Review - The Trouble with Mrs Montgomery Hurst by Katie Lumsden

Katie Lumsden was in my Bath Spa Creative Writing MA group, and I’ve always loved her writing, so I was delighted to receive a proof copy of her second novel. Her HWA Debut Crown shortlisted first novel, The Secrets of Hardwood Hall, has been described as ‘a love letter to Victorian fiction,’ something about which Katie knows a huge amount, as you’ll see if you take a look at her booktube channel.

I should say that historical fiction isn’t usually high up on my ‘must read’ list, although I do enjoy alternate history and historical fantasy. This book, however, is one of those compelling reads which you can’t wait to get back to every time real life forces you to put it down. It’s one of those books that plays on your mind once you’ve finished, making you wish there was more left to read. It covers what could be familiar ground for historical fiction – wealth or the lack of it, social class, marriage prospects – but in fresh and surprising ways. Some characters don’t fully conform to the social norms of the time, but the author doesn’t try to pretend that those norms didn’t exist, or that the characters could break free of their restrictions by sheer determination. One of my favourite aspects of the book was the way various characters found a way to an accommodation with their circumstances, while still holding onto the most important parts of themselves.

The prose is flawless, and the author handles her large cast with a deftness of touch that is evocative of Jane Austen. I think this book will establish her – deservedly – as one of our best historical fiction writers. Oh, and I’m very much hoping for at least one sequel. I think the seeds have definitely been sown…