The Honey and the Sting

Written by E. C. Fremantle
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

Set in England in 1628, this book presents the lives of three sisters living on their own with the small son of the eldest girl. When in service, Hester had been raped by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, then was cast aside and left to raise her son, Rafe, alone. The second sister, Melis, claims to see visions. The youngest one is Hope, and their father is the local doctor who had left home one morning to visit a patient, taking the groom with him. Melis predicts his death, and this prediction is proved true when the groom returns with the doctor’s body. The years pass, and then George Villiers decides to claim his son. This is something Hester must prevent and, with the help of a friendly neighbour, she takes Rafe and her sisters north to a lonely house in the woods in Shropshire. What follows is George’s attempts to regain his son and Hester’s attempts to stop him.

The story is full of action, and the pages turn easily. The characterisation is good, and readers will become fully involved. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which gives an excellent account of social life in the early 17th century. In real life, George Villiers had also led several failed military campaigns; he was unpopular with those he was supposed to lead and was eventually assassinated in Portsmouth. Readers unfamiliar with his life will find it well worth reading the author’s notes before picking up the book. It is a very good read, and I thoroughly recommend it.