The Companion

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

It took a while for me to really understand what was happening in this book. It had strong characters and a strange storyline. I did persevere and finished the book but I don't really know if I did enjoy it Sorry.
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Unfortunately this just wasn't for me.... 
Although written well, it was a bit too dark for me, personally.
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Count the bodies.
One. Two.
Three if we count Mary Dawson.
Four if we count my Ned, who breathed and suckled three days and nights before succumbing to the augue.
All blamed on me.

I am not a thief though I have stolen.
I am not a murderer though I have killed.

Lucy Blunt has been found guilty of a double murder and is awaiting her death sentence to be carried out. During the last week leading up to her hanging, we find her reflecting on the bits of her life that paved her way to this present moment of imprisonment and imminent death. But how much of her musings can we trust to be an authentic version of her innocence?

The strength of this book is in the writing. It is a character driven book, and the gothic and gloomy atmosphere of the setting plus the pace of the book works well to portray the ambiguity and suspense surrounding each character . I was really drawn into this book and Lucy's character. Lucy isn't a saint but she is a survivor.....she has had to learn to be a survivor against her will from a very young age and you can't help but sympathise with her. Despite her best intentions with regards to people and life, she always finds herself in situations which can be best described as 'in the wrong place, at the wrong time' has just not been fair to her! It's ironic that the only people who show her any kind unconditional love, respect and acceptance are the ones she befriends in prison....a place that boasts the worse of mankind is the place where Lucy is finally made to feel human.

My thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union publishing and the author Kim Taylor Blakemore for giving me an e-Arc of the book.
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A surprising love story that broke my heart. Wonderful writing. A different and interesting plot. I found the characters dark and mysterious but well developed. The plot jumps around a bit so its not a light read. I quite enjoyed this book! 4 stars
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Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a copy of this book to review !

The Companion
by Kim Taylor Blakemore

It took me some time to get into this story and I put it away to read a couple of other books before giving it another chance. I am so glad that I did,  once past the first 30 pages the story had me hooked. 

Set in nineteenth century Virginia, leading character Lucy Blunt takes on a job as a maid in the Burton household. A position that had recently become available due to the untimely and unusual death of the previous maid. Lucy along with a few other members of the household have secrets they keep  carefully hidden. Initially, Lucy seems indifferent to most situations and isn't that likable but once the reader learns more about her back story a certain understanding of her personality is realized and she becomes a more amicable character.

The story alternates between past and present. The setting is described as rural and depressing during a long harsh winter in the the Burton house and in the prison in which Lucy is waiting for her hanging date to arrive. The author has a great descriptive ability, I felt chilled for almost the entire read.

This is a well written, intelligent novel reminiscent of “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood. For readers who enjoy 19th century mystery/fiction this is an excellent book. Just stay with it in the beginning, it is well worth it.
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I will say, at first this book reminded me of quite a few others. After a few chapters, it still did, but I didn’t care. 

Quite a few books deal with females who are facing the death penalty, and have their backstory told through a series of flashbacks. This one does have a bit of a twist and can stand on its own merits. 

In The Companion, our main character Lucy has had a rough go of things. Her childhood was difficult, she’d been betrayed by men, and faced horrors that I would wish on no one. She’s also painted as not exactly coming though those things with her right mind, so as the reader you aren’t quite sure what to think of the world through her lens. 

I enjoyed this read, and I’m grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read and review it.
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This is an interesting offering by Ms. Blakemore that held my attention throughout. It is 1855 and we retold a story of a young woman, Lucy Blunt, who is about to be hanged for a double murder. I am all for unreliable narrators, and I think Lucy is definitely one of the best I have met recently. We learn only what Lucy wants us to learn, which I find interesting as it leaves a lot to my interpretation of the character.The idea for the novel is not unique, still I think Ms Blakemore managed to write an interesting and atmospheric novel which I recommend.
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A full, more thorough review will be posted on by 2-16-2020

