The streets are a perilous place for a young laundry maid dismissed without a character for indecent acts. Roz knew the end of the path for a country girl alone in the city of Rotenek. A desperate escape in the night brings her to the doorstep of Dominique the dressmaker and the hope of a second chance beyond what she could have imagined. Roz's apprenticeship with the needle, under the patronage of the royal thaumaturgist, wasn't supposed to include learning magic, but Celeste, the dressmaker's daughter, draws Roz into the mysterious world of the charm-wives. When floodwaters and fever sweep through the lower city, Celeste's magical charms could bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Rotenek, but only if Roz can claim the help of some unlikely allies.
Set in the magical early 19th century world of Alpennia,Floodtidetells an independent tale that interweaves with the adventures.
We're back in Alpennia! Heather Rose Jones and I met online, then at several Worldcons. Somewhere in there, I started reading her books and got hooked on her world building and deeply compelling characters. Beginning with Daughter of Mystery, I followed her cast of queer women through the wonderful kingdom of Alpennia, a mythical European country in the tradition of Anthony Hope's Ruritania. Floodtide is a standalone, introducing new characters, but you won't want to miss the rest of this wonderful series after you finish this one. – Catherine Lundoff
"Heather Rose Jones has a talent for meticulous world-building, and her writing shows intelligence and a flair for her craft. The hierarchy of society was integral to this story, and adding that to the idea of charms and mysteries made it a fascinating read. The word that comes to mind when finishing this book is exquisite. I loved it."– NetGalley Review
"I really enjoyed the slow unravellings of the plot, and the calm, steady pacing.Floodtideis a wonderful novel and has really interested me in discovering more of the Alpennia world."– NetGalley Review
"The word-and world-building of the book is excellent. This is not strictly a romance, though the feeling of bubbling romance is pervasive. But it is really the writing, the story and the world imagined that engage the reader utterly and completely. This is a great fantasy book to pick."– NetGalley Review
You know the scent of lavender on the fresh sheets? When you take them from the linen press, you breathe it in, remembering the long rows of purple flowers in the summer sun. You think of the smile on the maisetra's face when she settles in for the night with that scent still lingering. That's what I always imagined love would be like.
But loving Nan was like stripping the lavender spikes in Aunt Gaita's stillroom back in Sain-Pol. The sharp resin filled my head and the memory of it clung to my hands and my clothes. I'd say the prayers to Saint Cheler with my aunt as we distilled lavender water and mixed herbs to add to the soap. Sometimes I'd get a warm, stretchy feeling at the base of my belly, like the one I got during the mysteries at church.
When I was in the middle of the lavender harvest, I'd forget about everything else. I wouldn't think about how lucky I was that Aunt Gaita picked me out from my brothers and sisters to learn a trade and teach me how to behave proper in service. I'd forget about tending the boiler where the linens were soaking. My mind would wander off and she'd box my ears and threaten to send me back home to mind the babies. I knew she didn't mean it, but the scent was that strong it could drive everything else out of my head.
Loving Nan was like that. I was never free of thinking of her. I'd watch her from the laundry room door as she went up and down the stairs to the family rooms and find excuses to call her over to ask about some mending she'd brought down. I'd lean close and breathe in how lovely she smelled. Then at night, even when we were so tired we could barely talk, we'd kiss and cuddle in the narrow bed we shared.
Nan was the one who taught me what to do with that feeling in my belly. We'd never meant it to go further than the ordinary sort of keeping company. Most girls in service have a special friend. You get lonely away in the city with no family about. But it did go further. I was so hungry for Nan we'd be up late into the night, trying not to make noise and wake Mari in the next bed and then stumbling bleary-eyed through the morning chores.
I don't think Mari told on us. Why would she? But someone did. That morning Mefro Mollin, the housekeeper, took Nan back into her parlor and closed the door for a long time. I watched the door until Nan came out crying. She ran upstairs without looking at me. Mollin saw me standing there and took me by the arm without a word and dragged me out the door, across the yard, and out the back gate, then threw me down onto the cobbles.
I was yelling and crying all the way, begging to know what I'd done wrong. Mollin looked down at me like I was a rat she'd found in the soup.
"You little whore!" she spat. "Don't you play the innocent with me. We'll have none of your filthy ways here."
At first I didn't know what she meant. "I never—" I began. And then I thought about Nan's face.
You think all sorts of silly things in a moment like that. I thought about how ashamed Mama would be if I came home in disgrace when they'd worked so hard to find me a good position. I worried about not being able to say goodbye to Nan. I thought how the table linens were soaking in lye and would anyone think to take them out? I remembered that my second dress and good bonnet—the ones I wore to church—were up in my room. The silliest thing was that's what I asked about: my clothes.
Mollin laughed and slammed the gate in my face. "Whistle for them," she said and went back into the house.
I stood there for ages, shivering in the cold and stamping my feet in the snow. I stared at the back steps with my hands on the bars of the gate like it was a jail. Except I was locked out, not in. Up at the top of the house the curtain moved in the room I shared with Nan and Mari, but no one looked out. What had Mollin said to Nan? Would she be dismissed too? I'd wait there at the gate until I knew.
Finally the back door opened, but it wasn't Nan or even Mollin. It was one of the footmen, Ionek, swaggering down the steps and over to where I stood. I'd never had anything to do with the footmen—you get in trouble that way—but he'd always seemed friendly enough before.
Now he sneered, "What are you still doing here? Get on with you."
I was going to sass him back, but my teeth were chattering too much. So when he doubled up a fist and reached for the latch of the gate, I turned and ran stumbling down the lane. I slowed down when I didn't hear him following. Running like that's how you end up slipping on the cobbles and falling into the wet and muck. The part of my head that was starting to think knew that every mistake I made from now on would pull me farther and farther down.