The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (first published in 2016 by Two Roads)

It is Georgian England and Anne Jaccobs is in her nineteenth year.

Currently, she is a wretched, unhappy creature. With a domineering and aloof father, and a sickly mother suffering the emotional burden of many a miscarriage, Anne is unused to peace. When her beloved baby brother dies, her final shred of happiness is lost. Try as she may, she cannot love her newest sister, his replacement.

It seems that happiness and love will forever evade her, and she stoically embraces this notion. That is, until she sees Fub, the butcher’s boy, as her nurse and cook refer to him. Anne is immediately and irrevocably smitten, and the attraction is mutual. She is hooked.

However, this perfect relationship is flawed in that Fub is below her station, and Anne has been promised to another, older suitor. Yet Anne is a passionate, dedicated and at times scarily focused young lady, and will not let these trifles stop her. Her decision to be with Fub regardless of the costs is the instigator of an obsession; none shall stand in her way, and if she needs to dirty her hands to attain her goal, so be it.

The Butcher’s Hook is a beautiful ode to the classic Gothic romance. A consuming passion is overshadowed by a dark intensity, in which Anne is both villain and heroine. Further true to the Gothic romance genre, Anne’s is a love story steeped in destruction.

Her actions are irreversible and damning, and yet her complete immersion in another blinds her to her wickedness.

A truly riveting story, The Butcher’s Hook is a masterpiece and deeply addictive. The reader mirrors a degree of Anne’s obsession in the following of the story, so powerful is its pull. Hers is a refreshing and yet vintage love story, Janet Ellis has a gift, and we can only hope to see more of it.

I cannot praise this book highly enough, it contains everything I love about the dark depths of an unconventional romance with a powerful female protagonist. Finishing this book left me feeling bereft, I give it full marks.

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