A huge thank you to all the Amazon reviewers. You can read the full reviews at Amazon UK.
5 out of 5 Stars By B Reading
“This is a tale of mystery which keeps its audience on its toes… A thrilling tale which keeps the reader interested right until the very end.”
5 out of 5 Stars Dickens without the wordy parts by Dixie “Dixianne Hallaj”
“…The book is as descriptive of the time as Dickens, and is as exciting as Treasure Island. The writing has a feel of authenticity that draws the reader into the time and place, and makes the reader part of the chase. The characters are well-drawn and three-dimensional. I recommend this book without reservation, and look forward to seeing more from this talented author.”
4 out of 5 Stars Step into the Past by Bristol Book Blogger
“Whilst there are many aspects of this novel that draw you in to the engaging story, the best part of it for me was the vivid sense of the world in which it was set. We start in the midst of a play and move through the worlds of theatre, literature and publishing. There is a mystery which sends us to Bristol, my favourite section, because Bristol based author Lucienne Boyce paints a brilliant picture of my home town bringing the harbour area to life. Best of all is the apothecary’s shop full of bottles and jars. There are sea journeys and new lands to discover. There are contrasting ideas of the seedy side of a sometimes corrupt London and the promise of a more natural existence in the Fair Land of the title. The ending is enigmatic leaving you to question some of what you read before. A good read.”
4 out of 5 stars Transports you back in time! By Kathryn L. Wood
“Lucienne Boyce’s novel, To the Fair Land, does what good historical fiction is meant to do– it seamlessly transports the reader into another time without ever coming across as pedagogical or awkward. Her writing style mirrors the era of the late 18th century and feels as though it could have been written contemporaneously with the subject matter. She has mastered the ability to explain archaic terminology and situations by the context in which they are written rather than having clumsy asides to define them to the 21st century reader. As a writer, I was fascinated by the details of the literary world of 18th century London, and as a lover of mystery, I was kept busy turning the pages to see what would happen next!”
4 out of 5 stars An C18th mystery? An allegory of our times? An excellent read By Towse
“Most of the story follows the attempts of Ben Dearlove to find the author of a book,’An Account of a Voyage to the Fair Land’. Ben is a young man running out of luck, time and the allowance money of his father, a hard working apothecary who wants Ben to follow in the family business. Ben has the skills, but not the inclination. Perhaps like most young men in most time periods, he would rather make the quick buck, the ideal ‘get rich scheme’ as a result of another’s work or ideas. In this he rather comes unstuck, discovering that the road to easy riches is fraught with darker shadows than his innocent mind could have imagined.
Melded to this tale of dark capitalism is the equally thought provoking idea of what that capitalism would mean for the Fair Land, if, indeed, it does exist. Equally fraught for these capitalist explorers of the European C18th ‘Enlightenment’ is what exposure to another culture might do to the minds of ‘civilised’ Englishmen. In the end no one is without guilt and all are accountable.
What an interesting read, and I heartily commend Lucienne’s rich re-creation of the C18th world and mind. Bristol, London and the high seas all come vividly to life, as do the mores and cultural inhibitions of her characters, caught up as they are in the English class system and the hierarchy of government.
I don’t know if it was ever the author’s intention, but I was also left thinking what a clever allegory the story was for modern times as well. Watching the TV news I find it sad to see other cultures struggling to obtain the ‘luxuries’ of the ‘civilised’ west while they live in squalid shanty towns and have no fresh water. Does the possession of a big screen TV and a smart phone somehow make a person better than another? The presence of a McDonalds mean that they’ve ‘made it’ to ‘civilisation’. (What is civilisation anyway?) And yet this is the feeling I get as the ‘lie’ of western success spreads around the globe. But what will all us billions do when the power runs out and we can’t fly food across the globe?
Never thought an historical novel would make me contemplate the modern politics of the planet. Thank you, Lucienne.”
“In Lucienne Boyce’s historical fiction novel, To the Fair Land, Ben Dearlove has been given the gift of 2 years in London by his apothecary father to make his mark as an author. The Muse has been largely absent and time is running out. Six months remain of his agreed upon sabbatical.
He has promised he will return home to Bristol and join his father as an apothecary if he does not attain success as an author. The thought of Bristol and his father’s business is unsavoury, to say the least.
It’s 1789 and Ben is attending the play, The Life and Death of Captain Cook, with a friend. A woman seated to his right is making a spectacle of herself denouncing Cook, which is not well received by the audience. Fellow playgoers begin to threaten her and pelt her with fruit. Ben manages to drag her out of the playhouse and takes the distraught woman home to her foreign servant. Prior to fainting, she mumbles “Miranda” and “I don’t know where she is.”
Before he takes leave of the woman, he notices drawings of an exotic bird and expensive natural history books. Writing a restorative recipe for the servant to give the woman, he departs.
The following Sunday he receives a dinner invitation from Mr. Dowling, a bookseller of note, who regularly invites literary members to his home. It is an eclectic gathering united in one purpose: to gain a publishing agreement from Mr. Dowling for oneself. Mr. Dowling and company this evening, however, are focussed on his literary sensation. It’s a book entitled “An Account of a Voyage to Fair Land”, complete with illustrations, and is proclaimed as the “book of the century”. Much excitement and speculation ensues about the identity of the anonymous author.
