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Mrs England

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West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, myster West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect family - and she should know. Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls' third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.


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West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, myster West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect family - and she should know. Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls' third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.

30 review for Mrs England

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    A novel set in Yorkshire in 1904 with some Gothic elements. There is more than one mystery which, together with understatements and dark atmosphere of Hardcastle House, make a captivating read. Ms Halls proves yet again that she knows how to build a tension and tell a captivating story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the locations in Mrs England This is one of the most magical and atmospheric novels I have had the pleasure of reading in some time. The novel might be called Mrs England, and she is the enigmatic character of the house, but the story centres around Ruby May who works as Norland nanny. She decides not to move abroad with the family she works for and so finds employment with the MrsEngland of the title. Well, THAT turned out to be interesting.... The house is set on the desolate Yorkshire moo Visit the locations in Mrs England This is one of the most magical and atmospheric novels I have had the pleasure of reading in some time. The novel might be called Mrs England, and she is the enigmatic character of the house, but the story centres around Ruby May who works as Norland nanny. She decides not to move abroad with the family she works for and so finds employment with the MrsEngland of the title. Well, THAT turned out to be interesting.... The house is set on the desolate Yorkshire moors and it's a deliciously gothic one. Isolated yet compelling but as for friendly? Well, the father of the house might be but that Mrs England - you want to watch her I thought. The staff are very Mrs Danvers type people. Good for the reader, but not so good for the character who comes into the house as an outsider ... Oh if walls could talk....well in this book secrets start to seep out pretty quickly and we get an insight into Mrs England, the family and most importantly the marriage. Don't take your eyes off the nanny though....she has secrets of her own! I had shivers down my neck and heard whispers in my ear as I read this. Very cinematic too although whenever the film is made ( fingers crossed) the book will always win for the sharp, melodic writing and pictures it forms in your mind as you read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    Mrs England by Stacey Halls is one of my most highly anticipated releases for 2021 and I was thrilled when it delivered on all of my hopes and expectations. From the stunning cover design, the enticing premise, the Edwardian era setting and location at Hardcastle House in West Yorkshire, Mrs England is everything I love in historical fiction. Ruby May is a qualified nurse from the Norland Institute in London and after her employers move to America, Nurse May finds herself frantically looking for Mrs England by Stacey Halls is one of my most highly anticipated releases for 2021 and I was thrilled when it delivered on all of my hopes and expectations. From the stunning cover design, the enticing premise, the Edwardian era setting and location at Hardcastle House in West Yorkshire, Mrs England is everything I love in historical fiction. Ruby May is a qualified nurse from the Norland Institute in London and after her employers move to America, Nurse May finds herself frantically looking for work so she can continue to support her ailing sister. Accepting a position at the isolated Hardcastle House, Ruby eagerly agrees to look after three children from the family of wealthy mill owners Charles and Lilian England. The previous nurse had cared for Charles as a boy and died of natural causes and Nurse May finds her new surroundings lacking. She immediately embarks on a drastic 'makeover' of the nursery, cleans and dusts, mends the children's clothes and takes the children outdoors to play every day. This kind of 'manor makeover' is total bookish catnip to me. I love when a governess or nursemaid shakes things up for the better, and I was in heaven during these pages. Mrs Lilian England keeps strange hours, doesn't interact much with the children and doesn't involve herself in the running of the household. Mr England is friendly, relaxed and approachable and it's soon clear who really runs the house. This is a slow moving gothic tale, with Ruby's past carefully revealed and the relationships between the characters slowly evolving. Reading Mrs England felt like being immersed in the world of Downton Abbey. Not much happens but I just loved being there, the interactions and back stories of the characters being enough to keep me transfixed. It is for this reason that the denouement came as quite a surprise and everything I thought I knew was turned slightly on its head. Oh, and the last line of dialogue between the characters made me exclaim out loud and impatient to discuss it with another reader. I've read all of Stacey Halls' books, beginning with The Familiars in 2019 and The Foundling in 2020, both of which were 5 star reads. You can understand why Mrs England was high on my watch list, and I'm thrilled to report it was also a 5 star reading experience. This makes Stacey Halls an automatic must-read author for me and I can't wait to find out what what she's working on next. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans. * Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Like Ruby, the reader is immediately struck by Hardcastle House’s remote location, surrounded by thick forest. Certainly one of the book’s many strong points is the evocation of the brooding nature of the landscape. For example, the nearby cotton mill owned by the England family is described as ‘crouching like a secret at the bottom of the valley’. Or the moorland surrounding a small village described as ‘lapping against…cottages like a great flood of bleakness’. Ruby is also struck by the surpri Like Ruby, the reader is immediately struck by Hardcastle House’s remote location, surrounded by thick forest. Certainly one of the book’s many strong points is the evocation of the brooding nature of the landscape. For example, the nearby cotton mill owned by the England family is described as ‘crouching like a secret at the bottom of the valley’. Or the moorland surrounding a small village described as ‘lapping against…cottages like a great flood of bleakness’. Ruby is also struck by the surprising informality of the household. In particular, by Charles England who seems to take more of an interest in his four children than does their mother, Lilian. Indeed Lilian spends most of her days within the confines of her bedroom either, Ruby supposes, through physical or mental frailty. If anything, Lilian seems worn down by the influence of her powerful family, the Greatrexes, only really coming to life when away from Hardcastle House. From early on in the book there are some spine-tingling moments, often evoked by a single sentence such as Mr England’s intruction to Ruby to lock the nursery door at night. There are also questions about the motivations and truthfulness of all the characters, including Ruby herself. Why is she so disturbed at being photographed? Why does she avoid opening the bundle of letters hidden away in her trunk? Only in her correspondence with her sister Elsie does Ruby seem to feel free to disclose a little of her life at Hardcastle House. Gradually the truth about the many secrets lurking within the England household emerges, revealing a chilling picture of deception, manipulation and control. If you love the gothic elements of novels such as Rebecca or Jane Eyre, you are sure to enjoy Mrs England. In her author’s note, Stacey Halls reveals the real life event that inspired a key moment in the book.  I’ll say no more about it other than to advise readers to refrain from reading the author’s note until they’ve finished the story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    lauren

