The Merest Loss

Steven Neil

Cover for The Merest Loss by Steven Neil
Historical Romance
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris. When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

Welcome back to another week and another book tour! This week’s book had me a little stumped as I thought there’d be more direct political espionage happening throughout the book. Yet it felt more like a biography of a political mistresses life.

At the start of parts 1 and 2 the book is written from Tom’s point of view about a young man named Martin coming to meet with him about solving an old family mystery. At this stage I was thinking we’d be reading about the espionage as Martin discovers more about his family mystery. However I was quickly proven wrong in the second chapter when we swapped to Harriet’s life when she was still a child. The biggest thing that annoyed me about this change was that it was then written in 3rd person. So even though we still find out what people are thinking, or feeling; it felt awkward to me swapping between these writing styles throughout the book.

Once I got a couple chapters in I adjusted to the 3rd person style and found it easy to read and quite enjoyable as we read about Harriet’s various adventures and exploits. We learnt about her acting career, the move into the political world, working to make herself independent financially. And I can only imagine how hard that would have been, especially as she needed to have a guardian in order to do so.

As I was reading about Harriet’s life I was trying to figure out the answer to Martin’s family mystery. I was also conscious of how Steven wrote Harriet’s story to leave the options open so it wasn’t easy to decide. But there were a few clues that I missed that would have given me the answer I was looking for if I had have been paying attention that were then explained in the 3rd part of the book.

When I did reach that critical part of the book I was left feeling a little bit silly for not having picked up on the clues because in hindsight there were kinda obvious. Once I got over feeling silly at myself I then started wondering what could be left to tell? Was the story turning into more of a biography than a mystery? Would Harriet finally find happiness that she’s been longing for all this time?

Right up until the end of the story Harriet fights for what she wants and needs from life and that is such a true reflection of real life. In real life we all (at least I THINK we all go through this…) struggle to balance work, family life, social life, sleep, hobbies and the gym. Personally, I know I really struggle with this and it often feels like I’m on one of those merry go round things at high speed just waiting to be thrown off. So for Harriet to mostly make it through everything she had pushing on her and everything she was trying to juggle is amazing. Kudos to her!

I hope you enjoyed this weeks review, and I look forward to seeing you next week for “Daisy” by Karen Botha on another Book Tour. Continue reading further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.


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