#SPFBO Review : Ten Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales #2) by Olivia Atwater

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Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is nearly complete and team LB=TC(Lynnsbooks and the Critiquing Chemist) will be posting final reviews for the semi finalists before making a finalist announcement this forthcoming Saturday.  This week I am therefore aiming to post my thoughts on the three SF’s put forward by my teammates.

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Today I am reviewing my final book for Stage 1 of the competition and I have to say this is a great note to end on.  Ten Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales #2) by Olivia Atwater is a positively charming Regency Romance that uses inspiration from two classic fairy tales to bring to readers an unlikely romance  and a little social commentary regarding the period all tied together with a dollop of humour.

Stitches is the second book in the Regency Faerie Tales series but for the record I am given to understand that reading the first (which I’m sure the author would suggest is a prodigiously good idea) is not absolutely essential in order to enjoy this one.  That being said, having had such a good time with this particular story I’m quite up for a return to the earlier book that started the series.

So, as the story begins we meet Euphemia Reeves (aka Effie). Effie is an overworked and underappreciated maid at Hartfield House.  Like the rest of the staff they play a constant second fiddle to the whims and ill nature of the Lady of the house who at best is completely oblivious to their existence and at worst, when they do garner notice, are usually the recipient of a tirade of abuse or a well thrown object.  Effie is about to fall hopelessly in love with Mr Benedict Ashbrooke who has just returned to the family home following his tour of Europe.  After unwittingly treating Effie as a human being rather than a strip of wallpaper it’s inevitable that she will develop feelings for him – although maids simply don’t marry the gentry – or perhaps they do if they find themselves their very own Faerie Godfather.

I will say that although romance isn’t really my ‘go to’ in terms of  reading I would practically snatch your hand off if you mention the words ‘fae’ or fairy tale retelling – those two phrases for me are like (insert your very own form of catnip here) – they’re like ice cream on a hot day.  Refreshing, delicious and so many flavours to choose from.

So, here we have a young housemaid, fingers worked to the bone who makes a deal with one of the fae (tut tut – don’t we all know how tricksy the fae can be?).  Well, that’s something that Atwater managed to subvert a little.  Yes Effie made a deal but the fae in question (one Lord Blackthorn) knows little of humans and their ways and is interested in learning more, so although he strikes a deal with Effie it doesn’t have terrible consequences should she fail to meet the terms.  In fact it’s this lack of knowledge or understanding of human ways that leads to the amusing misunderstandings that usually result whenever Lord Blackthorn tries to help.

I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot.  This is a regency romance with comedy value that takes snippets of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and weaves them into a new pattern.

The characters were enjoyable and easy to get along with.  I was a little puzzled by Effie and her unexplored ability to manipulate feelings by either sewing or singing.  I would be interested to see if this was explored fully or is Effie’s story now complete?  Regardless, this particular ability served to stir the feelings of the household up into something of a frenzy which added weight to the plot.

The world building sticks mainly to the countryside and the family home with a few little jaunts (for example a particularly memorable visit to the world of the fae in search of some very special material).  This is another twist on the original tales.  Effie is given two gowns but rather than rely simply on the beauty of the dresses these items are magically imbued to influence the people around her.  The period here is one where the time of families running extensive family estates is coming to something of an end.  Diminishing wealth makes running such estates costly in the extreme and corners are cut in order to make ends meet – inevitably the corners being cut only serve to exacerbate the hard times of the serving staff while the Lords and Ladies of the manor try to keep up the pretense of wealth.

I thought the writing evoked the period well and can genuinely say this was a very quick and easy read.

In terms of criticisms, I felt like the ending was a little rushed and it lost some of the comedy value for me. I think in a way there is an element to this that puts me in two minds.  There is the fun regency romp and the idea of providing a deeper look at some of the social divides of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that this story looked at some deeper issues but, I think it needed a little more length in order to do so. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker though.

On the whole I had a good time with Ten Thousand Stitches and would happily continue with the series to see what the author comes up with next.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.