BEING female in 1648 is dangerous for even the most reputable of women; being a deserted wife suspected of practising witchcraft in a devoutly puritan community is almost certain to be fatal.
Medieval England is in turmoil, enveloped by a malicious civil war: the hereditary monarch, Charles I, is under house arrest in exile on the Isle of Wight, the Catholic queen consort is with her family across the channel in France and control of the country is in the hands of a renegade parliament backed by the army of Oliver Cromwell, a “middling farmer from Cambridgeshire”.
Alinor Reekie’s household is equally dishevelled. Alinor’s husband is missing, presumed drowned after having disappeared while fishing off the south coast of England months earlier. A herbalist and midwife, Alinor treads a perilously fine line between earning an honest shilling here and there dispensing natural remedies to neighbours and assisting in home births, and finding herself ostracised or worse for allegedly perpetuating ‘the old ways’. As she scrounges together a subsistence for herself and her two children on the edge of a tidal wasteland, Alinor’s days are back-breakingly long and uneventful.
When a stranger appears in the churchyard in the twilight of Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor has two choices: denounce this papist foreigner’s presence to the godly people of Foulmire or take the enormous risk of helping him to reach the apparent safety of the local lord’s manorhouse. It’s the type of potentially life-altering decision no-one can afford take lightly, but for Alinor the correct course of action is clear.
Known around the world for her historical fiction pen-portraits of the English nobility, Philippa Gregory delves for the first time into the lives of everyday Britons with The Fairmile Series, established with Tidelands and soon to include a second instalment in the saga of the desperate Reekies, Dark Tides.