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HFC Editorial Review of "The Boxer and the Blacksmith" by Edie Cay

Author Bio:

Edie Cay writes Regency Historical Romance about women's boxing. Her debut, A LADY’S REVENGE won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Romance, and the Golden Leaf Best First Book, and was a finalist for the HOLT Medallion. The next in her series, THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH won the Hearts Through History Legends Award as an unpublished manuscript in 2019, was a Discovering Diamonds Book of the Month for May 2021, and is currently longlisted for the Chatelaine Award for romance. The third in the series, A LADY'S FINDER, is due out March 2022.

Edie has presented as a panel member of the Paper Lantern Writers on various writing related topics at The Historical Novel Society, Jolabokaflod PDX, and at the upcoming History Quill conference in 2022. As a solo presenter, she has also given talks about the historical aspect of women's boxing to the Rotary Club, The Regency Fiction Writers, and at the upcoming Chicago-North Spring Fling 2022, and the Historical Romance Retreat 2022.

She obtained dual BAs in Creative Writing and in Music, and her MFA in Creative Writing from University of Alaska Anchorage. She is a member of ALLi, The Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Follow her on social media for pictures of the latest baking project with her toddler @authorEdieCay.

...Really though? Set a timer for the steep on a cup of tea and she'll show up with a book in hand.

Book Buy Link:

Editorial Review:

Blurb: Can London’s lady champion fight for love? As London’s undefeated women’s boxer, Bess Abbott has the scars—both inside and out—to prove it. But when one of her boxing students, Violet, needs protection, Bess Abbott’s rock hard heart cracks open. And when a handsome blacksmith comes along, giving her compliments and treating her, well, like a woman, Bess doesn’t know what to do. She’s on the ropes in the face of his affections. Os Worley was a child when he became an accidental stow-away. He grew up not knowing the family or the island that inflected his accent. His only memory of his mother is a head bent, hands working a stitch, a voice humming a melody. Now that he has his own foundry, and his own apprentice, he’s come to London to find the woman attached to this impression. His heart is already tempered and quenched, focused on his goal—but a lady boxer threatens to recast his love in her own image. As Os and Bess face off, will they toe the line or retreat to their corners?


The Review:

At the most basic level, Edie Cay’s novel The Boxer and the Blacksmithis a Regency Romance. It takes place during England’s Regency period, when Prinny—the much-derided heir to George III—ruled the country in his insane father’s stead, and it is about the burgeoning relationship between the two protagonists.

But that is where the similarities end, for this is nothing like your standard bodice-ripper. Gone are the simpering debutantes and dukes aplenty; there are no gold-gilded ballrooms shimmering in candlelight or elegant parlours where young ingenues discuss the horrors of being unwed at 19 and would you please pass the lemon biscuits.

Rather, we are cast into the London of the masses. Not the stews of St. Giles or the filthy alleys by the docks, but the London where a million people toiled and loved and spent their lives, hoping to get to tomorrow with a full belly and a decent night’s sleep. Our heroine is a boxer, and a successful one at that. Born in the gutter, tall and plain, Bess Abbott hides her need for acceptance beneath her rough exterior. She is a boxing champion and can take care of herself, thank you very much, but when one of her young students is threatened, she will move heaven and earth to protect the girl.

Enter the hero. Os Worley is no duke or knight in shining armour, although he might well make it. He is a blacksmith, a skilled tradesman, who is a pugilism enthusiast and a fan of Miss Abbott in particular. He is also a Black man who might or might not have been born to an enslaved mother, and who is desperately chasing down rumours that she is now in London. He is an anomaly, as comfortable in a fine drawing room as in front of his forge, and he will abandon everything he has to find his long-lost mother… or will he?

I loved this book. I read and write Regency, but I get tired of the parade of earls and barons. I thoroughly enjoyed these normal, real people, living in a world I can imagine so much more than that of the haute ton. Ms. Cay’s descriptions brought the scene to life: the soot-covered aprons, the sweat of the training rooms, the slightly rough neighbourhood taverns, and the community of people in our protagonists’ lives. Even when we do move, briefly, into the parlours of the elite, it is tinged with the grime of the lower classes and it is more real for that.

The characters are also engaging and beautifully drawn, as real as if they lived down the street rather than on the pages of a novel. Despite her physical size and prowess in the ring, Bess cannot believe that anybody could love her. We feel her insecurities as much as we want to shout at her to believe in herself. As for Os, as we learn more about him and his sad past, we sense his pain and anger at the callous way his people back in the Islands have been treated, commodities rather than people, no matter the platitudes given by people who claim to care.

This is not a book about the hard lot of people of colour in Regency London, per se, but the awareness of racism is pervasive. This is not a didactic novel, or one which focuses on colour and race, but on the differences experienced by people from all backgrounds. This makes the subtext of discrimination all the more powerful. Os is, for the most part, accepted by his community without trouble, but there is always that element of distrust. There is always that one person who will not deal with him, or who accepts the enslavement of his family with callous disregard. By not placing this prejudice at the centre of the story, Ms. Cay has shown us how much it was just a part of society, and, sadly, still is in so many places. It is refreshing to see a novel deal with these issues without the taint of tokenism or the sense of being trendy. These are just people, normal people, who happen to have extra weights on their shoulders.

The Boxer and the Blacksmithis not a perfect book. There are some anachronisms, in language more than in essentials, and certain plot elements feel glossed over or rushed. I want to know more about some of Bess and Os’ friends and family; I want to know more about the underworld that Os uses to search for his mother. There are tantalising hints dropped that leave me sometimes curious, sometimes confused. Some of this is likely due to this particular book being the second in a series, so these stories might be told in previous or subsequent tales.

Still, despite these minor issues, I enjoyed every well-written word of this gritty love story, and would heartily recommend the novel to anybody who enjoys a tale of real people finding each other in the dust and bustle of the real world.

Five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award


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