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In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas's remarkable debut, The Midwife's Tale It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas's remarkable debut, The Midwife's Tale It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer. Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who's far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha's past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city's most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther's murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.


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In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas's remarkable debut, The Midwife's Tale It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas's remarkable debut, The Midwife's Tale It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer. Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who's far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha's past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city's most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther's murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

30 review for The Midwife's Tale

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... Sam Thomas' The Midwife's Tale is the kind of book you never see coming. You pick it up on a whim and before you know it you've been up half the night with your nose stuck between its pages. It is the kind of book I love stumbling across. One my favorite aspects of this title appears in the Author's Note where Thomas' discloses the piece was inspired by the will of a real life midwife. His mystery is of course fiction, but T Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... Sam Thomas' The Midwife's Tale is the kind of book you never see coming. You pick it up on a whim and before you know it you've been up half the night with your nose stuck between its pages. It is the kind of book I love stumbling across. One my favorite aspects of this title appears in the Author's Note where Thomas' discloses the piece was inspired by the will of a real life midwife. His mystery is of course fiction, but Thomas' character was so vividly imagined, so tangible and authentic on the page, I just get a kick out of knowing she was based on someone who actually existed and commend Thomas for being able to so convincingly recreate the some of her spirit in his work. Of course, Thomas' ability to create such wonderful characters wasn't the only impressive feature of his debut novel. I was also struck by how well-written the book is. Often I come across writers who rely on shock and awe to keep the reader's interest but Thomas' plot has a fluid and steady rhythm I greatly appreciate and I am not used to seeing in unseasoned authors. An assistant history professor so it should come as no surprise that Thomas did his homework when it came to researching this piece, but what caught my attention was the manner in which he incorporated his research into the novel. There are no drawn out expositions in the book. No weighty passages stuffed with names, dates and trivia. Instead Thomas relies on subtle details to create a sense of life in the seventeenth century, things you hardly even notice as they are so appropriate to the telling they never disrupt the narrative. The Midwife's Tale is not the most complicated mystery I have ever read, but the book is certainly one of the most fascinating historic pieces I've happened across. A beautifully crafted story that isn't to be missed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Guy

    I wish this hadn't been one of the first books I'd read in the new year. No wait, not because it is so bad, but because it is so good. It has all the elements of a great historical novel, fantastic characters that are set in a wonderful backdrop of history, oh and the most important element, the ability to make the reader want to learn more about something in the novel, in this case the practice of the midwife. There was so much about this job that I learned about through this book. You might thin I wish this hadn't been one of the first books I'd read in the new year. No wait, not because it is so bad, but because it is so good. It has all the elements of a great historical novel, fantastic characters that are set in a wonderful backdrop of history, oh and the most important element, the ability to make the reader want to learn more about something in the novel, in this case the practice of the midwife. There was so much about this job that I learned about through this book. You might think that being a midwife is only about delivering children, but there is so much more to it, and that plays a huge part in the mystery of this story. Of course there's the civil war that's going on in England, and that also helps the action of the story move along. I don't want to give anything away, but I will tell you, that once you start reading this book, you won't want to put it down. There's more than one murder involved in this book, but the main one is the death of Stephen Cooper. I absolutely loved Bridget. Her way of thinking might seem a little modern for her time, but she was spunky and smart and knew her own mind. Her servant Martha is another wonderful character, because she's just so different. Both women were strong and unlike the women in cozy mysteries, neither did anything that you'd consider silly, in order to find the killer. This is definitely a book not to be missed!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rosina Lippi

    This is a well-written, carefully researched historical mystery. The English Civil War has put the city of York under siege, but babies are still being born and Bridget Hodgson, a midwife, must attend. She is also responsible for forcing an unmarried mother to identify the baby's father, and so she has developed some interrogation skills and insight into the minds of persons driven to the edge of reason. She has to draw on all her experience, understanding of politics and human nature, and consi This is a well-written, carefully researched historical mystery. The English Civil War has put the city of York under siege, but babies are still being born and Bridget Hodgson, a midwife, must attend. She is also responsible for forcing an unmarried mother to identify the baby's father, and so she has developed some interrogation skills and insight into the minds of persons driven to the edge of reason. She has to draw on all her experience, understanding of politics and human nature, and considerable intelligence when a friend is charged with murder and slated to be burned at the stake. Mysteries have never been my favorite genre, but this one was well done and insightful about the living conditions in England, as well as the complexities of the Civil War. It is also beautifully written. If you do like historical mysteries, this is a novel you should pick up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)