    *4.5 stars i really enjoyed this! stacey halls is such a fantastic story teller and i don’t think i’ll ever grow bored of her writing. i’ve rated it down just bc i wanted a little more eeriness to the story, i wanted it to be a little more sinister to make that ending more satisfying… but the geography, time period and characterisation were spot on as always

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eilidh

    When children’s nurse Ruby May finds herself in need of serving a new family, she strikes gold with the England Family of four children in Yorkshire. When she arrives, she’s quickly smitten with the children and enthralled with the master of the house. However, the mistress of the house, Mrs England, is another matter altogether. With Mr England’s strict rules regarding his wife, and Mrs England’s apparent absent mindedness, Ruby is captivated by the ongoings of this dysfunctional marriage. As R When children’s nurse Ruby May finds herself in need of serving a new family, she strikes gold with the England Family of four children in Yorkshire. When she arrives, she’s quickly smitten with the children and enthralled with the master of the house. However, the mistress of the house, Mrs England, is another matter altogether. With Mr England’s strict rules regarding his wife, and Mrs England’s apparent absent mindedness, Ruby is captivated by the ongoings of this dysfunctional marriage. As Ruby’s curiosity and caring responsibilities clash, and her own past traumas resurface, the tale of Mrs England promises to make us think twice about what we think we know about families and what goes on behind closed, locked doors. Stacey Halls returns with her third novel, and in true Halls style, the story enveloped me with every chapter, and caused my mind to blaze with rife suspicion and dread. Just like The Familiars and The Foundling, Halls writing is cosily ensnaring and tugged back and forth at my heart. One minute it lulled me forward and pushed away, then pulled me in once more and pushed away again. It’s a story about devotion, power, family, harmony and survival. The England’s family home and the time period was so well drawn I felt it vividly as if I’d travelled in time and was in the midst of it all. I felt the hollowness and coldness of the house, then on the other hand, I felt the love and care of Ruby attending to the children by indulging their childhood fancies of stories and hide and seek. The characters were likeable and compelling, evoking warmth and sympathy or mistrust and anxiety throughout. My thoughts kept shifting on all of them - even our narrator Ruby - as Halls cast doubt at every door. I felt the building undercurrent of suspense throughout, as it becomes increasingly clear both Ruby and the England family has secrets that will upturn everything as the story builds toward a menacing end. My only quibble is I wish the story went farther and delved deeper. I wish Ruby’s background had ran adjacent to the England family’s, or wasn’t left so close to the novel’s end, for it felt underserved and I ultimately desired more. However, it was enjoyable and tied in and contrasted well with the family’s story to provide such dimensions of adversity it made the climax devilishly ominous. Mrs England feels enigmatic and oppressive yet utterly beguiling. It captures the serene landscape of wealth and family that is something idyllic, probably even enviable, but behind and underneath it all, there’s more than meets the eye and all is not as it seems. A thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction I’m sure other Halls fans will adore too. Thank you kindly to the publishers for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Gothic setting, strange behaviours, paranoia and mysterious happenings…entertaining and compelling read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma Hardy

