Black Lily is the tale of Zenobia, born into poverty but who married into wealth, and Lily, who was brought to London from the Caribbean on a sugar and slave ship as a toy for a rich lord. Their lives intertwine in intricate, often horrific, ways, and each woman has to discover how to help herself when her value is entirely decided by the men who control them. Lily is a driving force throughout Zenobia’s entire adult life in ways she never understands. Another woman, Lily’s maidservant, Agatha, is yet another link between the three women, forging connections and bonds that will be strong enough to keep the darkest secrets they all hide from society and the men around them.
Set in the late 17th century, this novel has a lot of great potential. It started out really strong, with an outbreak of the plague, which is always a good hook for me. However, the novel frequently jumps between times, going from Zenobia’s earlier childhood to her married adult life, with no indication as to when this happens, such as giving a date with a chapter heading. It was quite difficult to keep track of the times, as well as shifting points of view, since this also changes from Zenobia to Lily. It takes a moment to figure out who is speaking at times because, for as different as their lives have been, Lily and Zenobia have very similar voices. However, the plot and how their lives continue intertwining with one another are truly intriguing. It shows how small the world is and how much our lives connect with others’, whether we like it or not. Though it was a bit disjointed, I would recommend this for readers who enjoy strong women surviving in a world that is very much biased against them.