Friday 17 May 2024

Book Review - Novice Threads (Silver Sampler Series Book 1) by Nancy Jardine

Novice Threads
(Silver Sampler Series Book 1)
By Nancy Jardine


Publication Date: 15th May 2024
Publisher: Nancy Jardine with Ocelot Press 
Page Length: 388 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

A thirst for education. Shattered dreams. Fragile relations.

1840s Scotland

Being sent to school is the most exhilarating thing that’s ever happened to young Margaret Law. She sharpens her newly-acquired education on her best friend, Jessie Morison, till Jessie is spirited away to become a scullery maid. But how can Margaret fulfil her visions of becoming a schoolteacher when her parents’ tailoring and drapery business suddenly collapses and she must find a job?

Salvation from domestic drudgery – or never-ending seamstress work – comes via Jessie whose employer seeks a tutor for his daughter. Free time exploring Edinburgh with Jessie is great fun, but increasing tension in the household claws at Margaret’s nerves.
Margaret also worries about her parents' estrangement, and the mystery of Jessie's unknown father.

When tragedy befalls the household in Edinburgh, Margaret must forge a new pathway for the future – though where will that be?

Nothing has ever excited young Margaret Law as much as her first day of school, if only Jessie Morison, her best friend in the whole world, was with her! Her determination to teach Jessie everything she is taught is a true testament to what best friends do for each other. 

Unfortunately, circumstances tear the best friends apart.

Jessie would have been left without any means if not for a mysterious person who helped her secure a job as a scullery maid in a respected Edinburgh household, following her grandmother’s passing. Although Jessie hasn’t fully mastered her lettering and grammar, Margaret cherishes every letter she receives from her best friend.

Margaret aspires to become a teacher, but her parents can no longer finance her education due to changing circumstances. Despite still being a child, Margaret, like Jessie, must assume adult responsibilities. She has to find work. Thankfully, Jessie’s employer is seeking a tutor for their daughter. Margaret jumps at the chance to be united with her childhood friend, and her parents seem pleased with her being employed. However, things are not quite what they seem in the Duncan household and tragedy is just a heartbeat away.

Readers will be captivated by the poignant tale of the lasting bonds of friendship formed in childhood. Novice Threads (Silver Sampler Series, Book 1) by Nancy Jardine is a truly wonderful book. Right from the start, I was mesmerized by the enthralling plot and the intricately crafted characters. This is a book that demands to be read in one sitting.

The historical backdrop of this novel has been meticulously studied. The first part of the novel is set in Milnathort, where there is seemingly little opportunity for its inhabitants. The textile mills, where certain characters are employed, paid little attention to health and safety. The poverty depicted is a sombre reminder of the time the book is set in, and the landlords’ treatment of their tenants is abhorrent. Empathy and common decency seem to go out the window when money is involved. The story later moves to Edinburgh, where once again the author has demonstrated her skill at creating a realistic historical backdrop for her novel. I thought the depiction of both Milnathort and Edinburgh were masterfully portrayed.

From a modern standpoint, it’s hard to understand the immense difficulty of sending your child into service. It was the only opportunity for Jessie to escape destitution after her grandmother died, but she had to work excessively long hours and playtime is now a thing of the past. Likewise, Margaret is still very much a child when she starts work, but her situation is better than Jessies, for she has the necessary education skills to care for her charge. Before sending Margaret off to Edinburgh, her mother tells her to be cautious of strangers in the street who may use charm to exploit her. At first, Margaret is unsure of what it means, but eventually, she comprehends her mother’s cautionary words.

Margaret has always had a hunger for learning, even as a child, and fortunately, her parents can financially support her education unlike other children her age. The contagious excitement Margaret displayed on the first day of school brought back memories of my first day of school excitement. As the narrative develops and her situation alters, her passion for learning remains unwavering. Margaret was a beautifully crafted character that I grew to care deeply for.

Oh, Jessie — how I adored her, and what heartrending choices she is forced to face. She’s a young girl who must quickly adapt to the responsibilities of being a grown-up. Jessie’s lovable nature has captured my heart completely. She doesn’t easily get angry; she gracefully accepts whatever comes her way, hiding the true extent of her emotional turmoil behind her sunny smile. Jardine has depicted a poignant portrayal of a young woman on a journey of self-discovery.

All the secondary characters in this book play a crucial role in driving the narrative forward. Witnessing Mistress Duncan’s mental health decline was truly sad, and her violent mood swings affected everyone in the Duncan house, including the servants. Her gradual decline coincides with that of the health of her daughter, Rachel. Although she is painted in a negative light, I couldn’t help but feel some compassion for Mistress Duncan because back then there was a lack of understanding about mental health conditions and her obvious guilt over Rachel’s accident was very evident throughout this story As her delirium intensifies, her moods become even more erratic, and she is seemingly oblivious to Rachael’s declining health. Her story is a truly tragic one.

Rachel is the darling of this story. A tragic accident left her paralyzed, necessitating constant care, but she still craves an education. Rachel is a determined young girl with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to explore the world. While her health declines and her world becomes smaller, Jessie and Margaret are the two constants in her life. Despite being young, Rachel’s intuition is so strong that she deduces Jessie’s heritage before Jessie does. Rachel, with her ever-present smile, was an extremely likeable character whom I grew to adore.

From the very first sentence to the final full stop, Novice Threads by Nancy Jardine captivated me with its emotionally charged storytelling. With a realistic historical backdrop, Jardine has created a story that is as impossible to put down as it is to forget. This is a story that will stay with me for a very long time. I cannot wait to read the next book in what promises to be an enthralling series.

Pick up your copy of
Novice Threads

Nancy Jardine

Nancy Jardine lives in the spectacular ‘Castle Country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her main writing focus has, to date, been historical and time travel fiction set in Roman Britain, though she’s also published contemporary mystery novels with genealogy plots. If not writing, researching (an unending obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her, or she’ll be binge-watching historical films and series made for TV. 

She loves signing/ selling her novels at local events and gives author presentations locally across Aberdeenshire. These are generally about her novels or with a focus on Ancient Roman Scotland, presented to groups large and small. Zoom sessions have been an entertaining alternative to presenting face-to-face events during, and since, the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

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  1. Congratulations on such a lovely review.

  2. I am really looking forward to reading this book.

  3. Congratulations, Nancy.

  4. Thank you so much for this excellent review- Yarde Book Promotion. I am so glad you not only loved my characters but really understood them.

    1. You are more than welcome. It is such a fabulous book!

  5. Congratulations, Nancy. I have just started reading your book and I am thoroughly invested already.


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Mary Anne xxx