    Read This Review AND Enter For a Giveaway right here, On My Blog! 3.5 out of 5 Sam Thomas is a historian with a talent for the fictional side of writing, which is much to the benefit of his first novel, The Midwife's Tale. With a clever plot that will keep readers guessing about the culprit until the end, and with a keen eye for the details of the period, this is a book that will keep its audience more than entertained until the last page turns. Politics, misogyny, murder, history, revenge and lov Read This Review AND Enter For a Giveaway right here, On My Blog! 3.5 out of 5 Sam Thomas is a historian with a talent for the fictional side of writing, which is much to the benefit of his first novel, The Midwife's Tale. With a clever plot that will keep readers guessing about the culprit until the end, and with a keen eye for the details of the period, this is a book that will keep its audience more than entertained until the last page turns. Politics, misogyny, murder, history, revenge and love all collide to picture a time of civil unrest and personal uncertainty under the author's skilled pen. In the midst of a town under siege, in the middle of a war between England's King and it's Parliament, midwife Bridget Hodgson tirelessly works her trade for the better of all she knows. A novel that manages to keep the mystery element on par with the abundance of detailed information and period particulars, The Midwife's Tale is a worthwhile entry into the historical fiction mystery subgenre. Bridget is a complicated woman, and Thomas takes care to showcase many aspects of her personality. I did feel that some of the side characters were occasionally flat or one-dimensional in how they were presented during the narrative (particularly the minor antagonist of Tom), but I never got that feeling with main character Bridget. She has a past full of grief (that is slowly revealed to the readers and her story progresses), a stalwart and admirable dedication to her chosen profession, an ironclad sense of who she is and what she does, as well as refusing to be put in her place as a woman. I loved reading Bridget - she's feisty and smart and not afraid to get rough with others if she has to, and as she demonstrates more than once. No wallflower, Bridget faces life head-on and ready for whatever it - or anyone else - throws at her. Rather than enjoy life a wealthy widow, Bridget is the most talented and formidable midwife York has to offer. Her connections, amongst politicians, wives, gossip help to foster her investigative endeavors as well as flesh out the several minor subplots the novel contains. Her story felt natural despite its fantastical twists and turns, which makes sense as the author mentions in his interesting note at the end, her character was based on a real York midwife of the same name. As much as I enjoyed Bridget, Sam Thomas is at his best with describing the setting and the details it takes it create a vivid, real sense of place. The Midwife's Tale is without a doubt deftly written, as is Bridget, I was always excited to see what else Thomas would reveal about York, or about the role of a midwife in that time period. I personally hadn't read much about 1640's England (I tend to stick the the War of the Roses - Tudor dynasty in my reads), but this was a welcome introduction to a tumultuous and vastly interesting period for the English. The politics angle of the plot was well-handled; introduced neatly and so someone without a background in the area could grasp the subtle interchanges and what they meant for either side, it added an extra layer of tension to the goings-on, both for Bridget's investigation and for its more violent representation in the battle for York outside the walls. Fast-paced, engaging, and featuring a mystery with enough missteps and red herrings to keep the outcome a surprise until the grand reveal, there's a lot to enjoy about Sam Thomas's first foray into the historical and mystery genres. I can only hope the small hints of further investigation featuring Bridget and her Joan-of-all-trades servant Martha will result in at least one sequel featuring these two feisty women. Fans of historical fiction should pick this up for a fast, engaging read with a complex protagonist with a headstrong mind of her own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    "The Midwife's Tale" is a historical fiction/ mystery tale about Bridget, a midwife, who gets involved in solving a mystery while the English Civil War rages on. I usually don't read a lot of mystery books but between the intriguing premise and the great writing, this is one book that I dove right into. First off, I've read very few books about the English Civil War so this was new territory to me. I really think that Thomas did a great job of capturing the shear chaos of living in a place like t "The Midwife's Tale" is a historical fiction/ mystery tale about Bridget, a midwife, who gets involved in solving a mystery while the English Civil War rages on. I usually don't read a lot of mystery books but between the intriguing premise and the great writing, this is one book that I dove right into. First off, I've read very few books about the English Civil War so this was new territory to me. I really think that Thomas did a great job of capturing the shear chaos of living in a place like the city of York as well as the way day to day life was like in the city. Even with a war going on, people like Bridget still had to find a way to go about their day to day jobs. I loved Bridget's character. She's definitely strong. Whereas a lot of women during that time period would be sort of lost without having a husband who was alive, Bridget thrives as a midwife. I found the descriptions of all of the different people that she treated to be really fascinating. She moves between all walks of life as she goes about her work. I also liked the mystery in the book. Bridget's friend, Esther, is trying to convince Bridget that Esther is innocent and didn't kill her husband but the evidence is stacked against her. Bridget is compelled to get to the bottom of it. There were so many different twists and turns, which really helped me to keep reading just so I could follow some more clues. The mystery was great even for those, who like myself, don't usually care for mysteries. Bottom line: This book will appeal to both historical fiction and mystery lovers alike.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Bilyeau

    The Midwife's Tale is a rich and suspenseful read, with an unusual protagonist, a well-born midwife widow. She has a lot of layers to her personality, and while a strong and resourceful woman she is not perfect. The setting of the mystery, a town in the North of England in the fraught times of English Civil War, is original and fascinating. I was often surprised and intrigued by the plot twists. I highly recommend. The Midwife's Tale is a rich and suspenseful read, with an unusual protagonist, a well-born midwife widow. She has a lot of layers to her personality, and while a strong and resourceful woman she is not perfect. The setting of the mystery, a town in the North of England in the fraught times of English Civil War, is original and fascinating. I was often surprised and intrigued by the plot twists. I highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Gypson

