REVIEWS: Secrets & Saviours
I have just finished reading Secret’s & Saviours. There were tears! I started slowly but then I found it difficult to put the book down. I then got to the point when I slowed down again as I didn’t want it to end.
New Year’s Eve was an example of feeling I was there with the guests and the tolling of Gabriel was so touching.
East Sussex, September 2021
In Secrets & Saviours, the final book of Beverley Elphick’s trilogy, she skilfully weaves real historical events and compelling characters into a gripping story.
I love the fact that the heroine, Esther, has become a midwife using both the medical skills she learnt from her husband, a doctor, and the herbal remedies gleaned from her grandmother and Culpeper’s Herbal. It’s fascinating and solidifies Esther’s character as a woman of her time - and the animosity, jealousy and suspicion of the professional doctors has a total ring of truth. For instance, she treats Mrs Carver’s infected breast with the traditional remedy of sorrel, despite the attempts of the locum doctor to prevent her.
I loved the Lewes details like the “Gabriel Bell” and the shipwreck off the coast of Seaford that ground the story with a real sense of place and time. All this, combined with the ever-hovering threat from the smugglers, made it an addictive page-turner.
And I thought it brilliant how Elphick subtly managed to recap on events that happened in the previous two books. So, if you haven’t read them, or need reminding, the vital explanations are there.
Whether you live in Lewes or somewhere else entirely, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Just to say that I have just this minute finished Secrets & Saviours and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am full of admiration for this author. Her knowledge of Lewes and the surrounding area comes through so well and she has done such a lot of research into the various aspects she's written about: shipwrecks, herbs, smugglers and midwifery. It was really enjoyable. Time to start another series!
***** 5 stars from Rockrob
This is the third and final instalment of the series, telling the story of the Regency midwife, Esther Coad . I hadn't encountered this author before, but when I saw that the stories were set in my home town, I was intrigued. So I read the other two first, and couldn't wait to see how Esther faired in the third one.
The final book in the trilogy was worth waiting for, and is my favourite and the best, in my opinion. At first reading, the story seems quite a gentle tale of life in the town in the early eighteen hundreds, for a Doctor's wife, but then evil intent soon appears in the form of figures from Esther's past life, and the smugglers active in the area at this time. The Doctor's sister also appears to throw another spanner into her life.
Knowing the town, I was able to picture the locations in my mind. However this isn't necessary, and doesn't take anything way from these colourful tales. Lots of interesting facts about the Town of Lewes and, in particular, the work of local botanist Nicholas Culpepper, whose books on plants and herbs inspires Esther to experiment with natural remedies in her midwifery work. Thoroughly recommended, but you really need to read the first two novels to get the full context!
The final volume of Beverley Elphick’s trilogy, “Secrets and Saviours,” brings a culmination to the adventures of Esther Coad, whose struggles against the smuggler gangs had been earlier described in “Three Round Towers,” before she faced greater personal dangers in “Retribution”.
After all that had happened to her in the first two volumes, would she be able to settle down to a normal life as a doctor’s wife in the quiet market town of Lewes? “Secrets and Saviours” is a cleverly crafted work that hints at the normality of Esther’s life as a midwife, while also touching on the underlying dangers from those seeking to be revenged on her.
The Biblical heroine, Esther, is described as coming “for such a time as this,” and our Esther could be just so described. At the beginning of the book, she is unsure about the love of God, and yet it is this that, once again, protects her as she encounters much mystery and intrigue.
The introduction of new characters, alongside some of the familiar ones from the previous stories, brings added interest to the narrative, while the author’s careful research gives us a good feel for the lives people led in the early years of the nineteenth century. Her first two books were so full of drama that they were not easy to follow up, but Beverley Elphick pulls it off by giving the reader a sense of underlying menace within her description of daily routine. After “Three Round Towers” and “Retribution”, there is no doubt that “Secrets and Saviours” brings about a more than worthy conclusion to the story of Esther Coad.
East Sussex, August 2021
Just wanted to say I finished reading your book a few days ago. At the beginning I had to remind myself what Esther experienced in the previous two books which fortunately I was able to recall. As I read on and learnt about Esther’s new life with Dr Grieve I was hooked.