    Utterly delightful. Flows so beautifully and gorgeous storytelling. Nurse Ruby May clearly has a secret to be unearthed and the narration makes you crave to know exactly what. The England family have some unusual characters that take a while to suss out. Mysterious, packed with characters to keep you interested too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I read Stacey Hall's The Foundling in February last year and adored it so much. I was thrilled to be asked to read and review Mrs England and I haven't been disappointed in the least. Once more, Stacey Halls shows the reader that she really is such a talented author. Mrs England is an evocative and enthralling story of a destructive marriage, set in the incredibly atmospheric North Yorkshire moors. Whilst the title of the book is Mrs England, the story revolves around Ruby May; a Norland trained I read Stacey Hall's The Foundling in February last year and adored it so much. I was thrilled to be asked to read and review Mrs England and I haven't been disappointed in the least. Once more, Stacey Halls shows the reader that she really is such a talented author. Mrs England is an evocative and enthralling story of a destructive marriage, set in the incredibly atmospheric North Yorkshire moors. Whilst the title of the book is Mrs England, the story revolves around Ruby May; a Norland trained nanny. Originally from the West Midlands, she's currently working for a family in London. The year is 1904 and Ruby is caring for Georgina Radlett, the only child of a wealthy couple. When Ruby is informed that the family are to move to the US, for Mr Radlett's work, she is devastated. The couple cannot understand why Ruby refuses to travel with them. Their daughter adores her, she's like part of their family, and Ruby has never been happier. However, it becomes clear that Ruby has secrets of her own, things that she doesn't wish to disclose. A few months later Ruby finds herself in Yorkshire. Arriving on the bleak, desolate moors to work for the England family. This place is so very different to bright, bustling London, and she has four children to care for here. Despite the isolation of Hardcastle House and the huge differences from her previous employment, Ruby loves the four England children, and finds their father to be charming and welcoming, always with a smile and a kind word. However Mrs England, and the rest of the household staff are not so welcoming. Mrs England is distant, and cold. Appearing not to care about her children, with little interest in the household, and deferring all responsibilities to her husband. The domestic staff are not friendly towards Ruby, appearing to resent her presence and her new ways of doing things. The story buzzes with suspense as the reader gradually realises that beneath the surface, there are is such darkness in the England marriage. Halls is such a clever author, as the reader begins to doubt all of the characters, even questioning Ruby herself at times. Whilst Ruby is trying to deal with the complexities of this strange new household, she also has her own burdens to bear. She worries constantly about her Mother, and her siblings back in Birmingham. The reader wonders why Ruby refuses to open letters from her Father, and as Ruby's own history is slowly revealed, along with the emerging menaces she discovers in Yorkshire, the tension and suspense builds. Mrs England is stunning and beautifully written Edwardian mystery. The sense of place stunning and each character is fully formed and a joy to discover. In my opinion, this author goes from strength to strength. I would highly recommend this novel and look forward to her next book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Robey

    Yet another brilliant read from Stacey Halls. She is such a wonderful storyteller and is becoming one of my go to authors every time. The backdrop of Yorkshire is so atmospheric and the house so eerily gothic to set up this story. The weather, the house and the mill play such a big part in the whole story. Ruby is wonderful, so caring and warm and I engaged with her immediately. Her nurturing of the children in her care was heartwarming. It was fascinating to read and learn more about the Norlan Yet another brilliant read from Stacey Halls. She is such a wonderful storyteller and is becoming one of my go to authors every time. The backdrop of Yorkshire is so atmospheric and the house so eerily gothic to set up this story. The weather, the house and the mill play such a big part in the whole story. Ruby is wonderful, so caring and warm and I engaged with her immediately. Her nurturing of the children in her care was heartwarming. It was fascinating to read and learn more about the Norland nurses and the history behind childcare at that time. Her family history was written beautifully and emotionally and explained so many of her attributes and actions. As the story unfolded more of the characters started to reveal themselves and i became so engrossed in the plot- wondering who was doing what and why. Such a page turner.