Lucy Blunt sits in a dark, dirty, wet prison cell waiting for her doom. While sitting there, she is visited by a man who wants to hear her story. He feels pity for her and brings her treats that she refuses to eat. When not in her cell, she helps with the laundry, working with the Matron and couple other women. Her story switches between the past leading up to her trial and the current moment. The jumps in time can be a bit disconcerting and jarring at times without any real hint to when the time jump takes place. Her story is a slow burn, but pay close attention. There is more lurking in the shadows than meets the eye at first. Her story is a dark one filled with so many sad moments in her life leading her to her present situation, but there are also moments of beautiful bright colors of moments of stolen joy.
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In this atmospheric historical suspense/ women's lit novel we find Lucy Blunt sitting in prison awaiting her hanging while reflecting back to how she got there. Set in 1855 New Hampshire and alternating between past and present (sometimes confusingly), this well paced tale featuring an unreliable narrator keeps you guessing as to what her crimes are, if she did them and will they lead to her demise. 
If you like atmospheric period pieces with a dark gritty setting I think you'll enjoy this one as much as I did.
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The companion by Kim Taylor Blakemore
Lucy Blunt tells her story as she awaits her date with the gallows but can we believe her version of events? Lucy is funny, resourceful and quick to take advantage of any opportunity that comes her way. Set in New Hampshire during a cold winter in the late 19th century did she commit the murder of her mistress? The story has mystery, betrayal, forbidden love and murder at its heart. You have to have sympathy with Lucy but at the same time, her constant watching over events and people to gain advantage adds a more realistic view of the events. Just how many people did she kill was it one or two or no one? You will have to make your own mind up. Lucy has had a hard life, lost her baby and was mistreated by others .We can’t blame her for trying to improve her lot in a world controlled by rich men. Blakemore writes with sympathy and draws a harsh world for us to view. This is an excellent read by an accomplished writer. You will want to read her other work.
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“The Companion” is about a maid set to be executed for double murder and her reflections on the events which led up to her current situation. As she looks back on her days working on the Burtons’ mansion, we discover a tangle of secrets and a love affair which triggered a jealousy that sets into motion a series of betrayal.

The first part of this book reminds me a lot of Jane Eyre except that instead of Mr. Rochester, it was with Bertha that Jane had a romantic relationship with. It has the same gothic feel to it and the dialogues between the characters have a subtle quality in it which invites the reader to read between the lines.

The story mainly revolves around the women in this book and the complexities surrounding their relationship with each other. And I love how their interactions felt tender but at the same time there’s a hint of suppressed intensity in it which puts into mind a taut string that’s about to snap at any moment.

All throughout the book, there’s a constant tension buildup leading up to the question of whether the main character, Lucy, would actually hang for the crimes we’re not sure she committed. However, at the few chapters where the truth was finally revealed, it kind of felt a bit anticlimactic because I’ve already predicted what happened beforehand.

Moreover, even though the writing was captivating and beautiful, I was often confused and disoriented with the time shifts since the story was told in alternating timelines of present Lucy in the prison and past Lucy working as a maid. The reason for this is that there’s no definite partition or cue whenever the time shifts so it took me a while to get used to it.

All in all, I find the book good especially the first part of it and I would recommend it to those looking for a gothic mystery story with LGBTQIA+ characters.
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The atmosphere of the novel is almost gothic as New Hampshire experiences one of the bleakest and most bitter winters as Lucy competes with the companion of the lady of the house to win her favours. The slow build up of secrets, betrayals and lies is well written and I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing who died until late in the book. As the narrator, Lucy's character was well developed as events are seen through her eyes, but I would have liked to have got a better feel for both the lady of the house, Mrs Burton and her companion. Overall, an atmospheric, haunting tale of secrets and jealousy.
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To be honest I just didn’t like this book. I tried so hard to but about a third of the way in I stopped reading. It could not hold my attention and I had to put it back down. Maybe eventually I can go back to it and try again but to be honest it’s just not my kind of story. The timeline and the servants. This was not for me. I’m so sorry but I have to skip this one for now at least.

