‘I would like to make myself the heroine of this story – an innocent victim led astray. But alas sir, I would be lying…’
London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It’s a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror’s assistant, to celebrated courtesan at her stepmother’s Fairy House, the notorious house of ill-repute where decadent excess is a must…Tully was once the talk of the town. Now, with the best seats at Newgate already sold in anticipation of her execution, her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows.
She is Tully Truegood.
Orphan, whore, magician’s apprentice.
It is a wonder I even chose to listen to this book. Why…? I hear you ask. You like books of a historical fiction / fantasy persuasion! Yes, yes I do… and this book is definitely that. So what might turn me off, you ask?
Well, it comes down to one simple fact. I am socially awkward when it comes to sex.
Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t play around with the odd innuendo with your work colleagues, then I would argue you either don’t know them very well, or you just aren’t normal.
If, however, a SERIOUS conversation between my girl friends turned to that glorious subject, my desire to be any part of it shrivels up faster than a streaker on the North Pole. Do you remember that feeling when you first had to watch a sex scene with your parents? This is me, literally all the time…
It’s one of those scenarios you inevitably have to experience, in order to understand how much it makes you want to curl up and die on the spot… but after that, it should never happen again. Ever.
So why pick a book in which the protagonist is a prosti…. ahem, courtesan? I don’t know really. But I did… and here we are.
You may have gotten the impression that my adversity to even deal with my awkwardness means that I didn’t like the book. Wrong. Yes, it was awkward and embarrassing, but Sally handled the topic in a humorous way. I am still glad that I only listened to this audiobook at home since I spent much of my time laughing out loud, at the book and myself in equal measure.
We follow our protagonist’s story from childhood, so naturally we are introduced to the idea of human desires from a pointedly… innocent perspective. Poor vegetables are made to stand
up in the place of the appendages enticing both fascination and uncertainty in young Tully. I really liked this approach, because as an awkward person anyway, I felt mutually awkward and therefore not alienated by the subject matter. Naturally, as the narrative progresses and Tully develops into the confident woman she becomes, the language does get bolder, through blessedly not crass.
I also enjoyed the storyline behind the superfluous sexual encounters knocking between the pages. Not only were elements of magic, theatrics and illusion involved… but there is also a fair amount of politics. Being a courtesan as opposed to carousing street corners, Tully earns the affections of a number of high profile men and her position in society depends entirely upon whom she is courting at the time.
Just fair word of warning to anyone considering reading or listening to this book – later on in the narrative there are some of the darker themes you may associate with our protagonist’s profession, which may not suit all readers.
My one and only criticism of the book is that I found the ending a little too fairy-tale like – it is definitely an ending for the romantic reader. The narrative was written cleverly so that technically it could (and made sense to) happen, but I personally think it felt out of place with the tone of the book.
I hope you all had a good laugh at my expense reading this review. If you did, let me know! What embarrasses you the most?