    I don't think the jacket blurb does this book any favors by comparing Thomas to Arianna Franklin and C.J.Sansom. This is an adequate murder mystery with characters and a setting that show a lot of promise for future works - but this is not a book with the depth of other authors working in the field of historical mysteries. I was particularly struck by the strange pacing - the whole book seemed to fly by but the tempo was off. There was no build-up of suspense or careful tracking of clues. There w I don't think the jacket blurb does this book any favors by comparing Thomas to Arianna Franklin and C.J.Sansom. This is an adequate murder mystery with characters and a setting that show a lot of promise for future works - but this is not a book with the depth of other authors working in the field of historical mysteries. I was particularly struck by the strange pacing - the whole book seemed to fly by but the tempo was off. There was no build-up of suspense or careful tracking of clues. There was a flurry of murders and then a resolution. I picked up the book largely for its' time and setting - English historical mysteries are almost always set in London and since my ancestors lived in Yorkshire during this era, I thought it would be fun to read. Unfortunately, there was no real sense of place - just one awkward expository conversation when the two lead characters talk about the layout of the city. I was also interested in the concept of a mystery unfolding inside a city under siege and the tension between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces. An author like C.J. Sansom would know how to inject a lingering sense of dread in his characters and make the siege itself a character. There were large chunks of this book when the characters seemed to completely forget their own situation and then mention it out of the blue - as if Thomas suddenly remembered that he needed to keep that plot point going. As many readers have noted, the information about midwives is one of the more entertaining parts of the book and I enjoyed learning about this element of 17th century life. Thomas was also quite good at not making his lead character too modern - she often remarks in passing on beliefs and values that seem odd and outdated to modern readers. I don't think The Midwife's Tale is a bad book by any means but I certainly wouldn't encourage readers to seek it out when there are so many other good historical mystery series out there. Comment

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    I liked the characters and I liked the setting, but this book pissed me off. The amount of misogyny and classism ingrained in English society at the time was awful. I appreciate that the author was trying to stick to historical accuracy by writing a heroine that was strong-willed and independent but also tied to the prejudices of her time, but... it was just so frustrating! It almost makes me wish that Bridget was much more anachronistic. (Or that the book was from Martha's POV, since Martha see I liked the characters and I liked the setting, but this book pissed me off. The amount of misogyny and classism ingrained in English society at the time was awful. I appreciate that the author was trying to stick to historical accuracy by writing a heroine that was strong-willed and independent but also tied to the prejudices of her time, but... it was just so frustrating! It almost makes me wish that Bridget was much more anachronistic. (Or that the book was from Martha's POV, since Martha seems to know what's up and has long since said screw you to the church and the patriarchy.) As for the mystery, it was well-plotted but the resolution didn't feel satisfying to me. (view spoiler)[Two servants killed their abusive masters. I wasn't at all convinced that they deserved to die, despite the late attempt to paint them as crazed and bloodthirsty. What else would you have them do? Meanwhile, a bunch of other assholes got away scot free thanks to their rank. (hide spoiler)] I guess some of those characters will play a part in the sequels, but I don't think I'll read the next book in a hurry. I need a break from realism.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    England, 1644. While the city of York is under siege, Lady Bridget Hodgson, widow and midwife, learns that her good friend Esther has been wrongly accused and sentenced for the murder of her husband. Bridget believes that her friend is innocent, so she and her maid, the tough and loyal Martha, set out to find the real killer. I have been reading this book in bits and pieces every time I've gone to the bookstore, but when I saw there was a sequel coming out, I decided it was time to read it in it England, 1644. While the city of York is under siege, Lady Bridget Hodgson, widow and midwife, learns that her good friend Esther has been wrongly accused and sentenced for the murder of her husband. Bridget believes that her friend is innocent, so she and her maid, the tough and loyal Martha, set out to find the real killer. I have been reading this book in bits and pieces every time I've gone to the bookstore, but when I saw there was a sequel coming out, I decided it was time to read it in its entirety. The Midwife's Tale has everything I should love: a fascinating setting, interesting historical detail, and strong but authentic female characters. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time visualizing the setting, the politics bored me, and the characters were interesting, but not engaging. Maybe it's my current frame of mind or the teetering stack of books on my nightstand, but I am pleased to be finished and moving on.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caly ☯ Crazy Book Lady

    Fans of Veronica Speedwell or Mary Jekyll will love Lady Bridget and Martha. Earlier time period but no less enjoyable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Am I glad I finished this! This could have been better - The book blurb really made this to be a mystery and the time period of the 1600 seemed like a great choice but the reality was that there was no real mystery and the characters were boring and spiteful, the misogynistic culture was apparent from the beginning and all the way through the book and I ended up not caring for the characters or what would happen to them which leads to a downfall in my interest. I ended a lot up with a lot of disbe Am I glad I finished this! This could have been better - The book blurb really made this to be a mystery and the time period of the 1600 seemed like a great choice but the reality was that there was no real mystery and the characters were boring and spiteful, the misogynistic culture was apparent from the beginning and all the way through the book and I ended up not caring for the characters or what would happen to them which leads to a downfall in my interest. I ended a lot up with a lot of disbelief in midwifery every time I read a chapter, as Bridget the Midwife, becomes a minor sleuth throwing a title and weight around and essentially bullying her way through this book and story so the few times people actually went up against her, I cheered. I did enjoy the few history aspects, as Thomas describes in minor detail the setting and sets the story nicely within the 1600's creating a dark and dank time that should be explored more.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~