I can’t say I recommend it but also can’t say I don’t. I leave that up to the readers as we all like different things. I’m sure others will love it. Just not me.

Thank you to #NetGalley, #LakeUnion, for this eARC.
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I was given an eARC of this book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. 

This one was a ride, folks! I started and finished it within a few hours, because I just could NOT put it down. You know that if I stayed up until midnight, it was a good book, because I like my sleep. It was a fairly easy read, maybe except for the flashbacks not necessarily being denoted. I had to try and figure out whether we were in the jail cell with Lucy or if we were hearing how she got there. It disoriented me a bit, but didn't take away from the story as a whole. 

I love historical fiction. And women murderers intrigue me, so this was right up my alley. At first I was fully convinced that Lucy was a murderer and that she was probably a sociopath, but as I got further in, I started to feel sorry for her. She was definitely an unreliable narrator, but like so many other women of her time, Lucy was stuck dealing with a life she was handed because of the things that men did to her, rather than any decisions she made on her own. 

This book definitely makes you think long and hard about the death penalty. Lucy is awaiting her own execution, which she knows will be by hanging. There are people who are trying to get her execution stayed, not because they think she is innocent (as a matter of fact one of the people working to keep her alive hated her), but because they do not think that women should be subjected to death, because they are women. I guess that's score one for women of the times? 

If women murderers and unreliable narrators are your thing, check this book out. It was published earlier this month, so it's available in stores and online!
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This is a portion of the full review on my blog
I will be honest and tell you this straightaway. ‘The Companion’ is a good story but it will not leave you feeling good. And I don’t think the author Kim Taylor Blakemore wrote the story with the intention of giving us any ‘good feels’.

No. The author intended to make us reconsider our own discernment of right and wrong. Who will you blame when it seems like everyone is a victim?

Psychological thrillers are light reads…..said no one ever. ‘The Companion’ does not let you settle into a sense of comfort.

Even though it is not initially apparent exactly how and when the story is going to drop the thunder on you, there is always a sense of foreboding that hangs over every page. The author has been quite astute about creating an environment that does not let you forget that the story started with a death.
As I mentioned before, ‘The Companion’ is a good story. It is an exploration into the nature of love and the limitations posed on it. In essence, ‘The Companion‘ will always be a story of women and the blurred lines between their love and hatred.
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In 1855 rural New Hampshire, Lucy Blunt is a servant in a rich household that revolves around the beautiful, blind, capricious, and laudanum-addicted mistress, Eugenie. Lucy's attraction to Eugenie is quickly reciprocated, a circumstance that elevates Lucy from kitchen maid to formal companion – displacing Eugenie's previous companion, Rebecca – as their relationship becomes sexual. But Lucy has secrets she can't afford for either Eugenie or the jealous Rebecca to find out, even if she could be certain that Eugenie loves her rather than only using her as a temporary distraction. To complicate matters, the entire story is being told in flashbacks as Lucy sits in jail after being found guilty for murder – though who she murdered, and why, and under what circumstances, and even if she is actually guilty, are all questions left unanswered until the climax of the novel.

First things first: The Companion is extremely similar to The Confessions of Frannie Langton . We have a maid in love with her mistress, whose habit of consuming laudanum makes her emotions and actions unpredictable; the maid ends up accused of murder; the story is told in flashbacks, coaxed out by a lawyer or journalist as the maid waits in jail. Both use the plot to comment upon the sexism and classism of the mid-1800s, though The Confessions of Frannie Langton also has a lot to say about racism, while The Companion brings in the issue of abilism.

To contrast them, The Confessions of Frannie Langton makes excellent use of gothic horror tropes to serve new, anti-racist purposes, while The Companion is more straightforwardly historic-fiction in style. On the other hand, I thought that the characterizations were stronger in The Companion, particularly Lucy's fellow servants, such as the motherly but proud Cook. The emotional relationship between Lucy and Eugenie also worked much better for me than the one between Frannie and Marguerite. But both books are gorgeously written and handle their chosen social issues with care and insight.

