A Divided Inheritance

Written by Deborah Swift
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

Set in Jacobean London in 1609 and then Spain, this book tells of both the fashionable lace trade and the religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in England as well as between Catholics and the Muslim Moors in Spain. It begins in London with Nathaniel Leviston’s lace business, in which he is helped by his daughter, Elspet. Her mother has died, but all is going well until Zachary Deane appears on the scene, purporting to be Nathaniel’s son. A ne’er-do-well, he quickly gains support from Nathaniel, who sends him on a Grand Tour to improve their business connections.  Shortly afterwards Nathaniel dies, and Elspet discovers, to her horror, that Zachary has inherited almost everything, even the house she lives in. She goes to Europe to find him and regain her inheritance.

This is a long book of over 500 pages, and I found it somewhat tedious. It took a long time to get into it, as it is very slow moving, although it did improve in the second half. The characterisation is not impressive, and I did not warm to either of the two protagonists. The historical research is good and detailed, but I felt that the author had tried to include too much, concentrating more on the religious conflicts of the day than the lace-making industry with which she begins the story. It was almost as if having done the research, she was not going to allow the reader to miss any of it.

This is the first time I have read this author, but I am not drawn to repeat the experience.