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Review | The Fair Botanists

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

by Sara Sheridan

Published : 5th August 2021

Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton

Format : Kindle, Audio, Hardback

Genre : Historical Fiction

{ ๐š๐: ๐ฉ๐ซ ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐๐ฎ๐œ๐ญ / ๐ ๐ข๐Ÿ๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐š๐ซ๐œ }

* All words highlighted in Grey are affiliate links to either purchase from a range of sellers or links to the authors sites. Where ever possible I will try and provide different versions of the book on all purchase sites.


Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's aunt Clementina, she's determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant's impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don't last long in this Enlightenment city . . .

And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.

Thank you @Hodder&Stoughton for this beautiful read

My Review

The story begins in Edinburgh, 1822. A town that is at the cutting edge for the time with new ideas and innovations a plenty. Grander, bigger homes are being built to create a more modern way of living and the dark cramped terraces of the old are being left behind.

Mr McNab runs the beautiful Botanical gardens, he and the whole town are eagerly awaiting the flowering of the rare Agave Americana Aloe that is set to flower, an event which only ever happens once in a century. All this towns buzz is also sparked by the frantic plans that are being made for the rumoured visit of King George IV. It is a very exciting time.

Elizabeth is a newly widowed woman, desperate for a new and happier life, she arrives at the home of her late husbandโ€™s aunt, Clementina. It isn't long before she is drawn towards the stunning lure of the Gardens and, having a fascination with flora herself acquires the position as the flowerโ€™s official portrait maker.

Belle Brodie is a glamorous courtesan who hides a secret passion for perfumery through botany. She is determined to create the perfect love potion that will earn her a fortune and secure her future that is as far as she can get from the men who use her body.

Both women form a friendship that is encouraged by the feelings of freedom and change and both see the Botanical Gardens as a way of escape, one a happier life, the other a chance to change who she is and live free of financial restraints, but when secrets come to the surface and their truths are revealed, they both realise that equally large consequences are going to have to be paid.

It seems like an unlikely gathering, the Gardner, the courtesan, the widowed wife, all wanting something from this special and rare plant. The question is, will they get what they desire?

Why I Loved It

I absolutely loved this book. The story was so atmospheric and its description made me feel like I was transported back to 1822, in amongst the hustle and bustle of change.

The characters are written to perfection, the friendship that is created between the two women literally crackles with possibility, which in turn makes you really feel for them and want the best outcome that they are desiring and I loved how both women were strong, intelligent and determined to change their futures even though they are living in a mans world.

A fascinating historical read, this one had me reading late in to the night, totally unable to put it down.




Buy from

๐Ÿ›’ Waterstones

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Meet the author

Sara Sheridan is a writer and activist who is interested particularly in female history. She has written more than 20 books.

Truth or Dare, her first novel received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire. Her novel On Starlit Seas, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize in 2017. An occasional journalist, Sara has reported for BBC Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent and on โ€˜being a ladyโ€™ for Womenโ€™s Hour. In 2019 Sara re mapped Scotland according to womenโ€™s history for Historic Environment Scotland โ€“ the resulting book Where are the Women was listed as one of the David Hume Instituteโ€™s Books of the year 2019. In it, she imagined several monuments to the witches.

Sara mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and has sat on the board of several writersโ€™ organisations. In 2015, Sophie McKay Knightโ€™s portrait of Sara garnered media and critical attention at the National Gallery of Scotland.


Connect with Sara




Books by this author

The Secret Mandarin

Brighton Belle

On Starlit Seas

I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on this review, if you have read this book why not drop me a line telling me your thoughts?


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