  11. 5 out of 5

    thea

    stacey halls is just the queen of historical fiction right now 👏.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Taylor-Smith

    I really enjoyed Stacey Halls last two novels. However, Mrs England left me underwhelmed. Not much happens and I didn't feel the level of suspense or surprise other reviews have mentioned. Not a bad book, just a bit underwhelming. I really enjoyed Stacey Halls last two novels. However, Mrs England left me underwhelmed. Not much happens and I didn't feel the level of suspense or surprise other reviews have mentioned. Not a bad book, just a bit underwhelming.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ariela

    Very enjoyable read, but I do think Halls needs to work on her pacing because I felt like nothing happened in like 90% of this book and then it all went down in the last 10%.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    West Yorkshire, 1904. Newly graduated nurse, Ruby May takes a position with the England’s. A wealthy couple who come from a dynasty of mill owners. Once Ruby arrives at their isolated manor, it doesn’t take long before she starts to feel uneasy. Stacey Halls goes from strength to strength, each new novel is better than the last and long may that continue (no pressure there!) Mrs England was utterly gripping, it’s a subtle slow burner of a book that I couldn’t escape and nor did I want to. The set West Yorkshire, 1904. Newly graduated nurse, Ruby May takes a position with the England’s. A wealthy couple who come from a dynasty of mill owners. Once Ruby arrives at their isolated manor, it doesn’t take long before she starts to feel uneasy. Stacey Halls goes from strength to strength, each new novel is better than the last and long may that continue (no pressure there!) Mrs England was utterly gripping, it’s a subtle slow burner of a book that I couldn’t escape and nor did I want to. The setting is perfect – an isolated grand house surrounded by woodland. Mysterious things happening in lonely locations is one of my favourite tropes, I love feeling unsettled and intrigued when I read a book. Mrs England drips with peril and unease. I couldn’t get enough. I had so many questions while I read this – why was Mrs England so desperate to avoid spending time with her children? Why was Mr England being so nice to Ruby? Why are the doors to the bedrooms locked at night? There are so many suspicious little things that occur, it’s hard to know who to trust. All those little things build to a fantastically dramatic finish. But it’s not just the England family that have secrets, Ruby’s own family have had their fair share of shocking trauma. I adored Ruby, her family is her priority and she sacrifices a lot to keep them fed and provided for. She loves her job, she’s passionate about her charges and their happiness. I was her champion while I read this. There is a particular moment when she disagrees with a doctor over a medical treatment (involving an injection of cocaine into a child’s throat!) She’s ignored, of course, because she’s a woman. She sticks to her guns and is proven right, cue fist bumps all round. Mrs England is a read that completely hypnotised me, the England family were a mystery I was dying to solve. Enthralling, dark, eerie and beautifully written. I cannot recommend it enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Stacey Halls has become such an auto-buy for me, and I was so delighted to find out this novel was set in West Yorkshire - where I was born. Not only did I find this book very tense and mysterious, Halls perfectly captured the essence of the Yorkshire moors throughout. The book kept me guessing, and was such a page turner that felt very reminiscent of the Bronte's novels. Stacey Halls has become such an auto-buy for me, and I was so delighted to find out this novel was set in West Yorkshire - where I was born. Not only did I find this book very tense and mysterious, Halls perfectly captured the essence of the Yorkshire moors throughout. The book kept me guessing, and was such a page turner that felt very reminiscent of the Bronte's novels.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Cool concept, but poor execution

