Lying with Lions
by Annabel Fielding
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app
To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add firstname.lastname@example.org as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 21 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2021
Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit - and into the clutch of their ambitions.
They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail - and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch - the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen's plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice...
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 140 members
I haven't read a book set in Edwardian England and I was intrigued to learn more about that era. I was pleasantly surprised how much I loved this story and the characters that permeate through the pages. Agnes job is to catalogue the Bryant family and when she discovers a dark secret who will she tell? or will she keep it under wraps? Agnes decides to help them and then this becomes so much more than just a job. An intriguing and well thought out story that has a mixture of history, secrets and mystery. I really enjoyed it and felt I learnt much more about the Edwardian Era than I did.
Thank you to NetGalley and KDP for allowing me to read this ARC!
Content Warning: death (including that of a child), murder, arson, rape, sexual assault, misogyny.
Agnes Ashford has been taken on by the prestigious Bryant Family to work as an archivist. When she happens upon a piece of information that reveals the dark underbelly of the secretive family, it only leads her deeper into their thrall. It doesn't help that she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the charming Lady of the house, Helen, who is as equally beautiful as she is ruthless. If only Agnes knew just what this treacherous path would lead her to...
Darkly luxurious, teeming with secrets and malice, Fielding's Lying With Lions kept me enthralled until the very end. As someone who is a huge fan of historical fiction, I was only too glad to pick this one up, especially when I realized that it was a turn of the century Gothic. I've never read any Fielding's other books, although I've had a few on my to-read list for many years now, and I'll certainly be diving into them now!
In essence a character study, we follow the reserved, cunningly smart Agnes as she climbs through the ranks, making herself an invaluable tool for Lady Helen. Both of them are fascinating, oftentimes downright Machiavellian in their scheming, and it's these two that truly bring the the novel into vivid life. There's also Meredith and Harold, Lady Helen's children, who are equally interesting and show us the true dysfunction of the family through their eyes.
Funnily enough, the main criticism I have is that I actually think this could have benefitted from being longer! It's only around 230 pages, not very big at all, and while I think usually books need things to be cut or pared down, it was the opposite in this case. We skip ahead a few years several times throughout, but I would've liked a couple more chapters for each time span. I think that, with a bit more material, the relationship that blossoms between Helen and Agnes would've been even more engrossing and well-fleshed out.
I also must mention that Fielding has a truly beautiful way with words. Some of her descriptions are just absolutely gorgeous, and I loved feeling as if I were actually transported back to Edwardian England. I think some might, like myself, be a bit confused by some of the politics of the time (for example, there's a lot to do with Asquith, Home Rule and arms trades) but don't let that daunt you! Once you get fully into the novel, everything comes together, and you might end up learning more about the time, just as I did!
This was a great book the plot and all. I really loved all of the vivid description and I felt I was transported to England. The characters were all really interesting and i loved seeing it through their eyes.
This was a really interesting read! Felt like a blend of gothic, historical, and murder-mystery.
It's about Agnes Ashford, an archivist who gets involved with the Byrant family and their secrets, including working down in tunnels filled with mysteries and past secrets the Byrants would rather stay hidden.
The book has some pacing issues but that is likely due to the political aspects of the book not quite capturing my interest enough - others might really enjoy this section, in fact, especially as it's very insightful. The family dynamics are tense and engaging enough for me to stay hooked amidst the political drama.
The romance between Agnes and Lady Helen is dark and at times quite tense, but in a fantastically written way; it's layered and intelligent and I don't want to spoil anything but the build-up to the end is nicely done, and makes so much sense for their characters and relationship.
This was a really enjoyable read! I felt that both the plot and characters were interesting and well developed enough to almost transport the reader into the story with them. Would 100% recommend this book to some of my friends who I know would really enjoy this kind of read!
"It is our choices that make us what we are, day after day, not some kind of structure of our hearts predetermined centuries ago."
Agnes Ashford, in need of a secure job, finds herself as the new archivist of Lord and Lady Bryant, organizing and cataloging all of the various family heirlooms, left to rot in the basement. There, she discovers a letter that suggests that the death of the Bryant's first born son might have been more than it seems, leading her to the conclusion that Lady Bryant is being blackmailed. Agnes offers her help, entangeling her fate with Lady Bryant's in a journey through England and Europe in the Edwardian era.
First of all, this story is incredibly well researched and the descriptions of all of the time period specific clothes, furniture etc. make it easy for the reader to imagine the story and the era it's set in.
