Out of nowhere the herbalist appears and sets up his stall in the market square. The stranger is exotic and glamourous and teenager Emily is spellbound -- here is a man of the world who won't care that she's not respectable.
However, Emily has competition for the herbalist's attentions. The women of the town - the women from the big houses and their maids, the shopkeepers and their serving girls, those of easy virtue and their pious neighbours - are also mesmerized by the visitor who, they say, can perform miracles.
But when Emily discovers the miracle-worker's dark side, her world turns upside down. She may be naïve, but she has a fierce sense of right and wrong. So, with his fate lying in her hands, Emily must make the biggest decision of her young life. To make the herbalist pay for his sins against the women of the town? Or let him escape to cast his spell on another place?
The Herbalist is an interesting tale set in 1930s Ireland where class and religion play a big part in peoples everyday lives so how will they react when an exotic stranger suddenly arrives in their rural town with his mysterious lotions and potions. We soon see that he has the women of the town flocking to him for his miracle cures but is he what he seems and what exactly is in his potions?
Teenager Emily is one of the first to fall under his spell and she's convinced that she's in love with him, and him with her, and that they'll be together forever. But she's not the only one that's clamering for his attention, as women from all social backgrounds, maids, shopkeepers, and even the local doctors wife are coming to him for his services. But as Emily soon discovers he has a darker side to his character and he's not all that he seems. Will the truth be exposed before it's too late?
It did take me a few chapters to get into this story but I was soon hooked and read the rest of the book in a day as I was wanting to read on to discover how these women were all taken in by his charm and what exactly the herbalist was up to.
As a debut novel this was an riveting read and one that I would have no qualms about recommending, I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented new author.
I'd like to thank Cliona at Penguin Ireland for sending me a copy of this book to review.