Your ability to build intrigue was excellent and I couldn’t wait to find out what would eventually happen to Esther. Another great read!
East Sussex, August 2021
What a treat to find available the final part of Beverley Elphick’s Esther Coad trilogy – and well worth the wait. This last book is longer than "Three Round Towers"and "Retribution" but just as involving a read and as well researched. In "Secrets & Saviours", Esther is still dogged by her old connections to the vicious Sussex smuggling network, a community that as Elphick points out never forgets, no matter how much time goes by.
Against this unnerving backdrop as well as the disapproval of local physicians, Esther nevertheless pursues her deeply-felt midwifery mission to help out poorer women of the town with no entitlement to medical treatment. I for one will not forget in a hurry the scene in which Esther, armed only with her herbal remedies, goes to the aid of a young mother suffering acutely from what sounds like chronic mastitis! Alongside such striking depictions of the realities of the time for pregnant women, there are some genuinely alarming, heart-in-throat incidents in the book that steadily ramp up the tension towards a cleverly-plotted and gripping dénouement.
As ever, contemporary international politics form a fascinating frame around this author’s highly imaginative realisation of life in the town of Lewes, East Sussex, in the 18th and early 19th century. There is one drawback to this book, however, and it’s a big one: I want to know what happens next! Perhaps Beverley Elphick could be persuaded to stage a comeback for Esther Coad…
How delighted I was to pick up on Esther’s adventures! I certainly wasn’t disappointed as the story cascaded through emotions as we embark on this journey with her. I had some late nights- not being able to put the book down!
Beverley writes so wonderfully, I become entranced in the story and I look forward to the next part of this trilogy and the writings of Beverley Elphick.
Melbourne, Australia, Mar 2019
Barbara and I both read 'Retribution' in the course of a cruise across the Atlantic to the Caribbean last December. Very enjoyable read (and cruise!). By massive and weird coincidence when we docked en route at Tenerife we actually visited a small underground museum on the quayside where they had what was claimed to be the cannon that blew off Nelson's arm. Barbara had the first read of the book and the very next day she was amazed to see Nelson's misfortune recounted by you!
Website Review, Feb 2019
I picked up a signed copy of Three Round Towers from you recently. I don't read a great many books, but was drawn to yours because it was based around Lewes where I have lived for most of my life.
I wasn't disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I do quite a bit of fishing up and down the Ouse and I was particularly interested in the smugglers down at Piddinghoe. I'm looking forward to reading your second novel Retribution.
Website Review, Feb 2019
Esther: A woman for all seasons: With Retribution, sequel to "Three Round Towers", Beverley Elphick really gets into her stride as we follow the further adventures of her protagonist, Esther. Although the book is set in the eighteenth century, Esther is the feisty sister of those women of all eras who struggle to achieve their goals, in her case, to work as a midwife. We are swiftly drawn in to her story, which moves at a cracking pace and never flags. With a backdrop of the century’s troubled times when France was at war with Britain and smuggling rife, Beverley’s research is sound but never intrusive. Esther faces many obstacles in her quest for fulfilment and I found myself crossing my fingers that all would be well. Life was brutal and short and her accounts of deprivation and childbirth are sometimes harrowing but ring true. Set in Lewes, Sussex where the author lives and which she depicts well, the breadth and contemporary resonance of this book has a much wider appeal.
Amazon Review, Jan 2019
A pacy and atmospheric read: An enjoyable skirmish into the life and times of a woman in seventeenth century rural England, where dreams of becoming a midwife are finally fulfilled. Nice period detail keeps the reader engrossed.
Amazon Review, Jan 2019
Retribution - a wonderful book: the writing, the social history, and the geographical content about my adopted region. Well researched and well described. The story sucked you in so that you actually felt that you were there, experiencing the same emotions as Esther. Having followed her life, beginning in the Three Round Towers, I can't wait to find out what happens next and look forward so much to the sequel!
