The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

Previously I’ve read some of Sara Sheridan’s mysteries and enjoyed them so when I saw that she had written a book called The Fair Botanists with an Edinburgh setting, I requested it from the library.

The year is 1822 and Edinburgh is agog, King George IV is supposed to be visiting the city, the first visit from a Hanoverian king. Sir Walter Scott has the job of organising the whole thing and he’s not helped by not knowing exactly when or even if the visit will take place – such are the whims of royalty.

Meanwhile others are busy transporting mature trees and plants from where they have been growing in Leith Walk to their new home in what will be the new botanic gardens at what was the Inverleith estate. Inverleith House still has some of the family living in it. The elderly Clementina has recently been joined by Elizabeth, her nephew’s widow who is feeling lucky to have been taken in by her husband’s family as her husband left her poverty stricken. She’s a talented botanical artist so she’s very interested in all the planting that’s going on, particularly the rare Agave Americana which is due to flower soon.

In fact lots of people are interested in that plant, for various reasons, all determined to get a bit of it, but Bella is the most determined. She has befriended Elizabeth who is just about the only person in Edinburgh who doesn’t know what Bella’s profession is.

I did really enjoy this one but it’s not perfect. It should have been edited to expunge mention of ‘the elephant in the room’ as that’s a modern phrase, and I was really annoyed by the constant use of ‘quite the’ instead of ‘quite a’ by what seemed like every single character in the book, it’s just something that I dislike but dozens and dozens of uses of it by different characters drove me mad. Otherwise it’s entertaining and informative with interesting characters and situations both fictional and actual.

7 thoughts on “The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

  1. I haven’t read anything by Sara Sheridan as her mysteries haven’t appealed to me, but this book does so maybe I’ll give it a try. I do get annoyed by modern phrases in historical fiction, though!

    • Helen,
      Me too, she does try to link it to an actual Russian poet, which is even worse I think, but I did enjoy most of the book and she has done her research into Edinburgh of that time.

  2. This sounds interesting, not least for the botanical elements. The author’s name sounded familiar, and I realized I had Brighton Belle on the Kindle, a book you reviewed recently. Also I saw that she had a story in an short story anthology that my husband read a while back, Bloody Scotland. He liked that story so I will give it a try.

  3. It does sound interesting though those quirks and anachronisms would annoy me too. However I may give it the benefit of the doubt since the subject matter appeals…

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