Ben, curious about this sensation, visits Mr. Dowling’s bookshop and manages to snatch a copy. The bookshop is in an uproar with customers clamoring for copies. Ben, who is struck by the strange appearances of 2 men who look out of place in a bookshop, restores order and begins to read the opening chapter.
A sentence catches his attention:
“Such were the men who, many years ago but still in living memory, set sail from England in the Miranda.”
The name, Miranda, brings the woman from the playhouse back to mind. Ben flips through the pages to examine the illustrations of fantastical creatures and is brought up short when he recognizes an illustration of a wading bird. The woman he rescued had the exact drawing on her table.
Ben excitedly concludes the author and the woman know each other. He calculates that, if he can discover who the author is from the woman, Mr. Dowling will pay a fortune for the next book. Ben foresees an opportunity to reap a monetary reward from Mr. Dowling; an award that will permit him to stay in London and save him from the fate of being an apothecary.
Alas, Ben’s dream of instant financial freedom is doused when the woman disappears and he discovers the 2 oddball men from the bookshop ransacking her rooms. He overhears one say:
“Back to the office to see if His Lordship’s got any more orders for us.”
Obviously he’s not the only one seeking the woman. But who is “His Lordship” and why are the henchmen looking for the woman? A little more digging uncovers the men are possibly from the Admiralty. The question still remains why the Admiralty is involved. Ben conjectures the Admiralty and the ship Miranda must be somehow connected.
Thus begins Ben’s quest to discover the whereabouts of the woman and the reason for the Admiralty’s interest in her. The trail leads him back to Bristol. The road to easy money is riddled with many potholes, some deeper than others. Ben’s pursuit of the woman takes a sinister turn. Someone is willing to take any risk and commit atrocious acts to find the mysterious artistic woman.
Ben will question whether the fantastical is actually reality and, if so, does he want to be responsible for the repercussions that will inevitably ensue?
To the Fair Land was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Boyce takes the reader on an adventurous journey with Ben, an extremely likeable character. Mysterious abound, calumnies are committed, lives are forever changed and one young man must make a momentous decision.”
5 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book that gripped me from beginning to end By Mrs. Deborah Young “Young By Name”
“From the first page, this extraordinary book plunges the reader into late 18th century London and its theatres and coffee-houses and far beyond. For anyone whose impressions of that period have been largely drawn (as I confess have mine) by the dictionary episode of Blackadder the Third, To the Fair Land effortlessly supplants them with a much richer understanding of the age and its wider culture.
There are lots of different strands that make this a fascinating book:
1) The characters are well drawn, making the reader sympathetic to the obsessions that trigger the dangerous quest of the hero, Ben Dearlove.
2) The writing is masterful, weaving a multi-sensory experience of the many settings described. The reader is right there with the characters, immersed in the action like an invisible fly on the wall.
3) The settings are especially fascinating to anyone who has associations with London’s theatre land or the historic maritime city of Bristol and its environs or who is interested in England’s seafaring heritage. If this book is not already on sale in maritime museums in Bristol, London and beyond, it jolly well should be: it is a vivid education in what it was like to voyage in an 18th century ship.
4) Aspiring or established authors will find the bookselling and book production and distribution themes eye-opening – and it will make them thankful to live in in the age of digital printing and publshing!
But you don’t need to love any of its settings or themes to enjoy what is as thrilling and startling as any good detective story with deep human topics and values at its core. It puts me in mind of Conan Doyle in this respect: a stimulating chase that leaves you pondering on the human condition long after you’ve finished the final page.
Although this book was darker than my usual reading matter (and quite rightly so: there are too many serious issues involved for it to be any less dark), I really enjoyed it and will definitely be recommending it to others, as well as looking out for other books by Lucienne Boyce.
And don’t worry, it won’t make Blackadder the Third any less enjoyable!”
“At first I found the story to be lacking pace, but it was soon apparent that Lucienne Boyce writes in a style that makes you want to savour every word and the soak up the atmosphere created by her descriptions of the characters and their surroundings. As the story unfolds, you realise that the gentle pace is compelling and each new facet of the story creeps up on you, gripping your imagination.
Her research is flawless and she writes in a style that could have you thinking it was written nearer the time in which the novel is set, rather than 200 years later. Her characters are well formed, their human qualities and failings are revealed in rich detail and once their motivations are revealed, you will realise your initial preconceptions were completely wrong. The “big secret” will, I am sure, be a shock to many. It is a subject matter that is anathema to people at large – both in present day and in the past – but Lucienne writes it sensitively without losing any of the emotion such a controversial topic will evoke.
“To The Fair Land” is a truly breathtaking book that will surprise you.. The standard of the book, from start to finish, is superior to any book I have read this year. The collaboration of Lucienne Boyce and Silverwood Books clearly demonstrates that independent publishing can compete with mainstream and, in this case, surpass the expected standard by country mile.
I give “To The Fair Land” 5 Stars.”