Silk by Penny Jordan

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Silk by Penny Jordan

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The first book in a new trilogy takes a mill-owning family from the nineteen twenties to the nineteen fifties and provides good characters and an interesting plot. It makes for a good beach read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 664 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 978-1847560735

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Amber Vronsky longs to go to Art School and she's sure that it will be her grandmother's special present to her on her seventeenth birthday, but Blanche has something rather different in mind. Despite being 'in trade', she has arranged for Amber to be presented at Court and her ambition is that she'll marry a man with a title. It's part social climbing and part revenge on Barant de Vries whom she loved as a young woman but who refused to marry her because of her mill-owner background. It's not what Amber wants but her grandmother has a will of iron and Amber leaves Macclesfield and goes to London. She's to be chaperoned – and live with – a titled, but poor, family whose daughter tormented her at school.

The nineteen twenties were a heady time for the wealthy; glamour was all and morals only mattered if the loose living became public knowledge and Amber is dropped into a world of which she has little experience. It's not long before she makes the acquaintance of Lord Robert Devenish and his friend the photographer Cecil Beaton. It's a social circle which includes the Prince of Wales (with current married woman), the Mitford sisters and many others with whom you'll be familiar. Penny Jordan has a great talent for blending the real with the fictitious and it's this above all else which firmly grounds the novel in the period.

It's definitely not restricted to London and Cheshire, though. You'll visit the chic clothes shops of Paris en route to the South of France. Less happily, Amber's cousin, Greg is banished to Hong Kong and we see what addiction to gambling and the opium dens can do to a man. It's the time when the Nazis were gaining influence in Germany and there's an insidious influence in the British upper classes. The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were a spectacle and a portent of what was to come.

The thread, if you'll forgive the pun, which runs through the story is silk. It's Amber's passion and the fabric her family manufactures. In this area I found the book genuinely interesting as Penny Jordan has obviously done her research well and she fills in the background with a light touch and little in the way of pointless exposition.

Attitudes, thankfully, have changed. The strict social codes have disappeared and the marriages which were not marriages have hopefully disappeared too. There is quite a bit of sexual content, from masturbation, through heterosexual, homosexual and lesbian sex. I'm tempted to say that whatever your taste it's catered for here, but I have to confess to not finding any of it particularly arousing and some of it rather boring. But then, perhaps I'm jaded.

If you're looking for a beach read you could do a lot worse. It's a reasonably fast-moving and wide-ranging plot that will keep you occupied with several days of languid reading at a reasonable pages-for-pennies count and there's even be a couple of sequels to look forward to.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Penny Jordan puts me in mind of Barbara Taylor Bradford, fortunately at her best rather than at her worst. For another look at an unconventional marriage you might enjoy The White Marriage by Charlotte Bingham.

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