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm Blogger

    I'd like to thank NetGalley and Bonnier Books UK for approving me for an ARC of this book. I have both of Stacey Halls' previous books sat n my shelf waiting to be read so I was very excited when this one popped up! Luckily my good friends Meg Readz and Clare got approved too so I did this as a buddy read with them, I really enjoyed discussing the book as we went. I honestly do not know where to begin with this one. One word seemed to spring to mind a lot during my buddy conversations and that w I'd like to thank NetGalley and Bonnier Books UK for approving me for an ARC of this book. I have both of Stacey Halls' previous books sat n my shelf waiting to be read so I was very excited when this one popped up! Luckily my good friends Meg Readz and Clare got approved too so I did this as a buddy read with them, I really enjoyed discussing the book as we went. I honestly do not know where to begin with this one. One word seemed to spring to mind a lot during my buddy conversations and that was QUESTIONS! I felt that I had so many questions and every time I carried on through the read I would find some of the answers but more questions would pop up. This compelled me to read on as I desperately wanted to know certain things such as Ruby's family story, what would happen to her and why was everyone so strange at Hardcastle House? The setting of West Yorkshire in the 1900's was beautifully described and provided the perfect chilling setting to Hardcastle House. It was fascinating to learn about the Norland Nurses Institute and other timely features from that period. This is why historical fiction is one of my favourite genres as I feel that I learn so many interesting facts about history. Ruby was a brilliant main character. It was clear from the start that she had a way with children and whilst the prospect of looking after 4 children was quite daunting, she handled it with true professionalism. She was firm but fair and showed a lot of affection to all four children, she was also very creative with their projects. Ruby's attitude and how she carried herself was admirable. She wasn't a pushover and felt able to voice her opinion, which she demonstrated with Saul's asthma attack (the treatment the doctor administered still shocks me now!) Mr and Mrs England were very interesting characters. Their stories were cleverly written and to begin with I couldn't work out which one of them was the more damaging. It quickly became clear to me and I loved how that part of the story unravelled, as well as Ruby's part in it. This stories climatic ending had me frantically turning the pages, desperate to know the character's fates and finally learn the answers to all my questions. Families' secrets and lies are all intricately woven into this story to deliver a spooky and captivating tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    ✦ 3,5 stars ✦ This book was exactly what I expected from Stacey Halls, meaning it met the expectations I had for this book after reading The Familiars and The Foundling. The plot of the story isn't introduced until very late in the book, there's a lot of mystery surrounding the main characters. This mystery is one of the reasons I kept on reading, simply because I wanted to know how it ended. As mentioned, this book met the expectations I had, but did not exceed them. The story reminded me of The ✦ 3,5 stars ✦ This book was exactly what I expected from Stacey Halls, meaning it met the expectations I had for this book after reading The Familiars and The Foundling. The plot of the story isn't introduced until very late in the book, there's a lot of mystery surrounding the main characters. This mystery is one of the reasons I kept on reading, simply because I wanted to know how it ended. As mentioned, this book met the expectations I had, but did not exceed them. The story reminded me of The Foundling. This book, though definetely a good story and well written, wasn't the refreshing and different kind of book that I've become used to when reading Stacey Halls. I am very curious to see what book she writes next and can't wait to read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Wonderful, loved it. I'm delighted to report that the writing inside this beautiful book is just as beautiful as the cover. Stacey Halls has written a deliciously page turning historical drama, centred around a young woman Ruby, who works as a Norland nurse and has to leave her position when the family she works for move abroad, although we are not given the exact reasons she is so reluctant to leave England. She accepts a job as Nurse to 4 children and this is when we are introduced to Mrs Engla Wonderful, loved it. I'm delighted to report that the writing inside this beautiful book is just as beautiful as the cover. Stacey Halls has written a deliciously page turning historical drama, centred around a young woman Ruby, who works as a Norland nurse and has to leave her position when the family she works for move abroad, although we are not given the exact reasons she is so reluctant to leave England. She accepts a job as Nurse to 4 children and this is when we are introduced to Mrs England, who is the Mistress of her new household. There is so much bubbling and simmering beneath the surface in this book. At first it seems pretty standard upstairs downstairs fodder. We watch Ruby begin to find her feet in the new household, gradually it becomes apparent Ruby has a hidden past. This young woman is rather innocent about life and relationships, although it's not until later we discover why. Simultaneously we discover that Mrs England also has secrets, but what they are, also has to be peeled shred by shred like an under ripe orange. I will say no more as I don't want to be guilty of any spoilers, its quite a gentle tale which lulls you into a false sense of security, but it has the most delectable twists and relatable characters to ensure that reading it is sheer pleasure from start to end. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all fans of womens quality historical fiction.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    Stacey Halls is one of my favourite authors so I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it. I loved Ruby the Norland Nurse sent to Yorkshire to look after the three England children. she really was the perfect nanny to look after them and make sure their lives were in perfect order. I felt for her though as soon as she arrived at the house as it was obvious there was something very wrong. This is definitely a gothic tale as the secrecy and tension pulled the story along making me fe Stacey Halls is one of my favourite authors so I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it. I loved Ruby the Norland Nurse sent to Yorkshire to look after the three England children. she really was the perfect nanny to look after them and make sure their lives were in perfect order. I felt for her though as soon as she arrived at the house as it was obvious there was something very wrong. This is definitely a gothic tale as the secrecy and tension pulled the story along making me feel uncomfortable the whole time, never sure who I could trust or like. Just like in her previous books Stacey Halls writing was perfect, confirming that she really is one of my favourite authors.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Xaanua