    2.5 stars I like historical fiction and should have been engrossed in this book, but it was so predictable and poorly plotted, I could barely get through it. Bridget is a wealthy lady in York, England in the 1640s; she is a widow and a midwife. A casual friend of hers, Esther, is imprisoned for murdering her husband. Bridget believes Esther is innocent, and she and her servant and assistant, Martha, run around the streets of York solving the murder. On the one hand, there were some interesting his 2.5 stars I like historical fiction and should have been engrossed in this book, but it was so predictable and poorly plotted, I could barely get through it. Bridget is a wealthy lady in York, England in the 1640s; she is a widow and a midwife. A casual friend of hers, Esther, is imprisoned for murdering her husband. Bridget believes Esther is innocent, and she and her servant and assistant, Martha, run around the streets of York solving the murder. On the one hand, there were some interesting historical details (descriptions of birthing, laws, apothecaries, customs, etc.); on the other hand, Bridget and Martha were characters straight from the 21st century. I didn't believe that women of that time and place would act like that. It's not that they were strong (although that did seem very modern); it's that they had too much power and confidence and freedom, and their view of the world didn't fit into the 17th century. We're told a woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock must submit to a body examination to prove the pregnancy; a woman can be imprisoned for murder on planted evidence with no trial; a woman can be tried for murdering her child if the baby is stillborn; servants (including wives) must submit to their masters (husbands), and so on. But Bridget and Martha defy customs and laws, hire guards, bribe prison officials, demand to speak to authorities, search for clues, and defend themselves against ruffians - and no one blinks an eye! This book read like a Scooby-Doo mystery. There were many red herrings, wrong turns, conversations that serve only as expositions, and the Least Likely Suspect Who Is Truly Evil revealed at the end. The political background (protestant rebels wanting to bring down the Papist mayor) was not well sketched, and I was confused despite having a fairly strong background in British history. Martha's side story (how she came to be in York, her past, etc.) was unnecessary and fit no real purpose that I could see, except that she served as Bridget's sidekick and had to be equally strong (never mind that she was still the servant). There was also a side plot related to a maidservant who was pregnant by the son of a wealthy but loony city matriarch; again, this served no purpose except as perhaps a lead-in to a second book in a series, since this plot-line was not fully resolved. Overall, this is a weak first effort by Sam Thomas.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I am an avid reader of historical fiction and was anxious to read The Midwife's Tale but I must say I was very disappointed. After reading authors such as Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Susan Higginbotham and others I thought the writing in this book was below my expectations. The story takes places in 1644 in York, England and the leading character is a midwife and widow named Bridget Hodgson. She is rather wealthy and enjoys a good standing in the community. The author does provide som I am an avid reader of historical fiction and was anxious to read The Midwife's Tale but I must say I was very disappointed. After reading authors such as Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Susan Higginbotham and others I thought the writing in this book was below my expectations. The story takes places in 1644 in York, England and the leading character is a midwife and widow named Bridget Hodgson. She is rather wealthy and enjoys a good standing in the community. The author does provide some good insight into the plight of the poor, especially unmarried pregnant women, and the consequences of finding oneself in such a position. I found the main character a bit unbelievable in the manner that she treated some of her unfortunate clients. Part of her job was to force the woman to name the father and she did so in a mean spirited way. I just couldn't see a woman of her status acting in such a manner. She ends up involved in investigating the murder of a friends husband since the friend was convicted of killing him and will be burned at the stake. Her maidservant, Martha Hawkins, assist her in the investigation and has skills far beyond one would expect, such as breaking and entering and murder. The story opens with them hurrying to a birthing and being accosted by a soldier with a knife who Martha manages to kill rather quickly. It is true that the book kept me guessing who the real murderer was until the end but I am not sure it was worth the wait.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book and it was fantastic! The characters are so vivid and well written, for example, "His ears were perfect for a man twice his size, and his nose seemed to be recoiling from the prospect of smelling his own fetid breath." Awesome, right? There are a few mysteries intertwining themselves throughout this book including a poisoned lord, a murdered infant, and characters with some shady pasts. All these plots culminate in a page turner of an ending I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book and it was fantastic! The characters are so vivid and well written, for example, "His ears were perfect for a man twice his size, and his nose seemed to be recoiling from the prospect of smelling his own fetid breath." Awesome, right? There are a few mysteries intertwining themselves throughout this book including a poisoned lord, a murdered infant, and characters with some shady pasts. All these plots culminate in a page turner of an ending leaving me eager for a sequel. If you are a fan of really well written historical fiction, strong female characters, and sophisticated mysteries you will definitely want to start out the new year with The Midwife's Tale!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Part of the excellent trend of historians writing novels based on their research, this is hopefully the start of a series. Bridget Hodgson, wealthy young widow and midwife, is trying to take care of her household as Parliamentary armies lay siege to the city of York. When a friend is convicted of murdering her husband and faces burning for "petty treason," Bridget wades into a morass of conflicted loyalties, cruel masters and other ugly realities of 17th century life. The highlight here is that Part of the excellent trend of historians writing novels based on their research, this is hopefully the start of a series. Bridget Hodgson, wealthy young widow and midwife, is trying to take care of her household as Parliamentary armies lay siege to the city of York. When a friend is convicted of murdering her husband and faces burning for "petty treason," Bridget wades into a morass of conflicted loyalties, cruel masters and other ugly realities of 17th century life. The highlight here is that the motives and behavior really are 17th century, even though the author took the risk of alienating readers who want a 21st century heroine in a historical costume.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    I expect the social details of this were historically accurate, but man, what a freaking awful, misogynistic culture this book is set in. I don't like it much when historical fiction places current sensibilities on characters who never would have felt such or acted so at the time, but this was just depressing. And I think it was actually focused on a bit too much here. Accuracy is one thing, but being constantly beaten over the head by it is another. Unfortunately it meant that the characters we I expect the social details of this were historically accurate, but man, what a freaking awful, misogynistic culture this book is set in. I don't like it much when historical fiction places current sensibilities on characters who never would have felt such or acted so at the time, but this was just depressing. And I think it was actually focused on a bit too much here. Accuracy is one thing, but being constantly beaten over the head by it is another. Unfortunately it meant that the characters were often caricatures, which made the plot and its resolution a bit stiff and formulaic. More potential here than was realized.

