My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 2 days
Pages - 368
Publisher - Head of Zeus
Source - The Works
Blurb from Goodreads
They say the girls were witches. But Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, is sure they were innocent victims...
Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene's Refuge for fallen women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges.
The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. But when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy.
Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. But Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play...
This is book two with the character Beatrice Scarlet, I hadn't read book one and don't feel I have missed out on anything by not having read it. Beatrice and her little girl have to move to St Mary Magdalene's Refuge for fallen women where she is promised a job and lodgings. Beatrice is drawn to helping the girls from their previous lives and has faith they can turn it around. A wealthy gentleman who supports the refuge takes the girls to work in his factory. When his latest batch flee after apparently conjuring up Satan and devil worshipping Beatrice feels something is horribly wrong and it isn't the devil!
Ooft this is not a book for the faint hearted, there is murder, sexual deviancy, sexual abuse, prostitution, faith, lies, love, relationships, family and that isn't covering it all! Beatrice is a fantastic character, remember this is set in the 1700s and here we have a very vocal woman, educated, loyal, intelligent and fearless. It is fantastic to have any book with a strong female character, Beatrice has already lost so much and now she is putting her life on the line for these fallen girls.
The healing part is really interesting too , she is an apothecary's daughter and finds more folk coming to her for remedies than the doctors. I loved her knowledge and the alternative healing options, I need to google to see how popular that kind of thing really was back then, I think it is really interesting. Some of the scenes are very graphic, sexual and disturbing so be warned if you are going to pick the book up, there is reference to animal cruelty also. If you can get past this or don't mind some very dark passages I think you will fully engage with this tale. Graphic, stomach turning, fierce, dark and a fantastic female character it has to be 4/5 for me this time. I do have another one or two of Masterton's books on my TBRM I do need to bump them up!