Widow's Lace by Lelita Baldock
Book Review - Blog Tour

Publication Date: 23 March 2020
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 242
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery


A hundred year old mystery, the widow left behind, a fallen soldier, the abandoned fiancée, an unnamed body and the young student determined to find the truth.

In 1886 famous English poet Edward Barrington moves from Derbyshire, England to a farm on the Finniss River, in South Australia. Two years later he disappears.

25 years later Archie Hargraves abandons his fiancée Clara and travels from England to meet with Edward’s widow, Rosalind. He plans to write a biography and make a name for himself, independent from his wealthy father. Returning to England in 1914 he abandons his work to join the war in Europe. His journal of notes from Australia is never released.

Ellie Cannon, a young PhD candidate at Sydney University, is writing a thesis on one of Barrington’s last known poems, The Fall. It’s not going well. Struggling with her relationship with her mother and loss of her father, Ellie is on the brink of failure.

Then a body is found by the Finniss River, 130 years after Edward’s disappearance. Could it be the famous poet? The discovery draws Ellie into the worlds of Edward, Archie and Clara, taking her across Australia and England in her search for the truth.

Covering life in remote South Australia, the social pressures of 1900s Britain and the historical role of women, Widow’s Lace is an historical fiction, mystery cross-over dealing with themes of obsession, fear, love, inner-secrets and regret. But also the hope that can come from despair.

My Thoughts

The story opens in 2018 with Ellie Cannon struggling to complete her thesis, the subject of which is The Fall, a poem by Edward Barrington, a renowned English poet, who mysteriously disappeared in Australia in 1888.

When bones are found that could be those of Edward Barrington, Ellie is given an ultimatum by her supervisor: go visit the area and get back on track with her thesis or lose her funding and her tutorial position at the University. Her visit to the Coorong and to Edward's former home reignites Ellie's passion for her thesis, although the focus shifts from analysis of the poem to solving the mystery behind Edward Barrington's disappearance.

In 1886, Edward Barrington accepts a commission from Alistair Harbinger, a wealthy landowner, to write a poem about the area and put the river port of Goolwa on the literary map. Edward hopes that the move to a drier climate will be beneficial to his wife's health. At first he his dismayed that the journey has taken its toll on Rosalind, but soon the wild beauty of the Coorong and the tranquillity of the farm, situated on the Finniss River where they eventually settle, has the desired effect. Rosalind's health improves and Edward finds inner peace. He no longer feels the need to express his emotions through poetry and finds enjoyment in working with his hands, alongside his young Aboriginal employees, Allambee and Balun, of the Ngarrindjeri people. Two years later, Edward disappears without a trace.

In 1913, 25 years after the disappearance of Edward Barrington, Archie Hargraves visits the farm to gather material for a biography of the poet he is intending to write. The following year when war is declared, Archie returns to England, bringing with him Rosalind Barrington, veiled and still wearing mourning clothes for her dead husband. His unusual concern for the reclusive widow's welfare raises many questions. Even Clara, his fiancée, is puzzled and hurt by his behaviour. She is devastated when he abandons her once again to fight in France. The biography is never written and Archie's journal from his stay in Australia is never released.

Widow's Lace is one of those novels that starts slowly and, before you know it, has you completely in its grip. Not only does Lelita Baldock write beautiful descriptions of the landscape to draw you in, she also has a knack for creating characters with flaws and insecurities that give credence to their actions.

The multiple timelines work so well, seamlessly moving the story forward through each character's section as Ellie makes the discoveries in her timeline and comes closer to finding out what happened to Edward Barrington. I did pick up on a clue that confirmed for me who the bones belonged too, but how it was possible thoroughly escaped me. I was totally unprepared for that final twist that revealed all.

In the novel, The Fall is described as "a poem of darkness and longing" and heading each chapter with a line or two from the poem is a nice touch. Reading the poem in its entirety at the end of the book, brings into perspective Edward Barrington's state of mind and highlights the events that make this such a wonderful story.

My review doesn't do justice to this brilliant historical mystery. There is more that I would like to say, but I'm afraid of letting something slip that would spoil it for others. This is one of the best books I've read this year. I highly recommend it.

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Meet the Author

Lelita has a passion for stories, especially those with a dark undercurrent, or a twist to be revealed. 

She hopes to tell interesting stories that people will find themselves drawn into. Stories that are for entertainment and escape, and hopefully a little thrill of the unexpected. She truly enjoys the experience of writing, exploring human traits and reactions as well as the darkness that can lurk unexpectedly inside anyone.

Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Lelita holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History from the University of Adelaide and a Bachelor of Education from The University of South Australia. During her twenties she worked as an English teacher in both Australia and the United Kingdom, working with the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Now Lelita and her husband run a web development business, and she makes time for writing after hours and on weekends. It can mean long days and late nights, but she doesn’t mind, stories are her passion. Lelita’s long term goal as a writer is to be able to publish her stories regularly and hopefully appeal to a wide range of readers.

Lelita currently resides in the United Kingdom with her husband Ryan and beloved rescue-cat, Jasmine.

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