  17. 4 out of 5

    LK

    Read as an ARC through NetGalley. A thoroughly enjoyable debut mystery set in 1644 York. Positive her friend did not commit murder, a midwife and her servant seek the truth in a city under siege by parliament forces. Author and historian Thomas adds fascinating (and heartbreaking) details about early modern midwifery and motherhood. I look forward to more from this author.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Sam Thomas is a professor of history at an American University. While doing research in York in the UK, he found some old manuscripts and copies of wills that mentioned a highly regarded midwife by the name of Bridget Hodgson. Thus was planted the seed of this historical mystery. Set in 1644 during the English Civil War, with Cromwell's Parlimentarians laying siege to the city of York while the Royalist garrison inside tries to resist, Lady Bridget Hodgson, gentlewoman and midwife, goes about the Sam Thomas is a professor of history at an American University. While doing research in York in the UK, he found some old manuscripts and copies of wills that mentioned a highly regarded midwife by the name of Bridget Hodgson. Thus was planted the seed of this historical mystery. Set in 1644 during the English Civil War, with Cromwell's Parlimentarians laying siege to the city of York while the Royalist garrison inside tries to resist, Lady Bridget Hodgson, gentlewoman and midwife, goes about the city fulfilling the duties of her office. In a time when women were denied a voice in the affairs of government, the church, and business, the midwife held a special place, which Sam Thomas does a good job illustrating. Midwives were trained and then licensed by the church, as well as respected by the town government as having an important authority. It was their job not only to deliver babies of married women, but to hunt down women rumored to have conceived out of wedlock and forcefully search their bodies for signs of pregnancy or recent delivery. They also were charged with making the woman reveal the name of the father so he could be forced to support the child so it did not become the burden of the church and town to support. If the name was not revealed, the midwife could not assist in the delivery. They also were charged with taking a main role in the funeral and burial of babies that did not survive, for leading a procession for taking a baby to its christening, and being present for several traditional community events surrounding a birth. Quite fascinating to read how it all was done and with such importance attached to the rituals. Most unfortunately, the midwife also is summoned to investigate when an infant is found dead or discarded, which does happen in the novel. But the primary mystery the book is concerned with involves a friend of Lady Bridget who is arrested and convicted of murdering her husband and committing treason. Interestingly, "treason" in this case means upsetting the natural order: wife submits to husband, servant submits to master, etc. She'll be burned at the stake but calls for the midwife to come examine her because she's pregnant, thus the trial must be put on hold. Lady Bridget learns the circumstances of the husband's death, and decides to investigate herself. There are many possible suspects, and politics of Parlimentarians and Royalists come into play with a web of treachery and deceit, as well as the sad, sordid tales of servants mistreated by masters and mistresses. Several other deaths occur, and Lady Bridget labors mightily (no pun intended) to find connections or help those who've been falsely accused. With the help of her maidservant Martha, who has the determination of a pit bull, they get the job done. My only criticism would be the way the author writes all the characters' voices as being very similar, even between classes. For example, Martha, the poor maidservant, speaks just as proper English as the gentlewoman she serves, with none of the idioms or characteristics of speech a lower class woman would have possessed. This is perhaps because the author didn't have the skill to write class-based diction, but it would've made it seem more authentic. All in all, it's an entertaining and pleasant book with interesting insights into the profession of midwifery in 17th century England, based on, as the author explains in an afterword, diaries and books produced by actual period midwives. Recommended if you're a history buff or enjoy English murder mysteries.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    It's no secret I love historical fiction that doesn't focus on royals. I love seeing women's work portrayed realistically, and heroines who have some oomph without being anachronistic. Sam Thomas' The Midwife's Tale might have a kind of 'yawn' title, but the book is wonderful. Set in York, 1644, in the middle of the first English Civil War, the story follows Lady Bridget Hodgson, a midwife of means. (This surprised me at first -- I didn't realize 'gentry' had jobs like this, but what do I know?) It's no secret I love historical fiction that doesn't focus on royals. I love seeing women's work portrayed realistically, and heroines who have some oomph without being anachronistic. Sam Thomas' The Midwife's Tale might have a kind of 'yawn' title, but the book is wonderful. Set in York, 1644, in the middle of the first English Civil War, the story follows Lady Bridget Hodgson, a midwife of means. (This surprised me at first -- I didn't realize 'gentry' had jobs like this, but what do I know?) Her sister's maidservant arrives looking for work, and the young woman is shockingly adept at skills Bridget finds deeply alarming. Any attention she might have to focus on Martha, however, is distracted when she learns her friend Esther has been arrested -- and sentenced to burn -- for the murder of her husband. Bridget is sure of Esther's innocence, Martha less so, and the two women embark on a campaign to solve the murder while avoiding getting murdered themselves. (War, plus unsavory figures from the past.) Pretty much this whole book worked for me. It had a lovely mix of action, descriptive narrative that made for armchair time travel, and evocative characters who felt real.  I need to say a little more about the characters: while I love me some feminists, I hate historical fiction heroines who are too feisty and flouncy for their own good. In Thomas' Bridget, I found a heroine who was strong and knew her place -- she was well-born and had money -- but who also had prejudices and biases of the time (she was wicked unsympathetic to unmarried pregnant women, for example.). Thomas based his novel on a historical Bridget and her assistant Martha, which made the story all the more interesting to me. I'm no expert on 17th century York, so I can't say whether any historical details were messed with or inaccurate, but the world he presented to me was fascinating, alien, and compelling.  I wouldn't want to live there, but I enjoyed this visit. I read this book in about a day -- it has a marvelous first line that hooks you: 'On the night I delivered Mercy Harris of a bastard child, the King's soldiers burned the city's suburbs and fell back within its walls to await the rebel assault.' -- and every time I thought I ought to put the book down, I wanted to read just one more chapter. And then I finished, le sigh. A wonderful historical fiction debut, and a great (what I believe is a) standalone novel.  Hist fic fans will want this one, and those who think all historical fiction is heaving bosoms and insta-love should give this one a try -- it represents what I love best about the genre: someone's alien world and alien life made resonant and real.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas is both rich in historical details and mystery. I love books that I can learn from besides enjoying a great story. Bridget Hodgson is a well-respected midwife and gentlewoman living in York in the time of the English civil war in the 1644. Bridget’s friend, Esther Cooper is accused of poisoning her husband with ratsbane. Bridget thinks that Esther has to be innocent; she is too kind a woman to even think of murder. Bridget has little time to find out who the true The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas is both rich in historical details and mystery. I love books that I can learn from besides enjoying a great story. Bridget Hodgson is a well-respected midwife and gentlewoman living in York in the time of the English civil war in the 1644. Bridget’s friend, Esther Cooper is accused of poisoning her husband with ratsbane. Bridget thinks that Esther has to be innocent; she is too kind a woman to even think of murder. Bridget has little time to find out who the true murderer is as there was not a legal trial of elected officials. The penalty for treason against husbands is death by fire. Also she has to be available to carefully deliver babies. She is joined by her new servant, Martha Hawkins. Bridget believes Martha’s story of her being a servant to a dear friend who has died and is amazed at Martha’s unusual capabilities as the story goes on. All the while delivering babies, Bridget is trying to quickly find out the true murderer when another murder occurs. This story is full of intrigue and secrets. People are taking sides with either King Charles or the Parliament rebels. It is dangerous enough already to travel on foot around York, let alone with different fires and shootings going on. When you read this book, you feel that you are truly stepping back into history when the streets were not safe, day or night or when a message received was paid for with a penny. As the story goes on, it get more complex and there are many suspects and with all the twists in the story, you don’t know who to trust besides, Bridget and her household. I gained a new understanding of the status of midwifes in that period, a much higher one that for women in general. I think this book is a real treasure and if you love history and mystery, I hope that you will read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacqie

