Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: The Victorian gossipmongers called them The Petticoat Men. But to young widow Mattie Stacey, they are Freddie and Ernest, her gentlemen lodgers. It is Mattie who admires their sparkling gowns, makes their extravagant hats and laughs at their stories of attending society balls dressed up as the glamorous ‘Fanny’ and ‘Stella’.
But one fateful night Fanny and Stella are arrested, and Mattie and her family are dragged into a shocking court trial, described in newspapers all over England as ‘The Scandal of the Century’.
Outraged, Mattie is determined to save her family from ruin, and her friends from shame and penury. She embarks on a brave journey to expose the establishment’s hypocrisy – including the involvement of Mr Gladstone the Prime Minister, and the Prince of Wales. For Fanny and Stella are dangerous ladies, and these are dangerous times…
200words (or less) review: I knew from the moment that Mattie introduced Hortense, the plaster head she had painted lipstick on and talked to while making hats, I was going to like this book. This was the first paragraph so that was reassuring.
The Petticoat Men intrigued me as soon as I picked it up in the bookshop. The story is based on a real trial but I’ve never heard of it, though I’ll be honest history is not a strong subject. Strangely I think this is why now I enjoy historical fiction so much. Lessons at school where never this vivid or fascinating.
Most of the story is narrated by Mattie, her mother and her brother. You find out about what happens before, during and after the trial. While the trial is supposedly about Fanny and Stella (aka Freddie and Ernest) they are just a part of it. The ‘scandal’ reaches so much further.
I really enjoyed The Petticoat Men, the story is engrossing. Partly because it’s based on an actual event but the characters Barbara Ewing has crafted are a huge part of this as well.