Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken

Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken is the second book in this series and was first published in 1965.

This book features some of the characters from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Simon travels to London with his donkey, he’s determined to become an artist and has a letter of introduction.

This is an alternative history, the setting is London in the 1830s, and King James III is on the throne which means that the Stuart dynasty is still on the throne which of course didn’t happen. But the Hanoverians are plotting against them and planning to grab power. There’s a group of Londoners willing to help and they’re stock-piling guns and ammunition.

But people are disappearing, including Simon’s friend Dr Field. Will Simon be able to track him down?

I enjoyed this one but I’m really looking forward to reading the third book in this series Nightbirds on Nantucket, which is the first one I bought, purely because the blurb sounded absolutely crazy.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase cover

Every now and again I like to read a children’s book that I missed out on when I was a child and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken fits that bill. It was first published by Puffin in 1962 but my copy is a Vintage reprint.

I suppose that there have been plans to build a tunnel between Britain and France for donkey’s years, but it still seems strange to have the Channel Tunnel mentioned in a book that was published 50 or so years before it existed. The setting though is even earlier than 1962, the year is 1832 and young Bonnie has led a charmed life, the much doted on daughter of Sir Willoughby and Lady Green. But there are changes ahead for them all as Lady Green has been ill for some time and her husband is taking her on a voyage hoping to find a cure for her condition.

This means that a governess is required to look after Bonnie and the family estate, and a fourth cousin of Sir Willoughby is chosen for the job – Miss Slighcarp. None of them have ever met her before but are relying on the fact that she’s a relative of sorts and so they assume she’ll be trustworthy. It turns out though that she’s anything but trustworthy and so begins a nightmare for the whole household, including Sylvia who is a young cousin sent to Willoughby Chase, she’s a good companion for Bonnie.

The tunnel has enabled wolves from frozen mainland Europe to reach Britain and it makes life extremely dangerous. But it turns out that Miss Slighcarp is even more of a threat to the young girls than the wolves are.

This is quite a tense read, considering it’s aimed at children aged 9+. There are quite a few books in the series and I’ll work my way through them all eventually. Did you read these books when you were a child – or older?

Joan Aiken is the younger sister of the author Jane Aiken Hodge.