    I enjoyed this historical mystery. The author, a historian, seems well able to write an authentic-feeling reformation-era voice. He also writes from a female perspective, which I appreciate. If you go to his website, you can see that he's done a lot of research into birthing traditions and law in the seventeenth century. Bridget is a character that I'm interested in following. If Martha, her new apprentice, is perhaps a bit too conveniently talented at lockpicking and B&E, well, I can let that g I enjoyed this historical mystery. The author, a historian, seems well able to write an authentic-feeling reformation-era voice. He also writes from a female perspective, which I appreciate. If you go to his website, you can see that he's done a lot of research into birthing traditions and law in the seventeenth century. Bridget is a character that I'm interested in following. If Martha, her new apprentice, is perhaps a bit too conveniently talented at lockpicking and B&E, well, I can let that go in service of the story. Bridget, as a midwife, is an important person not only because she possesses medical knowledge, but because she knows a lot of secrets. She's not above using these secrets to gain access to the information she needs to save her friend Esther, who is accused of murdering her husband. It appears that Esther is a scapegoat, since political figures on both sides of the Parliament/Royalist divide have good reasons to want her husband dead. The English Civil War is no easy thing to understand, and I think the author did an amazing job of making the different sides clear without beating the reader about the head with the issues. There's violence, intrigue, and a character who is questioning her morals and how they fit in with the realpolitik of a turbulent and dangerous time. My only regret is my TBR shelf is going to keep me from reading the sequel immediately! Don't worry, Bridget, I'll be back!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    All hail the midwife! What a fascinating new character to build a series around; Lady Bridget Hodgson is a midwife in York as Cromwell's forces battle Charles I for control. But Bridget has more pressing matters to attend to - the many births she must attend, the unmarried, pregnant girls she must question and most importantly one of her friends has been accused of murder. Lady Bridget knows her friend is innocent and she sets out to prove it with the help of her new serving girl, Martha. Along t All hail the midwife! What a fascinating new character to build a series around; Lady Bridget Hodgson is a midwife in York as Cromwell's forces battle Charles I for control. But Bridget has more pressing matters to attend to - the many births she must attend, the unmarried, pregnant girls she must question and most importantly one of her friends has been accused of murder. Lady Bridget knows her friend is innocent and she sets out to prove it with the help of her new serving girl, Martha. Along the way she learns that Martha is not what she seems to be and her friend's marriage was not as perfect as it appeared. This was such a delightful book. Such a different way to present both history and a murder mystery. Lady Bridget is a delightful character - a strong, independent woman in a profession with some level of power in a time we don't usually associate such things with women. She was fun to read and her adventures were educational and exciting. I was hooked on the first page of this book and read it through in one day. I can't wait for her next mystery to see how she and her sidekick solve it despite the scorn of the men in power. If you are looking for a new twist on the mystery novel with a unique protagonist then I highly recommend you follow along with The Midwife's Tale.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    An historical fiction story taking place in 17th century England. I learned a lot about the role of a midwife at that time. They were employees of the government. They had the duty to find out who the father was of unmarried women. Their job was to make sure that the government didn't have to support unmarried women and their children. The government would then make the men pay child support. I also learned of the "caste" system of Ladies and Gentlemen versus workers. The workers were basically An historical fiction story taking place in 17th century England. I learned a lot about the role of a midwife at that time. They were employees of the government. They had the duty to find out who the father was of unmarried women. Their job was to make sure that the government didn't have to support unmarried women and their children. The government would then make the men pay child support. I also learned of the "caste" system of Ladies and Gentlemen versus workers. The workers were basically servants that the Ladies and Gentlemen had the right to beat, restrict, and control. It was a mystery, in that a good friend of the main character had been accused of murdering her husband. She saved her friend from being burned at the stake by saying that she was with child. No pregnant woman could be executed until after the child was born. So, that gave Bridgette, the main character, time to find out who really killed her friend's husband. At the time, Parliament and King Charles were fighting for control of the country. Interesting story.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Chance

