I don’t normally read books set in the time period of the 1600s, but this one sounded too unique to not at least give it a try! Bridget Hodgson is the local midwife, married and widowed twice, and completely no-nonsense. She must be in order to bring babes into the world safely and follow the rules and laws in place for midwives. One such law requires any unwed woman to “name” the father, otherwise Bridget may not help with the delivery in any way. She can also use physical force to coerce the mother into telling her the father’s name….. Heartless in some accounts, yet an early form of child support enforcement.
When Martha Hawkins shows up unannounced requesting a position with Bridget’s household, Bridget acquiesces, albeit reluctantly. Soon; however, Martha’s unique set of skills saves the women from the streets of York during the turmoil of the ongoing English civil war. At the same time, Bridget discovers her good friend, Esther, has been charged with the murder of her Puritan husband and is set to be burned alive at the stake. Knowing her friend as she does, Bridget is adamant that Esther is being wrongfully accused. With Martha’s assistance in weaving through the underbelly of society and obtaining the information necessary to free her friend, Bridget becomes a force to be reckoned with!
The Midwife’s Tale offered an unusual glimpse into the world and power yielded by midwives in 1644 York, yet also the powerlessness of women in a society that viewed them as second-class citizens at best, chattel at worst. One interesting tidbit about the author ~ Sam Thomas is male…..yet he has grasped the subtle nuances of women-speak like, well, like a well-seasoned woman! Both Bridget and Martha are tremendously well-developed, fully fleshed-out characters….and a couple of women I would definitely want on my side if ever I were about to be burned at the stake! I’m hoping this is not the last we’ve heard of these two!
Many thanks to Historical Fiction Tours and the publisher for the complimentary review copy!