My dear bookish friends!
Do you feel attracted to covers with gothic vibes? That’s what drew me in when I saw Lying with Lions for the first time. You know, the dark colours, a big, eerie mansion, emiting the feeling that something dark, dangerous is happening behind these walls? That, and the title! Read on to find out more about the content and my opinion!
Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.
They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…
I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely LOVE book covers with the old big mansions on the cover that emit a kind of dark and sinister vibe, everything that screams GOTHIC and ‘something weird is going on behind these walls’. They attract me immediately, and I have rarely been disappointed by one. Lying with Lions wasn’t an exception!
Agnes Ashford is hired as an archivist in the Bryant household, ruled by the powerful, cold and hungry Lady Helen. During her work (documenting the lives of the old family), Agnes uncovers many secrets and finds out things that make her face an impossible choice.
I found the characters in this novel so very interesting, they are definitely the driving force here. Especially Lady Helen, a matriarch through and through. She is like a force of nature, power-hungry, cunning, determined, and Agnes cannot help but be drawn in to her air of power…
Agnes, young and dazzled by what she sees in the Bryant household, works right in the midst of the family’s workings. As she witnesses their loyalties, political stance, aspirations, and Lady Helen’s true thirst for power, this mingles with Agnes’ aspirations of making something of herself and her life. And how could it not, living with such an impressive family day in and day out? Agnes, too, is determined, and soon she wants her role to change to from a mere employee to something… more.
I was very fascinated by the way the author constructed the characters. Agnes was a big mystery to me throughout. Once I thought I had grasped her character she eluded me again. She was innocent and submissive in some ways, something I was used to from lonely female characters in historical novels, but on the other hand she was determined, focused and ambitious, a mix that allowed her to move up the ranks in the house over time.
The relationship between Agnes and Lady Helen was deeply fascinating and unlike anything I have ever read about in historical fiction. I don’t want to go into too much detail though because I don’t want to spoiler anything, but it definitely takes up one of the main themes in the book!
Even though Agnes is so present in the book, she is also very elusive at times. Maybe that’s another one of her binary oppositions: she slips through the Bryant family just the way sand slips through an hourglass – there one moment and gone the next. Agnes becomes a lot like a mirror image of Lady Helen, and soon, very subtly, begins to pull the threads in the household. The power play of the characters was exhilarating, thrilling, and expertly woven. However, at the same time, I would have liked a bit more of her. Giving her everything for most of the story, and then suddenly going against what was expected of her seemed a bit odd in the end, but then again it was what she was supposed to do (sounds weird? Sorry! Don’t want to spoiler!!).
I also loved the historical aspects of the novel. The author clearly has done her research. I haven’t read much about the Edwardian era, but reading this novel it felt like I was right there with the characters, living with them through the historical events that have been broached.
In the end, when I was absolutely sure there couldn’t possibly be more secrets to be uncovered, that was when the twists and turns grabbed me by surprise. The plot was excellently woven, with many times an element of surprise, and it is definitely a must read for fans of historical fiction with a touch of gothic vibes! The cover that had drawn me in in the beginning ended up being the red thread running through the story. Detailed descriptions of the Edwardian Era added another nice touch for me and I can only recommend it!
4 stars from me!
Thank you all so much for reading, and do let me know if you will check out Lying with Lions!
Big thank you to author Annabel Fielding and NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review!