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Review: Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass


Sometimes spy novels can come off as a bit dry and full of their own importance. I'm not going to name any names, but the book I'm thinking of rhymes with Shmiley's Shmeeple. The same can be said of historical fiction, which ranges from the bodice ripper to the dry quasi-textbook. It can be hard to find books in these genres that balance a good story with accuracy and a decent sense of humour -- the 'would like to meet' of books, if you will.


Black Drop ticked all of these boxes for me. Set in London during the French Revolution, Black Drop is about Laurence Jago, a lowly clerk at the Foreign Office who used to spy for France, but now desperately wants to remain loyal to England. Unfortunately, things are not that straightforward, and Jago is dragged into a game of politics and espionage where it's almost impossible to tell who is on which side.


I think the thing that really makes Black Drop is its wide cast of supporting characters. I really loved Philpott, a bombastic journalist who seems to change his passionate opinions as quickly as the wind; and Anne Bellingham, Laurence's love interest who is stuck with the lot of a high society woman but seems to understand the political game so much better than the men around her -- certainly than Laurence himself.


Nattrass also perfectly brings 18th-century London to life, vividly describing episodes at attractions like the menagerie, the pleasure gardens, and the wax works. All the locations we might associate with a certain season of Blackadder, but made so much more real by the characters who inhabit them.


I highly recommend Black Drop to historical readers who are looking for something a bit more nuanced than Philippa Gregory, a bit more accessible than Hilary Mantel, and a bit more exciting than Alison Weir.


Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass is published on October 14th, and you can purchase your copy here.


With thanks to the publishers and NetGalley.com for providing an electronic ARC.

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