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REVIEW: The Maids of Biddenden by GD Harper @harper_author

I’m over the moon today to bring you a review of The Maids of Biddenden by GD Harper, an amazing, heartwarming and uplifting novel inspired by a real-life story, set in 12th century Kent.

Title: The Maids of Biddenden
Author: GD Harper
Genre: Historical Fiction
Estimated page count: 371
Formats available: Paperback & eBook. Available on Kindle Unlimited.
Rating:
 5*

The Blurb

‘There is no me; there is no you.
There is only us.’

The Maids of Biddenden is inspired by the real-life story of conjoined twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, born in 1100 into a wealthy family from a small Kent village.

Joined at the hip, the sisters overcome fear and hostility to grow into gifted and much-loved women – one a talented musician and song-writer, the other a caring healer and grower of medicinal plants. Entangled in the struggles for power and influence of the great Kent nobles of the time, they achieve much in their lifetimes and leave behind a legacy in Biddenden that survives to this day.

My thoughts

Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst are special. Born conjoined at the hip, for the first years of their life they are kept hidden away from view. But after many trials and tribulations they’re eventually released into the world; and what follows is a beautiful, amazing and heartwarming story. As the sisters get used to being different, and learn the ways of the outside world, they grow into amazing, independent, talented women. But it’s not an easy journey; along the way they experience love, laughter, heartbreak, companionship, disappointment, achievement and more….

As readers of my blog will know, I love a book set in Kent, so when GD Harper approached me to ask if I’d like to read and review The Maids of Biddenden, of course I was going to say YES! But this absolutely surpassed my expectations. I loved every second of this and genuinely felt like I’d been transported back 900 years…..

Mary and Eliza are amazing characters. They go through so much, but always pull together and make it through. Their bond is heartwarming, although frustrating for them at times; and Harper really brings their condition to life and the feelings they may be experiencing. Despite the fact that they are joined, they are very different and it was lovely to watch them learn how best to work together as sisters. The supporting characters in this are also amazing and highly believable. Some are wonderful in their support for the sisters, whereas others definitely don’t have their best interests at heart. These characters will bring out a range of emotions in you; at times I felt disgusted and angry at some of their behaviours which are highly likely at the time.

The setting is just wonderful. Harper really brings to life 12th century Kent; I felt like I was there with them, in the villages and on the road. Living in Ashford which is mentioned a lot in this, and living just down the road from Biddenden itself, it was fascinating for me to imagine people travelling to each village along the Roman roads – no A roads or motorways here! I was truly immersed in this every time I picked up this book.

The plot itself is brilliant. I loved how it progressed and developed and completely sucked me in from the very beginning. The story flows beautifully, the narrative is fluid and easy to read and follow. I honestly loved every second of this!

So if you’re a fan of historical fiction then you NEED to read this, it’s so good! Even if it’s not your usual genre, if you’re from Kent you will enjoy this transportation back in time. This is well researched, with a valuable note at the end of the book about the sisters and real-life characters. Honestly, this is probably one of my favourite books of this year so far! Highly, highly recommended by me!

about the author

GD Harper is a past winner of a Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Lightship Prize for first-time authors and longlisted for the Page Turner Book Award and the UK Novel Writing Award. 

His first historical novel, ‘The Maids of Biddenden’, has already been shortlisted for the 2021 Impress Award, longlisted for the 2021 Exeter Novel Prize, the 2021 Cheshire Novel Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Award, and was a 2021 Page Turner Writer Award finalist.

GD Harper will be doing a book signing at Biddenden Fete on the afternoon of Saturday 16th July 2022, so if you’re local and free then head over, meet him and pick up this amazing book.

You can also hear him talking about the Maids on BBC South East Today on 10th August at 18:45.

Finally, thank you so much to GD Harper for asking me to read this wonderful book and providing me with a copy. All views and opinions are my own, and are unbiased.

If you pick this up, get in touch! I’d love to chat about it.

Take care my lovelies, and I’ll be back soon.

Chelle x

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