Our Little Life (Silence And Shadows Book 2)

Written by Dodie Bishop
Review by Fiona Alison

Set in the 1670s, during the hedonistic reign of Charles II, The Other Side of Silence introduces Susannah, a talented portrait miniaturist; Raphael, an Italian jeweller; Sam, Charles’s agent to France; and Noah, a successful shipping merchant.

Bishop’s characters are plausible and vulnerably human, her descriptions of time and place vivid without ever becoming unwieldy. As would be expected, a multitude of other characters are introduced, including Charles’s mistresses, Noah’s sons, Susannah’s family in England, and Raphael’s extended family in Italy. The first novel ramps up with Sam accused of murder and sentenced to a treasonous death. Unravelling the story behind the story becomes the purview of the other main characters, and the intrigue reaches the highest echelons of power, with connections to a previous secret marriage of Charles II. Book two takes us primarily to Jamaica and the West Indies, with detailed descriptions of geography, weather, island trade, slave markets and plantation life, as the families search for Susannah’s kidnapped daughter, and culminates in an attack on Sam by his enemies. Book Three takes us to Italy, where Sam looks to his family for protection.

This is a family saga, which may well have a further sequel but the books don’t stand well alone. There’s great appeal for readers of romance, both heterosexual and gay, whose interest lies in slow-burning sagas, lots of time to endear oneself to the characters, and juicy family drama, but where events do little to drive the plot forward. Bishop uses first-person point-of-view chapters for Susannah and Raphael and third person for Noah and son, Hal, so I didn’t always remember who was speaking, especially when there wasn’t enough action to remain immersed in events. However, the banter between Raphael and his assistant, Giuseppe, is to be savored, and the author notes are fascinating.