I always forget that I enjoy historical fiction, its not a genre I automatically gravitate towards. But when I saw The Absinthe Earl pop up on NetGally, the cover grabbed my attention and then the synopsis sucked me right in; A historical fantasy, set in Ireland in the 1800’s, full of mythology, faeries and romance. Yes please.
Miss Ada Quicksilver is in Ireland on a research trip investigating the disappearance of the fae and the links between absinthe and visions of them. She is of the belief that absinthe can help people see the magical creatures. While visiting bars for her research, she meets Lord Meath, a friendly, proper gentleman who happens to be a little mad. He sees creatures and if he doesn’t drink absinthe before bed he nightwalks. Meath is the cousin of the Queen and at her order is on his way to visit a faerie mound that has recently been discovered, on a whim he invites Miss Quicksilver, who jumps at the chance to further her research.
‘There’s an old Irish tale of a white trout that, when caught, transforms into a beautiful woman. No trout was ever netted so prettily as Miss Quicksilver. Fortunately for her, the fisherman had no intention of devouring her.’
I loved the mythology in this book. I loved that it was set in Ireland and I loved how time appropriate the writing was. Everyone was so proper, the manners were exquisite and the outfits seemed incredibly uncomfortable but wonderful.
Miss Quicksilver is an independent lady who after the death of her parents has been on her own. She is intelligent, quick thinking, brave and capable. She takes things in her stride, which is lucky as things quickly go pear shaped for her. Within the first day of travelling with Lord Meath she discovers that the rumours of his madness are not all rumours. He does nightwalk. In fact he is very interested in her when it’s occuring. She soon comes to understand that it is in fact Diarmuid, a warrior from history, who is inhabiting Lord Meath, he thinks Miss Quicksilver is his long lost love. And Miss Quicksilver begins to think he might be right. Lord Meath is horrified to realise that his sleeping self is obsessed with her and as his ancestor makes his presence known he battles to keep control and maintain a sense of propriety.
Meath and Miss Q are both great characters. Watching them get to know each other was wonderful. They are put in some hard situations, but they continued to communicate throughout the whole tale. They respected each other. Meath had moments of behaving like an egghead, but Miss Q didn’t put up with his nonsense. She stood her ground. She didn’t want to be put away and protected she wanted to be equal and she refused to accept anything less. When Meath doubted her, she showed him just how silly he was to do so. With a war for Ireland looming over them and the time period, I get why Meath behaved the way he did, and I love Miss Q even more for stepping away from everyone else’s expectations.
The introduction of all the Fae and mythological creatures in the book could definitely be a touch overwhelming but luckily there is a glossary of Irish names and terms at the front of the book so that you could go back if needed to figure out who every one is and where they fit in the grand scheme of things. I had heard of The Morrigan before of course and the Formorians but that was it, so I used the glossary a couple of times, but in the end it is all explained well.
As you can probably tell I loved the romance between Miss Q and Lord Meath, it was a slow burn and based on respect. And while it was a massive part of the story, the rest of the plot didn’t suffer for it. In fact it was a fascinating story and very hard to put down. I finished the book in two nights, which for me is a pretty good effort. There was plenty of action, it was funny and the side characters were great. There were pirates, redcaps, a water horse, a bog king and banshees all intertwining with the Fae.
It was a story of discovering new love and for the ancestors inhabiting Miss Q’s and Lord Sheath’s bodies a story of finding each other again. It was a story of fighting for your country and doing what you must to protect those you love.
Also it’s the first in a series, HELL YES, I can’t wait to revisit these characters.
I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley. All thoughts are my own.
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