When recently widowed Elizabeth comes to Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s eccentric Aunt Clementina she quickly becomes fascinated by the beautiful newly located Botanic Gardens which border her new home.
One of the rare plants, the Agave Americana, looks set to flower, an event which only occurs once every few decades, and Elizabeth agrees to use her artistic talent to record the impending bloom. While recording the flower she meets Belle Brodie, a young single woman who has a passion for botany and perfume making, who realised at an early age that she had the gift of luring men by using the enchantment of scent and has turned her passion into a lucrative business. The unlikely friendship between the two ladies with very different ideas about life and love form the main plot of Sara Sheridan’s latest novel, The Fair Botanists.
Sheridan creates a perfect blend of characters including William McNab who is supervising the moving of the plants and trees from their former site at Leith, and Mhairi, the blind girl who has the gift of detecting different types of whisky and analysing what scents make up a particular perfume. The relationships between them give the reader an insight into the lives of women at that time and the difficulties which they had to encounter and overcome in order to flourish.
Written in the style of a Victorian novel it is not crude or lewd and delicate subjects are merely touched on discreetly. Set in the summer of 1822 amid rumours of a visit by King George IV Sheridan shares historical facts from this period adding both authenticity and intrigue. This wonderful dip into life in historical Edinburgh is both enlightening and entertaining and by using historically documented characters and places is sure to delight readers interested in both history and botany.