The Harlot’s Tale
Second in Thomas’ Midwife Mystery series, The Harlot’s Tale is set in York in 1645, a year after the city came under Puritan control. It’s a fast-paced tale that vividly depicts the hypocrisy of Puritan rule. The citizens chafe under the strictures of Puritan “godliness,” but when a fire-and-brimstone preacher comes to town with sermons that command the godly to cleanse the city of whores, misery turns to tragedy.
Lady Bridget Hodgson, midwife and gentlewoman, knows the prostitutes from delivering their bastards. When dead harlots turn up with Biblical verses in their hands, the “godly” are implicated as murderers, and Bridget’s powerful brother-in-law Edward wants only to avoid bringing shame on his faction. Bridget and Edward’s rebellious son Will work to bring justice to light. It isn’t clear whether in the process they’ll bring disaster on their loved ones and be bested anyway by the ungodly “godly.”
One of the book’s themes is how topsy-turvy social class has become in the Civil War. Even characters uninfluenced by this upheaval push the expected historical limits with close relationships – both domestic and romantic – between disparate social classes.