It's hard to complain about too many thoughtful lesbian historical murder mysteries! It's the genre I've always wanted and never knew existed. Read these both!
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Dark And Depressing Period Accurate Love Story. This is a seemingly period accurate story of the travails of one woman circa 1855. Told in dual timelines of her time in prison awaiting execution for certain crimes and the tale of how those crimes came about, the overall tone here is fairly depressing but an overall intriguing read. (And at least the second story of this type set as historical fiction Lake Union has published in the last few months.) Set mostly in winter, this is a near perfect deep winter fireside read. Very much recommended.
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I'm giving this one three stars. With it's dark undertone it wasn't what I was expecting.
I was expecting a historical book about a woman who goes and becomes a companion to a woman.
Well it was that but oh so much more.
The dark undertone really brings the whole book down, accused of murder she runs away to start a new life as a companion and you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Working your way through the book you can feel her fear as she waits to be hung for her possible crime. Dark ......... talks of poisoning,drowning,killing of an animal though it doesn't go into detail.
Very surprising ending I didn't see coming either.

Published January 14th 2020 by Lake Union Publishing
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
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In the same vein as Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, we meet a young woman, accused of a horrible crime, but even when she begins to tell us her story, we can only help but wonder just how innocent and truthful she really is. Kim Taylor Blakemore delivers with The Companion. Set in 1855 New Hampshire, The Companion, follows Lucy Blunt as she is set to hang for a double murder. However, as readers, we are kept in the dark as to who she is actually accused of killing and the events the led up to the murders.

Instead, we spend the novel feeling tense and isolated as the story of Lucy Blunt unfolds. She is a sheltered servant who is spending a winter at a remote estate-- the Burton mansion-- which is almost as cold and isolating as the winter. Lucy arrives at the estate with a fake letter of reference in pursuit of employment. She is taken in by the Burtons and quickly develops a close bond with Eugenie Burton, the lady of the house who is also blind and hyper-aware of her surroundings. This happens in part because her companion, Rebecca, a rather insufferable woman, falls ill early on. When she recovers, there is a clear jealousy between the two women over the affection of Eugenie. This is further fueled by the ideas of class and placement in society-- Lucy is just the kitchen help, who is she to be favored by the lady of the house?

The tension is further fueled by the nuances of a lesbian relationship that begins to unfold in the house. The sex scenes are there and they are not graphic or out of the blue. They align with the overall gothic feel of the book and lend to the tension and bleak excitement of the story. Overall, a solid read that will keep you guessing and immersed in the world of 1855 New Hampshire and the gray winter that surrounds and lends to the emotions of much of the novel.

Book Information
The Companion by Kim Taylor Blakemore was released on January 14, 2020 from Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542006392. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.
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I really enjoyed this novel. Lucy Blunt tells us a Gothic and slightly claustrophobic tale of a winter spent as a servant in a remote house in New Hampshire. Lucy is our narrator and from a cell, where she awaits her execution for double murder, we hear the circumstances that lead to her arrest. She protests her innocence, but we all know narrators can be unreliable, and Lucy may be keeping things from us. 

The winter is bleak. Lucy is a housemaid for Mr and Mrs Burton. When Mrs Burton’s companion, Rebecca is inexplicably locked outside in the cold, she is taken ill and needs to be replaced. Lucy begins to enjoy her new place in the house. Mrs Burton is blind which adds to the claustrophobia. The descriptions of how she does things show just how vulnerable she is, even though she prefers to manage by herself. I loved the vivid descriptions like Mrs Burton’s embroidery with all the vivid silks and how she manages to use them. The relationship between the two women develops into a friendship, despite their different positions, so when Rebecca starts to recover tension builds. Although we learn a lot about Lucy, the other women are not quite as well developed and I kept finding myself wondering about their emotions and motivation. 

My attention was kept throughout, and I loved not knowing who Lucy was accused of killing till the end because it kept the tension. I would recommend this to people who enjoy historical fiction as well as mysteries like I do.
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