The Girl from the Tanner’s Yard

Written by Diane Allen
Review by Jasmina Svenne

Flirtatious tanner’s daughter Lucy Bancroft aspires to something better than the grinding drudgery her mother endures, raising too many children with little money. She jumps at the chance to work for Adam Brooksbank, owner of Black Moss Farm, who has recently returned from the Crimean War to confront his tragic past. But will class differences and the machinations of others prevent love from blossoming?

This is the author’s ninth novel, but it reads like a debut. The plotting is episodic, with one threat to the protagonists neutralised before the halfway point and then another dealt with so quickly that the last quarter of the book becomes an anticlimax. Villains are much talked about, but rarely seen in action, thus robbing them of their menace. Dialogue consists of characters making long speeches at each other, which are answered point by point, as if the listener had a checklist. Research comes in clunky information dumps and isn’t necessarily accurate or relevant. (Crimea is not in the Balkans. Clergymen didn’t christen dead full-term babies, so are unlikely to have insisted on christening foetuses too young for their gender to be identifiable. We are told there are impoverished Irish migrant workers in Keighley, but the only Irish characters in the book are cameos of Patrick Brontë and his son-in-law Arthur Bell Nichols.)

Every point is laboured – a character decides on a course of action; tells at least one more person about their plan (twice or thrice); carries it out, before discussing it (repeatedly) with other characters. The central characters are fairly well developed, though there are occasional inconsistencies. For instance, Lucy always comes across as self-assured – until she decides she lacks self-confidence in comparison with another female character. I suppose saga fans may enjoy this undemanding read, but I found it rather dull.