    I read the book 2 weeks ago. The way that Stacey Halls is almost poetic. The landscape is almost a protagonist of the novel. I love it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy Louise

    Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Stacey Hall’s debut, The Familiars, I was thrilled to win a proof copy of her third novel, Mrs England, which offers a portrait of an Edwardian marriage from the unusual perspective of the family nursemaid. Ruby May is a newly qualified Norland nursemaid and, as the book opens, is happily settled in her first placement. When her placement family decide to emigrate to America however, Ruby is forced to return to The Norland Institute to seek another position – sh Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Stacey Hall’s debut, The Familiars, I was thrilled to win a proof copy of her third novel, Mrs England, which offers a portrait of an Edwardian marriage from the unusual perspective of the family nursemaid. Ruby May is a newly qualified Norland nursemaid and, as the book opens, is happily settled in her first placement. When her placement family decide to emigrate to America however, Ruby is forced to return to The Norland Institute to seek another position – she is unable to leave England for personal reasons of her own. Desperate to prove herself, Ruby accepts a position as nursemaid to the four children of Charles and Lillian England, wealthy mill owners. Transported to the mill towns and moors of rural Yorkshire, and thrown into a busy but neglected nursery, Ruby is soon a world away from her comfort zone. Mrs England seems to take little interest in her children and, ostracised by the other servants in the household, Ruby is soon acting as surrogate mother, teacher, maid, and nurse all rolled into one. Yet beneath the cold exterior of the Mistress, Ruby cannot help but feel that there is something more to Mrs England. And that beneath the charming exterior of the Master and the cheery façade of the England family, there is something terribly wrong. As with The Familiars, Stacey Hall’s has created a fantastic female protagonist in Ruby May. Smart, caring, practical, and yet with a hint of naivety, Ruby is an immensely likeable and relatable narrator. A scholarship girl at the prestigious Norland Institute, she is determined to prove herself as a capable professional nursemaid – and to escape the dark shadows of her own family’s past. I really empathised with Ruby’s desire to prove herself professionally, as well as to protect and care for the children in her charge. Although incredibly naïve at times, Ruby’s determination to focus upon her role as nursemaid and to not go prying into Mr & Mrs England’s secrets felt believable given her tentative position within the household and what we come to learn about her own family and background. I also found the contrast between Ruby’s Norland-educated sense of propriety and the more relaxed attitudes of the inhabitants of Yorkshire to be quite amusing at times! Although a bit of a slow-burn, Mrs England is packed to brimming with an underlying sense of menace. Like Ruby, the reader is aware from the off that something is not quite right at Hardcastle House. But, like Ruby, working out exactly what – and who – is wrong, proves tricky – and there are a good few unexpected turns along the way before the truth is revealed. There were a couple of plot strands that I wish had been developed further – some of the ‘romantic’ elements felt a little forced, and Ruby’s own background and its relationship to the main plot doesn’t really begin to develop until the last third of the novel, but the characters and the atmosphere kept me engaged even at moments where I felt the plot was a little thin. As a portrait of Edwardian society, Mrs England is wonderfully evocative of the era. You get a real sense of a society in flux – caught between the constraints of the Victorian era and the possibilities of a new century. The novel is also a portrait of an Edwardian marriage – and a fascinating insight into the role of the nursemaid. I found the sections in the book that provided some of the history and rationale of the Norland Institute really compelling, and the novel made me realise just how Norland nursemaids were changing the expectations of what it was to be a ‘nanny’ within upper class Edwardian society. Told in a lively, engaging style and with a well-realised sense of time and place, Mrs England is sure to delight fans of Stacey Hall’s previous novels – and deserves to bring her in a whole host of new readers! Anyone who loves a good historical novel is sure to find much to enjoy in this pacy, engaging read that has an intriguing marital mystery at its core. NB: This review first appeared on my blog at https://theshelfofunreadbooks.wordpre.... My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    I rather enjoyed this slow moving historical fiction. Nothing happens for the first 90% but I was fine with that and was quite happy to enjoy the exploration of the characters and soak up the atmosphere of the Yorkshire area. I thoroughly enjoyed the gothic vibe and felt that this worked really well as an audiobook. I much preferred this to the author’s second novel which I felt was a bit of a let down after her strong debut.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Very readable but nothing startling

