vintage style frame. In spite of this, the cover portrays a pensive Venetia, pictured at the window of Quill Court next to luxurious drapes – interior design to become a significant part in her life. This substantial book is printed on paper sourced from well-managed forests, and is bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. This book was first published in January 2016.
Find reviews for Charlotte Betts books here.
In this tale, the reader is dropped into the 19th century straight into the heart of a merchant class family living comfortably by the sea. Mrs Lovell is waiting for her husband to come home – his business is in rich goods; silk, wallpaper and fine ornaments. Her daughter Venetia has the eye and eagerness for interior decoration just like her father Theo, by contrast her son Rafael is losing his way. The trajectory of this family takes an unexpected sharp turn, and we are taken to Quill Court in London.
From the back cover: 1813. Venetia Lovell lives by the sea in Kent with her pretty frivolous mother and idle younger brother. Venetia’s father, Theo is an interior decorator to the rick and frequently travels away from home, leaving his sensible and artistic daughter to look after the family. Venetia designs paper hangings and she and her father often daydream about having an imaginary shop where they would display the highest quality furniture, fabrics and art to this clients.
The unusual circumstances that are presented at the beginning of this story capture the reader’s imagination and heart, and the reader is left with an appetent to find out how things will turn out for this unusual family.
Written in easy descriptive prose, at first I found the descriptions of the lives of Kitty and Nat much more colourful than the upholstery of the decoration that Venetia is compelled to provide. This is my fourth Charlotte Betts novel, and I am never disappointed with how the author brings the century to life by evoking the senses of the era. In this novel I found the olfactory descriptions provoking and immersive, whilst the tensions and choices of servitude, crime and moral direction were tormenting and vexatious.
Betts gives us the dual protagonists in Venetia and Kitty. Venetia is a determined young woman, well-mannered and ambitious, her creativity her motivation to succeed – something young women in 2016 can identify with. Venetia’s change of lifestyle from being waited on by maids to serving her customers is mirrored in her maid Kitty’s move from servitude to crime. Kitty is also determined to do well, by liberating herself from employment and diving into the shadowy world of Nat Griggs. However, the girls are more alike than their circumstances belie; both find themselves in unplanned territory by foolish or whimsical choices. Both heroines in a difficult era where crime was rife and mostly unchecked, where society was comprised of the stark juxtaposition of wealth and poverty within streets of each other, Venetia and Kitty are bound together in this historical tale of not only love, but friendship, loyalty and justice.
The House in Quill Court will have you plumping your cushions and giving you a hankering for custard tarts by which to enjoy this beautiful book.
I look forward to the next book by Charlotte Betts published on 26th May 2017, The Dressmaker’s Secret and in the meantime I will be catching up on her ebooks Christmas at Quill Court and The Milliner’s Daughter.