    This book is absolutely fascinating. Sam Thomas has created an intriguing historical fiction with a thrilling mystery threaded throughout that is certain to keep readers on the edges of their seats to the very end. This story, told through the voice of midwife Lady Bridget Hodgson, is captivating and fast-paced. The characters are full-bodied, with personalities that endear and charm the reader. I loved how Lady Hodgson is no weak woman to be fooled with - she is smart, creative, and confident i This book is absolutely fascinating. Sam Thomas has created an intriguing historical fiction with a thrilling mystery threaded throughout that is certain to keep readers on the edges of their seats to the very end. This story, told through the voice of midwife Lady Bridget Hodgson, is captivating and fast-paced. The characters are full-bodied, with personalities that endear and charm the reader. I loved how Lady Hodgson is no weak woman to be fooled with - she is smart, creative, and confident in both her work and her life. I would love to see more stories about this brave lady. Writing about a woman's world must have been an interesting challenge for the author, but Sam Thomas does so with great dignity and authenticity. He takes you right into the world of the 17th century, with all it's gritty messiness and plunks you right down into the middle of the surroundings with his descriptive writing style. I very much enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, historical who-dun-its, and, if you are like me, fans of midwife stories.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Candy C

    I loved this book! Bridget Hodgson is a strong woman based on a historical person of the same name and profession. Mr. Thomas is well versed in medieval history and the city comes alive under his skillful writing. His characters are well drawn and true to their nature ~ although both the reader and Lady Bridget are often misled as to what that nature is! In her duties as a respected midwife, Lady Bridget is often called upon for difficult cases or those others will not attend. She is a person of I loved this book! Bridget Hodgson is a strong woman based on a historical person of the same name and profession. Mr. Thomas is well versed in medieval history and the city comes alive under his skillful writing. His characters are well drawn and true to their nature ~ although both the reader and Lady Bridget are often misled as to what that nature is! In her duties as a respected midwife, Lady Bridget is often called upon for difficult cases or those others will not attend. She is a person of wit and intelligence and is respected by many of the most powerful men in the city. But in trying to prove a friend innocent of murder, she risks not only her reputation, but her life. Historical facts are woven into the story in the actions of the characters and it is intriguing and fast paced. I could not wait to see what would happen next and I look forward to more from this promising new author!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I ought to have devoured this book, but I didn't and I'm not entirely sure why. The positives: It is very well written. It's set in a time period (1640s York) that hasn't been done to death. The characters are very likely far less anachronistic than in many historical novels. You learn a lot about the job of a midwife in 17th century England. And yet 4 times yesterday I decided to sit down and read the last half, and 3 times I got diverted by something. Like checking the mail box and taking the re I ought to have devoured this book, but I didn't and I'm not entirely sure why. The positives: It is very well written. It's set in a time period (1640s York) that hasn't been done to death. The characters are very likely far less anachronistic than in many historical novels. You learn a lot about the job of a midwife in 17th century England. And yet 4 times yesterday I decided to sit down and read the last half, and 3 times I got diverted by something. Like checking the mail box and taking the recycling out. And looking up what "her gossips" meant in the 17th century, because every time Thomas used "gossips" in that sense it threw me off instead of sucking me into the time period. I think the biggest problem for me was that the characters' attitudes about women, class distinctions, and (possibly) pregnant unmarried women were just so foreign to me that I had trouble liking the characters enough to care to spend an afternoon with them.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barbara White

