The Familiars by Stacey Halls
In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
The Familiars is set in Lancashire in 1612. It revolves around the life of Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her young midwife Alice Grey. Fleetwood is feeling the pressure to provide an heir, at only 17yrs old and with three stillbirths. It is a stifling pressure that consumes her every waking moment.
Fleetwood lives at Gawthrope Hall, with many staff to attend to her every need and a loving husband Richard. But these bring little comfort to her when she discovers a letter predicting her death, in a future child birth…
It is during one of her long walks around her estate, that she stumbles across Alice Grey. A chance meeting that’ll change both of their lives. Whilst Alice promises to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby and survive. Fleetwood is also aware of recent assumptions of witchcraft across Lancashire…
‘The Devil only appears to those he recognises to be his servants’
Whilst news of the witchcraft spreads across the county. People come forward to point the finger at others in their community and sometimes women they personally know. It isn’t long until several women find themselves under arrest.
But are they really practicing witchcraft?
‘The King is not a supporter of women trying to make their way in the world’
Fleetwood feels the authorities breathing down her neck and questioning Alice’s role in her life. Can Fleetwood help Alice survive the accusations and in turn give birth to a healthy baby and heir?
‘Women and cattle are very similar’
This novel is plotted around the real Pendle witch trials of 1612. Lancashire history comes alive on the page and makes for a cracking read. I look forward to future releases by this author, most definitely, one to watch out for! 5*