A Book of Secrets by Kate Morrison

Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you to Jacaranda Books for a stunning hardback copy of the book to read and review.


A Book of Secrets tells the story of a West African girl hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses.

Susan Charlewood is taken from Ghana (then known as Guinea) as a baby. Brought to England, she grows up as maidservant in a wealthy Catholic household. Living under a Protestant Queen in late 16th Century England, the family risk imprisonment or death unless they keep their faith hidden.

When her mistress dies Susan is married off to a London printer who is deeply involved in the Catholic resistance. She finds herself embroiled in political and religious intrigue, all while trying to find her lost brother and discover the truth about her origins.

The book explores the perils of voicing dissent in a state that demands outward conformity, at a time when England is taking its first steps into the long shadow of transatlantic slavery and old certainties about the shape of the universe itself are crumbling.

A Book of Secrets gives a striking new perspective on the era and lets one of the thousands of lost Elizabethan voices, speak out loud.

My thoughts:

This stunning historical fiction novel features a strong young woman. Taken from her birth country as a baby, Susan initially grows up as the companion for a young lady before tragic events change the course of her life again. Having been secretly brought up in the Catholic faith, she finds herself in London, helping a printer produce illegal documents supporting the Catholic faith, whilst searching for the brother she thought had died years earlier.

This book is beautifully written, bringing to life an era where secrets were kept to protect lives and religious beliefs. Quickly I was hooked into the story, as Susan dealt with the many challenges in her life. Having grown up in a manor house in the country, we find out how different living in London is for her.

Susan has to keep adapting to her different roles and to deal with her losses. Having the house searched for ‘illegal’ printing, the threat of torture and public execution and having to pretend to follow a different religion were a daily occurrence for Susan.

This is a no spoiler review, so I’m going to avoid discussing any more of the story. However, this is a book I’m happy to recommend to readers who enjoy historical fiction (although you may prefer to skip a couple of pages about the public executions if you are squeamish). This is a cracking debut novel, full of detail and emotion and I look forward to reading more from Kate Morrison in the future.

Author Bio:

Kate Morrison is a British debut novelist. She studied English Literature at New Hall College, Cambridge and worked as a journalist and a press officer. Morrison was mentored by Ros Barber, the award-winning author of The Marlowe Papers and Devotion. She was a visiting scholar with the Book, Text, and Place 1500-1700 Research Centre at Bath Spa University. Kate Morrison currently lives in West Sussex with her family.

Kate Morrison is available for interviews, features and events across the UK

Contact Jazzmine Breary: Jazzmine@jacarandabooksartmusic.co.uk or Tiffany Cook: tiffany@jacarandabookartmusic.co.uk

By Karen K is reading

An avid reader from the age of 4. Love escaping into a good novel after a busy day working with students. Mum of teenagers. Adopter of dogs.

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