Set in eighteenth-century Spitalfields, London, Blackberry and Wild Rose is the rich and atmospheric tale of a household of Huguenot silk weavers as the pursuit of the perfect silk design leads them all into ambition, love, and betrayal.
When Esther Thorel, wife of a master silk weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel, she thinks she is doing God’s will, but her good deed is not returned. Sara quickly realizes that the Thorel household is built on hypocrisy and lies and soon tires of the drudgery of life as Esther’s new lady’s maid. As the two women’s relationship becomes increasingly fractious, Sara resolves to find out what it is that so preoccupies her mistress …
Esther has long yearned to be a silk designer. When her early watercolors are dismissed by her husband, Elias, as the daubs of a foolish girl, she continues her attempts in secret. It may have been that none of them would ever have become actual silks, were it not for the presence of the extraordinarily talented Bisby Lambert in the Thorel household. Brought in by Elias to weave his master piece on the Thorel’s loom in the attic of their house in Spitalfields, the strange cadence of the loom as Bisby works is like a siren call to Esther. The minute she first sets foot in the garret and sees Bisby Lambert at his loom marks the beginning of Blackberry and Wild Rose, the most exquisite silk design Spitalfields has ever seen, and the end of the Thorel household’s veneer of perfection.
As unrest among the journeyman silk weavers boils over into riot and rebellion, it leads to a devastating day of reckoning between Esther and Sara.
“With a richly detailed evocation of the era, including the shockingly grim life of the poor and the repression of women, this assured and multilayered historical novel weaves its own magical spell.” —Daily Mirror (London)
“The story is well written, and I empathized easily with the women concerned. I knew nothing about this period in our history and found it to be a totally fascinating read.” —Historical Novels Review
“Sonia Velton’s debut novel Blackberry & Wild Rose transports readers to eighteenth-century London, climbing into the garrets of the Huguenot households in Spitalfields to weave a complicated tale of class, betrayal, and the turbulent silk industry. As richly textured as the fabric brought to life on the looms of the journeymen and masters, Velton examines the role of women as wives, whores, artisans, adversaries, and, ultimately, allies at a time when their voices were often silenced. A compelling read.” —Jean E. Pendziwol, bestselling author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters
“Richly immersive, with a plot as finely detailed as Spitalfields silk.” —Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars
“Told in two distinct first-person voices, it is a glimpse into the world of the Spitalfields silk trade at a time when the working class was hard-pressed and a piece of silk was worth more than a man’s life. In Blackberry and Wild Rose, author Sonia Velton weaves a tale of secrets and yearning into a bittersweet but satisfying end.” —New York Journal of Books
Sonia Velton has been a solicitor in Hong Kong, a Robert Schuman Scholar in Luxembourg, and spent eight years being a full-time mom of three in Dubai. She now lives in Kent. Her first novel, Blackberry and Wild Rose, tells the story of a fictional household of master silk weavers living in eighteenth-century Spitalfields. The protagonist is loosely inspired by Anna Maria Garthwaite who was the foremost silk designer of the mid-eighteenth century and the title takes its name from an actual silk design. The novel was short-listed as a work in progress for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2015 and long-listed for the Myslexia Novel Competition.
Esther Wane is a British actor and voice-over artist. After a career in finance, she fulfilled a childhood dream of going to drama school in London, and her life as an actor began at age forty. She has a lifelong passion for literature and can often be found browsing bookshops during any spare moments. Wane enjoys taking her listeners on a journeys in time and space and bringing the characters on the page to life in their imagination. She lives with her family and collection of books in Hertfordshire, just outside London.
Shiromi Arserio is a stage actor, voice talent, and audiobook narrator from London. She holds a BA in theater from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. In addition to narrating dozens of audiobooks, her voice can be heard in documentaries, e-learning projects, and video games.