Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 by Julia Herdman is historical fiction and a twisting love story set in Georgian England, a setting I’ve come to enjoy from the mysteries written by William Savage. The author did not disappoint with this first outing, and I look forward to more from her.
Sinclair begins with two disparate story lines. Edinburgh surgeon, James Sinclair, is leaving England as well as his beloved, a woman he feels is out of his reach in society, to make his fortune with the East India Company. As a surgeon, Sinclair was educated in a medical school in Edinburgh, learning to perform surgeries, and trained in obstetrics. The ship on which he sails runs into a ferocious storm and founders on the English coast. Only he and Captain Frank Greenwood, who is overseeing a company of British soldiers deployed to India, survive the shipwreck. Both return to London shaken and adrift in their lives, both needing to find a way to support themselves.
The second story line begins in a Yorkshire farmhouse, where John Leadam and his mother, Charlotte, are mourning the sudden death of Christopher Leadam, a surgeon at Guy’s Hospital in London who, together with his wife, ran an apothecary on Tooley Street. Apothecaries at that time were not legal practitioners of medicine but had the drugs to treat people who could not afford a physician. Charlotte, as a woman, could not continue to run the apothecary without the onsite presence of a physician. John was his father’s apprentice, hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps. Now their lives are also adrift. Charlotte has no idea how she will support herself and her son, other than moving back into her parents’ upper class home. She dreads being married off by her mother, who disapproves of her deceased husband, to a wealthy, older man.
Gradually the lives of Charlotte, John, and Sinclair begin to interweave, brought together by Charlotte’s brother-in-law, who happens to be Sinclair’s lawyer. The book is interesting on many different levels: the plight of women and their utter dependence on men in Georgian society; the practice of medicine at the time; social customs; and the growing attraction between Charlotte and Sinclair and their off-again, on-again relationship. The author does not shirk from some of the more distasteful details of Sinclair’s dalliances nor the results of typically unprotected sex: disease, pregnancy and death.
There are many colorful characters to draw the reader, and the author does a perfect job making them memorable. The historical background is wonderfully detailed, as is the medical scene in London, evidence of the author’s interest in the medicine of the time. There are love affairs with twists and turns, villains and saviors, passion and politics – in short, everything needed for a great read.
The author was inspired to begin writing The Tales of Tooley Street series by a real family of apothecary surgeons, the Leadams, who lived and worked in London there from the late 18th century to the mid- 19th century.
I highly recommend this book: five stars. Rosie AmberRosie Amber
5.0 out of 5 stars Sinclair 9 May 2017
By Kindle Customer – Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The writer has done considerable historical research for this story, which takes into account how people actually lived in early 19th Century London. and how social customs and norms of those times shaped the position of women in that society. Its a love story with some surprises around a central male character called Jamie Sinclair. This is volume one, with more in the series to come, which I am looking forward to reading.
This book is superbly written and pulls the reader right into 18th century life! Truth be told, I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but Sinclair has changed that for sure! I was fully immersed in this tale, and have recommended it to all of my friends & colleagues!C.Miller
It took me three days to read “Sinclair” and I have to say that the book grew on me, and I really enjoyed it. The protagonist of this book, the eponymous Sinclair is a handsome young Scottish doctor who, after being shipwrecked on his way to India to start a new life, finds himself in London working at an apothecary’s shop owned and managed by a young widow. He gradually establishes himself, tending to rich and poor alike, making friends and becoming happier and more settled. The main plot is complimented by minor characters and subplots which wind in and out of the main plot with such skill that it is a delight to read. Period details of contemporary medical practice, society’s mores and expectations, politics, fashion, food and travel are sketched in detail, drawing the reader into an utterly believable world. The plot is seamlessly combined with events drawn from history and melded so that the action absorbs and delights the reader, as the narrative proceeds at a lively pace, evoking the sights, smells and flavour of Georgian life.
The story unfolds with plenty of twists and turns: love, betrayal, disappointment, misunderstandings, births and deaths, creating a novel peopled with believable and vital characters whose footsteps the reader eagerly follows. Congratulations to author, Julia Herdman. I look forward to reading the next volume!Annabel from Malta
5 stars – I loved this story, the main characters had real depth and drew me into their stories but the supporting characters are also well developed and contributed to the story rather than leaving you with the feeling that they were there just to fill space. The hero wasn’t stupidly heroic and that just made me route for him more. Also, despite not being a historian the descriptions of the medicines and practices of the day reminded me a lot of my visit to the hospice in Bonne and appeared to be realistic without being boring as technical descriptions often are. I can honestly say I’m looking forward to the next book in the series when historical romance isn’t usually my favourite style of book – this could be the start of my conversion.An Amazon Customer
5 stars – This novel appeals on several levels. The characters are great and as their stories unfold you want to find out more. The author reminds us how life and society treated women plus how basic medicine was at the time. I got completely absorbed in this historical romance and look forward to the next one.Sue G, UK
Sinclair is a wonderful book! Well written so we get to know each character in the story, the time period even a little different reminded me of my beloved Barbara Cartland’s books which I loved! Sinclair was a very interesting character, loving yet not weak and somehow rather complex. All the characters are introduced in a timely manner so we get to know them all and their purpose in the story.Marie-Eve Carpenter
As a debut novel, Sinclair boasts the musical language of a practiced craftsman. The characters are vibrant, each man and woman is lovely, but terribly complex. Although it is fiction, the struggles of the human heart are illustrated with great care. James Sinclair is driven by his need for acclaim, only to discover that the love of a good woman suits him fine. Charlotte Leadam is a hard-headed widow, sure she will never love again, only to discover that she has the heart for new romance. The sinking of the Sherwell, a ship from the East India Company’s fleet, sets off a tale about the human capacity to make mistakes, to love the wrong people, and to ultimately find forgiveness in seemingly impossible circumstances.
I was enraptured by the multitude of plots that intercepted each other with grace. Much in the same style as the prolific Diana Gabaldon, Herdman made true on her statement to write stories of love while simultaneously introducing characters and story lines one after another. Written in third person omniscient, the reader is privy to the internal turmoil of all the characters, eliciting, for me at least, a strong affinity with the honorable Frank Greenwood, James Sinclair’s loyal companion. Although the novel is entitled after the dutiful doctor from Tooley Street, Herdman divides her attention among his friends, his relatives, and the neighboring English milieu. I was surprised that she had not elected to tell the tale in first person, but I was pleased with the final product nonetheless.
In conclusion, the story moved at an easy pace, made all the more enjoyable by Julia Herdman’s humor and her careful execution of historical fact telling. I can easily see how further stories may be written to expand on the lives of minor characters like Lucy and the rest of the family at Beverly, Connie and her new role as wife and mother, and William’s crush on Alice. All in all, it’s safe to say I’m in need of book two!Kailey from Maryland
I enjoyed the history of the book and the main characters and their interactions with each other and I found myself cheering them on for various reasons. I was a bit confused at beginning of book, which is typical when I first start a book but I enjoyed the way the characters lives entertained me and the culmination I was what I was hoping for. I loved the historical references to the apothecary and the surgery and medical issues of the period as well as social issues. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to more.Debbie, USA
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