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hewlett

    I cannot tell you how excited I was to receive this proof. Our story follows Ruby May as she embarks on a new venture as Nurse for the England’s children. This is a story centred around deception and the ever present notion that you can never really know what goes on behind closed doors. Halls manages to vividly capture the England’s family home, Hardcastle House, and the Yorkshire landscape surrounding it. You can feel the isolation that living in such a home would create, brimming with tension I cannot tell you how excited I was to receive this proof. Our story follows Ruby May as she embarks on a new venture as Nurse for the England’s children. This is a story centred around deception and the ever present notion that you can never really know what goes on behind closed doors. Halls manages to vividly capture the England’s family home, Hardcastle House, and the Yorkshire landscape surrounding it. You can feel the isolation that living in such a home would create, brimming with tension and mystery it seems the house has many secrets to keep. This book lulls you into a false sense of security, the first half sets the scene and introduces the characters making way for a few little surprises towards the end. While I did enjoy this book I have to admit that I was expecting something deliciously gothic and that’s not quite what I got. I think this was a misconception on my behalf though. For me this is more of a domestic novel delving into family life. It centres around the complex history and power play of the England’s, and how every family has their own skeletons in the closet. Halls has managed to weave a page turning historical drama that will leave you needing to know what secrets everyone is keeping.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    I feel like there were two people within me who read this book: one who is only a reader, and one who is also a writer; and they had different thoughts about this book. Reader me would say that this was an easy, quick and entertaining read. The mystery was intriguing enough to pull me along, and the prose flowed easily. Perhaps not the kind of book that will stay with me for years, but certainly something to enjoy on a lazy summer afternoon when you want to while away some hours with a book and I feel like there were two people within me who read this book: one who is only a reader, and one who is also a writer; and they had different thoughts about this book. Reader me would say that this was an easy, quick and entertaining read. The mystery was intriguing enough to pull me along, and the prose flowed easily. Perhaps not the kind of book that will stay with me for years, but certainly something to enjoy on a lazy summer afternoon when you want to while away some hours with a book and not use too much of your brain, but still be entertained. Writer me would like to add: people who write have probably heard, if not used of books like Save the Cat Writes a Novel, in which basic plot structures are analysed and you learn at which percentage of the book part X, Y and Z are supposed to happen. Similar guides can be found for free on the internet. I read this as an e-book, meaning I had the percentages displayed on the screen; and I could tick the boxes as I read. Aha, 10 %; we're done with the introduction. Next chapter will kick-start the plot. Aha, 20 %: this is where the story will take place, we've met everyone of importance, the mystery is set up; now we're just rolling along until the mid-point reveal. And so on. And it made the book utterly predictable and therefore, to me, boring. That's probably not a problem for many readers, but I still wanted to mention it - because this also means that if you read a lot, you've probably internalised these structures, be it consciously or subconsciously, and you will also likely find the book rather predictable. I kept waiting for something fresh, a twist I hadn't seen before, but it never came. I did have some trouble caring for any of the characters in the book and found the heroine Ruby, simply too gullible and thick in places, even if her inexperience was meant to be part of her character. Her terrible secret that the book worked towards revealing in the end was, to me, neither shocking nor very terrible and the reveal fell rather flat.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret M

