Garlands of Gold

Written by Rosalind Laker
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

Set in 17th-century Rotterdam, this is the tale of Saskia, a lady’s maid to a wealthy merchant’s wife. Saskia’s real talents, however, lie in creating unique and flattering beauty products; the secret recipes for which she has inherited from her French mother. When she meets Grinling Gibbons, the only son of her mistress, she falls head over heels in love with him. Grinling, who is already gaining an impressive reputation as an artist, is completely unaware of her feelings. His friend Robert Harding, however, is not so unappreciative or unaware. Soon after Grinling decamps to England to further his career, an opportunity comes for Saskia to settle in the same country. In England, Saskia develops an increasingly prosperous cosmetics business. While she wins in business, she loses in love as Grinling marries another. Nobody can cure her of her love, or is there one man who has the courage to fight for her?

This is a tale of talent and perseverance overcoming obstacles of class, nationality and jealous enemies. While the main characters are well drawn and there is a strong sense of place, Garlands of Gold does suffer from an occasional overdose of historical information when a lighter touch would have sufficed.