However, as someone who has no idea about all things Edwardian politics, there were times in the novel were I felt a bit lost, especially because there are big jumps in time (about one or two years), leading one political intrigue right into the next without enough time to properly connect these events to each other. This could have been an opportunity to add about 30 to 50 more pages into the narration, without it feeling to long or to clustered.
Secondly, due to this being a story of multiple years, you can see how all of the characters choices develop over the years and how one thing leads to another into tragedy. (That's why the jumps in time make sense, there could have just been a bit more information in between.)
Overall, I loved the character development, specifically the way that Agnes' and Lady Bryant's relationship evolved over the years all the way to the fabulous ending!
I wouldn't recommend this to someone who's just looking for a queer love story, but I would definitely recommend this to anyone who's looking for a historical fiction that doesn't shy away from showing the deep, dark truths of living, especially as a (queer) woman, in Edwardian era England.
Trigger Warnings: death of a child (off page, in the past); rape (off page); murder (off page and on page); suicide (on page); abortion (off page)
An unusual time period, but really works for this historical novel.
Felt a bit Agatha Christie meets Sarah Waters for all the right reasons. Loved Helen and Agnes' relationship too.
Agnes really changed my perceptions of her as the book continued and I found her particularly intriguing.
Lots of characters that add to the plot and the small time hops are also interesting,
Its packed in so many things that it felt pacey and kept my attention throughout,
Good to see LGBTQIA representation in this type of novel- not enough in my opinion.
A wonderfully written read, very enjoyable.
I intend to avoid spoilers.
I received this book from NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review!
Let me say this, from the first page I was blown away by the care the author took to details. Whenever you tackle historical fiction it's important for the author to try and remain true to the time they are depicting--this one a gem from the start. Fielding described the Edwardian era vividly.
The story follows Agnes Ashford, who's been sent to the Bryant family to trace their family tree and keep order in their family's timeline of events. As she tours the tunnels below the large estate, she begins to uncover strange happenings and secrets that the Bryant family would like to leave uncovered....and the plot thickens...
*Cue* dead son...but did he die the way they said?
Along the way, Agnes gets entangled with the lady of the house, Helen Bryant. They engage in sharing secrets and then an affair. I did expect a touch more romance, but I still enjoyed it.
At first, I thought Agnes was this "goodie goodie" character, but as the book moves on Agnes becomes much more and resembles the morally grey characters we all love.
My only complaint was pacing. Sometimes I wanted more in chapters or for the story to slow down rather than jumping in progression.
I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, mystery, LGBTQA+
Thank you to NetGalley and Anastasia Rydaeva for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TW: rape, child death, murder
Lying with Lions is a gothic historical novel with a Wuthering-Heights-esque energy. Our Main Character Agnes, a Woman pushed from a well-off position in life by the debt and alcoholism of her Father, is an Archivist for the Family of a Baron. It is her job to comb through and sort hundreds of years of letters and documents the family has been collectiong in the expanse of tunnels under their estate. This endeavour opens up possibilities for Agnes as she discovers secrets long-forgotten or put to rest. When the Baron is poisoned, the estranged Son to be contacted and the Lady of the House in need of companionship and counsel, Agnes is close at hand. So begins a tale of love and lust, of greed and servitude, of guilt and betrayal. So begins the tale of Helen and Agnes.
This book grabbed my arm and wouldn't let go. The way it was written kept me hanging on to every word. The imagery was rich, the storyline flowing. The Characters were fleshed-out, their motives clear where they needed to be and unclear when it was better. If you are a fan of morally grey characters, then this book (and this genre) is for you: the multidimensionality of horrible acts and unjust justification of inexcusable acts were expertly displayed.
I particularly enjoyed the sapphic romance. It was, as romances often are in gothic fiction, not a healthy relationship dynamic. However, watching the development of the relationship, the waxing and waning of love and resentment side by side, was very enjoyable. I did think it felt a little rushed in the beginning, though this is ultimately forgiveable given how much I loved the rest of the book.
Beware the ending, it will destroy you. Also it was amazing and inevitable and fitting. All roads lead to rome and all.
If you loved Wuthering Heights and the Bridgerton Series, but wish they were sapphic, then you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend.
This review will appear on my instagram @/flybybooks on 13.06.21
Readers who liked this book also liked:
Thomas Ran Garver
Martin M. McShane