    A BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED HISTORICAL WHO-DUNNIT As a Brit and a former history major at York University, I found the premise of this novel intriguing. It did not disappoint. From the first chapter, I was swept along in the familiar cityscapes and the life of the heroine, a 17th century midwife who, despite being an atypical woman for her time, never felt anything but authentic. I am full of admiration for Sam Thomas and his ability to craft Bridget's voice. I also found the supporting characters wonde A BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED HISTORICAL WHO-DUNNIT As a Brit and a former history major at York University, I found the premise of this novel intriguing. It did not disappoint. From the first chapter, I was swept along in the familiar cityscapes and the life of the heroine, a 17th century midwife who, despite being an atypical woman for her time, never felt anything but authentic. I am full of admiration for Sam Thomas and his ability to craft Bridget's voice. I also found the supporting characters wonderfully unexpected: the lock-picking servant and Bridget's nephew who is battling his own demons that stem from a minor--but life-defining--deformity. In addition to portraying vivid historical settings and introducing great characters, this is a murder mystery page-turner. I clocked the murderer early on, but I did not see the twist coming, and the subplot certainly kept me on my toes. I highly recommend this fabulous historical novel to readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Risa Rispoli

    Murder, Mystery and Midwifery! Three of my all time favorite things all combined in one book. I am a Certified Nurse Midwife. Most books on midwifery really do not portray midwives in a positive manner. Or the writing is not readable as it is historical. The Midwife's Tale is a well written book that pulls you into Lady Bridget's life and world from the first page. I cannot tell you how much loved The Midwife's Tale. I loved the history and the deliveries. I esp love how Bridget is portrayed in a Murder, Mystery and Midwifery! Three of my all time favorite things all combined in one book. I am a Certified Nurse Midwife. Most books on midwifery really do not portray midwives in a positive manner. Or the writing is not readable as it is historical. The Midwife's Tale is a well written book that pulls you into Lady Bridget's life and world from the first page. I cannot tell you how much loved The Midwife's Tale. I loved the history and the deliveries. I esp love how Bridget is portrayed in a very positive manner. very refreshing. and we see how Midwives are treated with respect and have a position of importance in history. And I loved the medical tidbits thrown in..the bonesetter to set Martha's broken arm, the drunk surgeon who cannot really treat the war wounds effectively. and just seeing the daily life in 1644 York. I highly recommend this book And I cannot wait for the next one

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melisende

    An enthralling read from start to finish - and I had to finish it in one reading! A midwife and her servants at the centre of a murder inquiry during the siege of York at the time of the English Civil War of the 1640s. The characters and the city come to life in Thomas' tale of the every day lives of those citizens caught up in the political machinations of events beyond their control. One gets a true sense of the lot of women of this period and for most their lot is a hard one. The midwife is an An enthralling read from start to finish - and I had to finish it in one reading! A midwife and her servants at the centre of a murder inquiry during the siege of York at the time of the English Civil War of the 1640s. The characters and the city come to life in Thomas' tale of the every day lives of those citizens caught up in the political machinations of events beyond their control. One gets a true sense of the lot of women of this period and for most their lot is a hard one. The midwife is an exception. Without going into too much detail - it is the women that feature in this story as both victims and protagonists - they are central to both the story and its telling. An excellent read - I quite literally had to continue reading once I began. With the reveal so tantalisingly close, how could one put this down for another day!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I enjoyed this book so much! While I love to read mysteries, I am often frustrated with the stilted style that often can be found in the genre...like the authors are so busy setting up the plots that they can ignore character development, setting, flow of the story, etc. I certainly was pleased with how "The Midwife's Tale" held together both as a mystery and as an enjoyable read. I loved the historical details, but never felt like the story was dragged down by them. There were twists and turns, I enjoyed this book so much! While I love to read mysteries, I am often frustrated with the stilted style that often can be found in the genre...like the authors are so busy setting up the plots that they can ignore character development, setting, flow of the story, etc. I certainly was pleased with how "The Midwife's Tale" held together both as a mystery and as an enjoyable read. I loved the historical details, but never felt like the story was dragged down by them. There were twists and turns, but not so many or such outlandish ones that I felt the story was silly...the mystery made sense. Finally, I loved the main character, Bridget...she felt authentic and fully developed. I would read more books with her...hint, hint, Sam! Yes, the author is a colleague, but he earned every positive comment here with this enjoyable read.

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