Website Review, Dec 2018
Fiction but reads true to life as I imagine: Having read "Three Round Towers" I was delighted to read the sequel, "Retribution". The pace of the story makes every chapter a pleasure to read. Esther the main character is a person you just want to have a good life. I have a great admiration for her as I am sure you will if you read about her for yourself.
Amazon Review, Dec 2018
The author’s writing style was really well structured and seemed true to the era she was writing about. It is clear that her interest in the life and times of the 18th century was based on good research.
The book's title, Retribution, was so right for this story and there were many times when I was absolutely gripped as to what would happen to Esther.
I particularly liked the added excerpts from the journals and newspapers of the times which helped me understand just how hard life could be for those people ‘living it’.
There MUST be another book – can’t wait.
Dip. Couns. MBACP (Accred) MNCS (Snr Accred), Nov 2018
Hi Beverley. Just finished Retribution and loved it. I thought it was very well written and I found myself quite absorbed by it. I am pleased that I reread Three Round Towers as I had forgotten bits and the refresher read brought me well up to date. Looking forward to the next one Beverley !!
Website Review, Nov 2018
Evocative and Gripping: Beautifully written and atmospheric. It is fascinating to read about the lives of Sussex people set so evocatively in the 1790’s. The story continues on from 'Three Round Towers', following the lives of Esther and Beth. Both books can be read alone as the first book is summarised in the second (but without any spoilers!).
Esther is torn, the traditional role of wife awaits her but she yearns to fulfil her dream to become a midwife. I was fascinated by the details of treatments during those times and really enjoyed the snippets from local newspapers and national archive papers. Esther becomes entangled as she is threatened by smugglers and is forced into a terrifying situation. I was really absorbed by the story and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope there will be another!
Amazon Review, Nov 2018
A great read and hard to put down: This book continues the story of Esther, a young woman having to make her own way in a fairly treacherous world. Just like the first book, Three Round Towers, Retribution grabs you by the hand and swiftly draws you into the murky and surprising world of late eighteenth century East Sussex. It’s a pacy read and very hard to put down! Esther is a strong-minded girl who continually faces challenges most of us today would definitely not want to encounter. Not only that, she’s an orphan with no money and relations who go out of their way to make life hard for her. Despite this, the author manages to bring a lightness of touch which leaves you enriched and empowered by the story. A great read and highly recommended.
Amazon Review, Nov 2018
Truly loved this book: The story is set in the late eighteenth century and portrays the many hardships of the times. Within the first couple of chapters I was completely drawn in by the main character Esther. She is an orphan who has taken charge of her deceased friends baby and who finds herself charged with her murder. The story and Esther’s character develop at a fast pace with many twists and turns. I will not divulge too much of the story as you really must read it for yourself ! I found this book very hard to put down and suffered many a late night from it. An excellent read.
This was such a difficult book to put down. The characters are instantly believable and the plot literally races along. I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail regarding the setting and era. I felt part of their world and what they were experiencing. What a journey. Thank you!
Website Review, Nov 2018
It’s a brilliant book – nearly finished it. The only time I get to read in peace and quiet is in bed. I think the earliest I’ve managed to put the book down is 2am!
Facebook Review, Nov 2018
I am reading Retribution at the moment. Got it as soon as it came up on Kindle to purchase and loving it.
Facebook Review, Nov 2018
Sequel to Three Round Towers: A good eventful plot, believable characters that grow and develop in authentic settings. The author has the rare gift of writing about the past without archaisms or anachronisms: her characters are recognisable people who live in a present time that just happens to be two-hundred years ago. What particularly appeals to me is that the characters work for a living, and that what they do shapes their existence and their view of the world. These are the interesting and eventful lives of all the common people completely absent from the enclosed and languid world of Jane Austen's novels set in the same period.
Kindle Review, Nov 2018
Huge congratulations - a great achievement. Mum is reading the book already and is loving it!
Victoria Bebo Leary
Facebook Review, Nov 2018
REVIEWS: Three Round Towers
The book kept me engaged from the first page. The period is authentic for the lives of ordinary people; the characters – good, evil, and ambiguous – are believable; and the sense of place is excellent. The person recommending it wondered if it would appeal to me as it could be seen as a woman's book, but I disagree. If you like and believe in the central character then you'll go on turning the pages to ensure that she has a happy ending after enduring a series of dire misadventures. Well written and flows well.
