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 rich 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 his clients.
When a handsome but antagonistic stranger, Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovell's cottage just before Christmas bringing terrible news, Venetia's world is turned upside-down and the family have no option but to move to London, to the House in Quill Court and begin a new life. Here, Venetia's courage and creativity are tested to breaking point, and she discovers a love far greater than she could have ever imagined . . .
Wow, this book was hard, really hard. I cried so much, it was unbelievable. Charlotte Betts obviously isn't someone to present the harsh realities with a nice pink bough on top but she paints a colourful and authentic picture of those times - all harsh realities and bad decisions included and presented as they are. Harsh, bad, cruel and sometimes sprinkeld with some light sparkles of hope or happiness.
This book is set in a time where reputation was everything, where the police was often helpless (of there was a police), where kids were abandoned and left to fend for themselves in the streets. So when Venetia's world collapses and she finds out that she all her life had been a lie and, well, add a certain lack of funds to that ... Life was easy before Jack Chamberlaine arrived but it all changed in the blink of an eye.
What do you do, when there's almost no money, when your respectability is built on sand and your father's will forces you to move in with strangers? You fight, because there's nothing else you can do. And when someone threatens to destroy all you have fought for - you fight back no matter what the cost.
While Venetia tries to build a new life, fights and falls in love, her maid Kitty is falling in love as well. Her life takes a decidedly different turn though and - well, read for yourself but be prepared, life wasn't easy and life wasn't kind in those times.
I really, really loved all those characters. Venetia and Jack, Kitty and Nat, Raffie and all the other minor or major characters are amazing! Complex and well developed, unforgettable and lovable ( Okay, not all of them are lovable some of them I really hated!) and just - great. This is no book that you forget easily. It captures you and won't let you go till the end and even then it won't let you go.
"The House in Quill Court" is not about the haute ton, not about balls and soirées and romantic elopements. It is a book about people who have to fight for their lives, people who have to work hard, who have to defend their own and it is also about those whose lives haven't gone straight, those who have lost themselves or their place in society no matter for what reason.
This book shows a very authentic picture of society in those times, blunt, harsh and honest but nevertheless it is also romantic and I really enjoyed reading it.