Pleasing Mr. Pepys
by Deborah Swift
Publication Date: September 28, 2017
eBook & Paperback; 407 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set in a London rising from the ruins of the Great Fire, Pleasing Mr Pepys is a vivid re-imagining of the events in Samuel Pepys’s Diary.
Desperate to escape her domineering aunt, Deb Willet thinks the post of companion to well-respected Elisabeth Pepys is the answer to her prayers. But Samuel Pepys’s house is not as safe as it seems. An intelligent girl in Deb’s position has access to his government papers, and soon she becomes a target of flamboyant actress Abigail Williams, a spy for England’s enemies, the Dutch.
Abigail is getting old and needs a younger accomplice. She blackmails Deb into stealing Pepys’s documents. Soon, the respectable life Deb longs for slides out of her grasp. Mr Pepys’s obsessive lust for his new maid increases precisely as Abigail and her sinister Dutch spymaster become more demanding. When Deb falls for handsome Jem Wells, a curate-in-training, she thinks things cannot possibly get worse.
Until – not content with a few stolen papers – the Dutch want Mr Pepys’s Diary.
“Swift brought Deborah Willet, the Pepyses, and the London of the 1660s to life in an exciting and sometimes touching way…I didn’t want to put it down, and found myself thinking about the story when I went about my day.” – Andrea Zuvich, Author of His Last Mistress
“Deb Willet, Elizabeth Pepys’s maid and the object of Samuel Pepys’s attentions, is finally given centre-stage after 350 years, and her tale was worth waiting for. This is exceptional story-telling.” – L. C. Tyler
“Laced with emotional intensity and drama, Pleasing Mr Pepys… (has) an intricate plot that features red herrings, unexpected twists, and surprises that will take readers on a very delightful ride.” – Arya Fomonyuy, Readers’ Favorite
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Deb Willet's aunt has found employment for Deb as a companion to Mrs. Pepys. As the companion to the wife of Samuel Pepys, administrator to the navy of England and Member of Parliament, Deb is placed among society's finest. However, Deb quickly learns that Mrs. Pepys is insecure in her placement and Mr. Pepys has roaming hands. One of the Pepys' favored pastimes is going to the theatre. Through their theatre outings, Deb is introduced to Abigail Williams, the mistress of Lord Bruncker, President of the Royal Society. Needing a friend, Deb takes up Abigail's invitation. However, being a friend to Abigail is much more complicated than simple outing. Soon, Abigail is having Deb bring her things from Mr. Pepys office and having Deb copy letters of Lord Bruncker. Before she knows it, Deb has become a spy for the Dutch, just like Abigail.
Intricate and historically detailed, Pleasing Mr. Pepys brought me into the spy world of the 17th Century. I really didn't know much about Samuel Pepys or what was happening around London in the late 1600's except for some notorious doings of Charles II and his mistresses. I felt for Deb's character while at the same time being intrigued. I felt like she continually received the short end of the stick throughout her life; her mother left, she was thrust into the care of an aunt who saw her and her sister as a nuisance, was then sold off as a companion to Mrs. Pepys only to be taken advantage of by Mr. Pepys and cajoled into being a spy for Abigail Williams. Throughout all of this however, Deb manages to find strength and carry on. At one point she states "Very well, if she was a whore and a traitor, she would be one that survived." I found myself continually pulled into the writing by different elements, the mystery of Deb's mother, the blossoming romance between Deb and Jem and the continual danger of the spy games. Through Deb and Abagail, I was pulled into the world of a spymistress and given a different look into a woman's life in 1600's London.
I was pleased to find out that Deb Willet was a real character in the life of Samuel Pepys and written about in his diary. While Deb's true role in his life might not be fully known, Deborah Swift's creation is an exciting possibility.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.
She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.
For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.