Amazon Review, 2018
Esther Coad is an unlikely heroine. Orphaned young and forced into 'skivvy'dom, she is no raving beauty (as such characters usually are) and her physical disability means that even her predatory master and his unpleasant sons do not target her, as they do the other female help. But Esther is no meek victim. She has character and pluck. Beverley Elphick gives us an engaging tale of one young woman's struggle against the prejudices, assumptions and deprivations of a grim and ruthless period of our history.
Rosemary Aitken is a writer and lecturer. She ran the Falmouth Summer Writing Course for several years and is the author of more than a dozen Cornish romantic novels set in the early 20th Century, and of the handbook "Writing a Novel - A practical guide." She is perhaps better known as Rosemary Rowe, creator of the 15 Libertus crime mysteries set in Roman Britain, and contributes the 'Writing Crime Fiction' to the Hodder Masterclass series. Two earlier light novels, written as Breda Lacey, have been reissued on Kindle.
Beverley Elphick claims not to be an historian yet she has researched the background for her first novel with an academic rigour worthy of that which she eschews. Elphick is a compelling narrator of time and place; a setter of scenes into which she successfully weaves her characters as they journey through the pages of their story. This is a book of nuance and detail that will delight those readers who demand an historical perspective imbibed with reality.
Alison Green has led creative writing classes in France and England and is published in diverse genres. She currently teaches academic writing skills to students with disabilities and learning differences at Bournemouth University.
Three Round Towers may not be a book for the fainthearted, as it tells a forbidding tale about life's struggles in the 18th Century. The story is effortlessly engaging and I was left with a sense of guilt as I returned to the real world without the trials and tribulations that the characters suffer. Life around Lewes unfolds slowly and I thought Beverley Elphick's representation of the town and the 'astonishingly beautiful' South Downs depicts old Lewes life in all its charming yet dark complexity.
Belinda Maude for VIVA LEWES
Enthralling Historical Story
Absolutely first class. What a great debut for a new author. The first couple of chapters told a sad story of life as it undoubtedly was at the time. I found the book rather harrowing to start with but was gripped almost immediately. It had a ring of truth to it. Also it is nice to read about everyday life and people, not the rich and powerful or the beauties to whom astounding but unlikely events happen. It felt real.
I found myself looking forward to my break in the day when I could sit in the garden and read some more. The book is written very much in the historical times of the central character whose life is followed with such care. The language of the period sounds and feels correct; each character is distinctive without being artificial; the story itself is of great interest and actually feels like a story, not an account of a life. The historical period seems as though it is accurately depicted and was evocative and well depicted without being obtrusive.
Basically, it is a really good read and I can't wait for the next book.
Today I have finished reading your book. I felt that I connected with Esther very quickly after only about two chapters. At times I felt that I couldn't put the book down because I had to know what was going to happen. I learnt a lot about how people lived throughout those times and if my history lessons had been as interesting as you have in the book I would be a lot more knowledgeable .
I particularly liked the short length of the chapters. Esther captured my heart and I can't wait to read the sequel. Let me know when the next book is at the printers.
Well done on actually achieving what was once your dream and is now reality.
Lyn Hayward, Dip.Couns. MNCS(Acc).MBACP
Berwick, East Sussex
Your book was amazing, really enjoyed it and it has got me reading again.
WRAS Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service
Whitesmith, East Sussex
Wonderful!! I so enjoyed it and am in total awe of your skills. To have kept in the language and character of the time throughout was brilliant and your historical detail interesting and fascinating. I shall look forward to the sequel!
This wonderful book had me gripped from page 1. The pragmatic leading lady really drew me in and I was left evening after evening wanting more. Not only did the story have me gripped, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about ye olde Lewes and the surrounding towns. I also enjoyed the fact each chapter began with a ‘receipt’ and delighted in reading the old recipes.
The scenes felt eerily realistic, the characters were intriguing and the story captured me. I'm very much looking forward to reading the sequel.