Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges

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Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A helpless young serving girl takes on a new identity as a stern housekeeper and forms a special bond with a young village girl who comes to work for her.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Troubador
ISBN: 9781785899133

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The year is 1794 and we meet our young protagonist, Maria, in desperate circumstances. Alone and terrified, she has concluded that her only option is to take her own life by throwing herself into the surging river waters. Months previously, she was cruelly violated by the master of the house where she worked and now, in the advanced stages of her pregnancy, the future seems bleak. Luckily, a pair of gypsy women find Maria and take her in. Following a traumatic labour, Maria becomes desperately ill and when she recovers, her baby is gone. Alone again, Maria is free to start a new life. With a clever disguise, she becomes the dowdy 'Miss Dinchope' and takes a position as a housekeeper for the village rector.

Years pass and Miss Dinchope runs her household efficiently and fairly; respected by all she meets. Her job is made more difficult by her lecherous employer and his sadistic sister who have previously shown great cruelty to the young women of the household. Miss Dinchope becomes their protector and friend and manages to keep her employers placid by plying them with strong ale each night. In time, a young village girl called Nell comes to work for the household and Miss Dinchope becomes very fond of her and the two form a close bond. Could this sweet, hardworking child be the daughter that she lost so many years ago?

Counting the Cost is a story that runs parallel to Brigges' previous book: Brothers at Arms and the characters cross paths at several points during the narrative. Like the previous book, the time period is very well researched and the period details, such as clothing, architecture and local customs are authentic and bring the story to life.

Maria is a likeable protagonist and young Nell is someone that we really grow to care about over the course of the book, as she is so loving and kind, despite the many setbacks and injustices that she faces. Brigges has also created some wickedly delightful grotesques in the form of the rector and his sister; the kind of villains that readers love to hate. I also liked the fact that this wasn't a traditional love story like many historical fiction books. Rather, it was the tale of a strong woman taking control of her life and overcoming her personal demons, at a time in history when women had very few rights.

The story can feel a little slow in places, because there is a lot of descriptive narrative in the chapters. For example, we learn a lot about the duties of the servants in the household, but this kind of attention to detail can sometimes slow the story down. My favourite part of the story was reading about Nell's experience at school, as I could picture the scenes vividly in my mind.

The book definitely left room for a sequel and I'd love to see what happens to Maria and Nell next. I felt quite sad when I got to the last page, as I wanted the story to continue! Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

As previously mentioned, Brothers at Arms is the perfect companion book to this one, as the storylines cross over several times.

Buy Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges at

Buy Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Counting the Cost by Jemima Brigges at


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