    I am a huge fan of Stacey Halls. A great historical fiction writer and another page turner. In this latest novel, the author manages to capture the period, the brooding Yorkshire landscape and the characterization of people in Edwardian times. Stacey Halls knows how to captivate people without going over the top in boundless pages of scene setting. The book is called Mrs England but in reality, this is the story about 2 women. We follow their present whilst their disturbing stories becomes appare I am a huge fan of Stacey Halls. A great historical fiction writer and another page turner. In this latest novel, the author manages to capture the period, the brooding Yorkshire landscape and the characterization of people in Edwardian times. Stacey Halls knows how to captivate people without going over the top in boundless pages of scene setting. The book is called Mrs England but in reality, this is the story about 2 women. We follow their present whilst their disturbing stories becomes apparent as both women grow from under their subversive and controlling past (and present). Ruby May is a wonderful character who recalls what her principal told her "..The child's mind is a material more precious than canvas, more exquisite than marble". The book reveals some beautiful examples of how Ruby goes about teaching these 4 children in her charge - their development as precious as a canvas. As a reader, you admire her courage, strength, devotion to care, teaching and love for humankind. Mrs England, starts as an unwelcoming, distant and unloving character even to her own children. Not wanting to spoil for people who haven’t read the book. You will want to follow her story. The only slight criticism I would have is the author could have created more menace with the Greatrex family, having introduced us to some intriguing yet unpleasant characters. The Greatex family could have but did not add much to the story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    Stacey Halls is a marvellous author of historical fiction. I’ve read each of her novels and loved them fiercely: The Familiars, The Foundling, and now, Mrs England. I found this to be quite an empowering read, to be honest, and I admired both Ruby, the main character, and Mrs England herself, who we get to know through Ruby’s perspective. ‘There were so many things I wanted to ask her – what Mr Sheldrake put in his letter; why her husband locked her in her room. Why she had such disdain for her e Stacey Halls is a marvellous author of historical fiction. I’ve read each of her novels and loved them fiercely: The Familiars, The Foundling, and now, Mrs England. I found this to be quite an empowering read, to be honest, and I admired both Ruby, the main character, and Mrs England herself, who we get to know through Ruby’s perspective. ‘There were so many things I wanted to ask her – what Mr Sheldrake put in his letter; why her husband locked her in her room. Why she had such disdain for her entire family; why she was, as her mother put it, like lint swept into a corner, brittle and lonely. Why nobody came to the house; why she never left it.’ Ruby was a complex character with a complex history that was revealed in pieces. Mrs England was perhaps more straightforward, at the mercy of her family to marry well, as high-born women were, and then passed on as property to the husband of their choosing. At first, a wall existed between these two vastly different women, but slowly, as events within the England’s home became odder, and more sinister, that wall began to crumble. ‘For a long time I’d struggled with people’s sympathy. They would always insist on giving it to me, but it was so heavy, and I had no wish to be burdened with it.’ This novel is a brilliantly crafted story of that most insidious and vile form of domestic violence: gas lighting. Within this story, the author has demonstrated the wide reaching and cataclysmic effects it can have on an entire household. Mrs England is my highlight novel of the year, completely living up to my high expectations of Stacey Halls and topping even her previous two as favourites. I absolutely loved the way this novel ends for both of these women, particularly that very last exchange between Ruby and Mrs England. It doesn’t get better than this for historical fiction fans. ‘For the first time in my life, I was in charge, and I would savour every moment.’ Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of Mrs England for review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    For the most part this was a great read, spoiled a little though by a single scene if I'm honest. I almost gave it 3 and at one point was considering a 2 due to the telling and timing of that scene. But in the end Stacey managed to sail it back to enjoyable and deserves a solid 3.5 stars :) I found the location and description of the England's house to be dark and desirable, and Stacey kept the atmosphere tense which I liked. If only that scene could be have been better :( Will try another of hers For the most part this was a great read, spoiled a little though by a single scene if I'm honest. I almost gave it 3 and at one point was considering a 2 due to the telling and timing of that scene. But in the end Stacey managed to sail it back to enjoyable and deserves a solid 3.5 stars :) I found the location and description of the England's house to be dark and desirable, and Stacey kept the atmosphere tense which I liked. If only that scene could be have been better :( Will try another of hers though. Enjoyable. 3.5 stars.....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    I think this is my favourite Stacey Halls book so far. I found the story really interesting, the characters well written and the atmosphere absorbing. It really captured the setting so well and was the perfect accompaniment while I was awake in the early hours. The story kept me guessing throughout and nothing was quite what I expected it to be. I really really enjoyed it and would absolutely recommend it.

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