04 Jul The Fading of The Light by Charlotte Betts
Edith and her fellow artists in Edwardian Cornwall contine to draw the reader in
It’s wonderful to be part of the blogtour for a favourite author, and Charlotte Betts has certainly been one of my top go-to reads since I read The Light Within Us, my first introduction to the group of young artists who live at Spindrift, an old Cornish mansion left to Benedict Fairchild by his aunt Hester.
The Fading of the Light continues their story as Edith, her friends Clarissa and Dora, and their fellow artists pool all their resources to survive and thrive as a community, buying half the house from a now-absent Benedict and opening a gallery to sell their artistic pieces.
Though money is tight, and Edith has to paint every moment of the day to ensure her four young children’s security and well-being, they are a happy band. Pascal in particular, the French artist who comforted Edith when she first discovered Benedict’s philandering ways, has proved her strength and stay.
The story opens in 1902, as the country prepares to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. But there is little celebration at Spindrift when Benedict returns from London, having run out of money and friends.
Despite a less than warm welcome from the Cornish coterie, he demands that Edith let him back into her life and her bed – and when she refuses, threatens her with divorce and the loss of her children.
Somehow Edith must navigate the tricky path of placating Benedict while keeping the community strong and ensuring her children don’t suffer from their father’s selfishness.
Just when she needs Pascal most, she must distance herself from him, all the while keeping a secret that could destroy her settled life just as much as Benedict’s unwelcome presence does.
Against the continuing narrative of Benedict’s efforts to control and humiliate Edith – including bringing his mistress into their home – life goes on at Spindrift. But events will escalate till tragedy threatens to destroy the community’s contentment once more.
I think I enjoyed this book – which can be read stand-alone, even if you haven’t read the first in the series – even more than The Light Within Us.
A return to Spindrift meant a returns to old friends, and how good it was to see Clarissa, once tortured by her past, happy and settled with her daughter Lily, and ready at last to let love into her life.
Faithful Dora is now a very successful book writer and illustrator. But though she hardly realises it herself, something is missing from her life. Can she be content with her place in Edith’s family, or is there someone special out there for her, too?
Artists Maude and Mabel, Gilbert and Julia, Wilfred and Augustus, and housekeeper Hannah all add to the colour, light and noise that flow into Spindrift as the children grow and contribute their own small dramas to a narrative that celebrates the highs and lows of life in the generally happy commune.
Alongside the plot threads of Edith, Pascal and Benedict’s relationship, Charlotte Betts continues to explore the strong theme of the appalling lack of rights for women that existed in the UK just a century ago.
Despite being the wronged party, Edith is legally powerless in the face of Benedict’s threats to deprive her of a home and children, and must fight her corner tooth and nail in other ways. It means making sacrifices that Benedict, as a man, doesn’t even have to consider – he can have as many mistresses as he chooses, play his children off against their mother, and drink his money away, secure in the knowledge that the law will always be on his side.
Meanwhile, Edith must balance the material needs of the children with their emotional ones, all the while having to distance her own feelings for Pascal, her one true love.
But as always, she stands strong and true, in her own way a feminist before her time, determined to protect her rights against the man who has exploited her heart, her talents and her goodness.
The story also explores another strong theme – that of forbidden love in Edwardian Britain. Not only can Edith and Pascal not be open about their relationship – Augustus and Wilfred keep secrets, too. And while lesbian relationships may not be illegal (because what man could imagine a woman would prefer another woman to him), any hint of it would cause a scandal for Spindrift, already regarded as a hotbed of immorality by some in the neighbouring community!
It’s the balance of strong themes like these, a charming linear narrative, superb characters and a plot that drives the story on that makes The Fading of the Light such a wonderful, evocative read.
Charlotte Betts has just sent the third and final book in the series off to her publisher – how I wish I could sneak into their offices to read it – be sure when it comes out, I’ll be shouting its praises, just as deservedly as I’m doing for this one.
Published by Piatkus on 2nd July 2020 | Paperback | £8.99 | eBook and Audio available
Thanks to Piatkus and Francesca Best for inviting me on the blogtour. Catch up with the rest of the tour by following the links on the poster
About the Author
Charlotte Betts is a multi-award-winning author of romantic historical novels and draws inspiration from the stories of strong women at turning points in history. For more about her books and to subscribe to her mailing list visit www.charlottebetts.co.uk.