Femantle subverts all your expectations in this mysterious historical fiction.
The Honey and the Sting is told from three perspecitves: Hester, Hope and Felton. The year is 1628.
Hester is a young mother who lives with her son, Rafe and her two sisters: Hope and Melis. Rafe’s father is George, a duke who has the ear of the King, who had forced himself on Hester. The Duke decides he wants to take his son to court, even though he had previously had no contact with him. Hester refuses to let this happen and she takes Rafe and her sisters away to a secluded lodge for safety.
Hope, the youngest of the two sisters, tells her side of the story. She is young and desirable and is finding her feet in the world of romance and sexuality. Melis, the middle sister, is plagued with visions of the future, and although her sisters dismiss them as dreams, they plague them also.
Felton is an injured Lieutenant and an ex-lover of the Duke. Felton is employed by the Duke to retrieve Rafe and deliver him to court. He is also instructed to kill the sisters and destroy some incriminating letters that would show the Duke as a traitor.
With the help of Ambrose, a Doctor and father figure, the sisters have to keep Rafe safe from Felton, even though they don’t know he’s already in their midst.
Sometimes the beauty of a novel’s plot is in its simplicity. A character wants something to happen and another character does not, plot ensues. In this Hester, who speaks from the first person perspective, does everything that any mother would do to protect her son and her fierceness grows throughout the novel. I loved Hester’s voice and I loved the plot, there were absolutely no holes, everything was tied up perfectly and I really loved that.
Melis, with her visions and general weirdness, is an interesting “fantasy” addition to the novel, she adds a supernatural perspective that isn’t too over the top.
My favourite sister was Hope, who brought an interesting perspective to the novel. As Hope discovers her sexuality it’s clear that there is something more to one of her friendships. I liked how her innocence was written, but I do think that (being it 1628) her feelings for the same sex may have confused her a little more than they seemed to.
Felton, the only male perspective, was such and interesting character and for me made the novel. It must have been really interesting for Fremantle to write from the perspective of a character who is morally corrupt, even if he was being used by the Duke. You half like Felton and half loathe him. I loved his arc and his secrets.
The Honey and the Sting is an action packed, mysterious page turner. The only thing that I wanted more of was the historical elements of the time, maybe we could have even had more of George’s perspective, but that didn’t take away from the beauty of the words and the fluidity of the plot.
Thank you Michael Joseph for the ARC!