The Baker’s Sister

Written by Gracie Hart
Review by Jasmina Svenne

Leeds, 1898. After three years of hard work, Meg Fairfax has finally saved enough money to buy her beloved bakery. Her fiancé Frankie is keen to set a date for their long-postponed wedding, though he hasn’t confessed to Meg the precarious state of his finances. Meanwhile Meg’s younger sister Sarah is leading a hand-to-mouth existence mudlarking in London, too poor and too proud to come home and admit her mistakes and relying on young Cockney Sam for protection. Meg wants her sister home for her wedding, but as the date approaches, the questionable decisions of the men in their lives put both sisters at risk.

This saga is the third in a trilogy, and while it could be read alone, the interrelationships between the characters are more easily understood if you are familiar with their pasts. The female characters are fairly well developed, but Frankie, unfortunately, is such a flawed hero, with his extravagance and his late-Victorian attitudes to the proper place for women, that some readers might feel that Meg could do better for herself.

A lot of the dialogue is extremely repetitive, hammering home every point – that Meg misses Sarah; that Frankie isn’t business savvy; that various characters don’t approve of one another – so it gets a bit tedious and could do with one more edit to sharpen it up. I didn’t find the storyline concerning the venue for the wedding breakfast plausible, and the villain was distinctly one-dimensional. There are also minor blips. Working-class characters can and do speak of ‘learning’ when they mean ‘teaching’, but I doubt a middle-class character would do the same. Similarly, a Cockney prostitute uses the quintessentially Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire greeting of ‘Hey up’. The title is misleading, too, since the book focuses on Meg rather than Sarah. For saga fans only.