Tuesday 20 June 2023

Book Review: The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson (Historical Fiction)

Title: The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson
Author: Karen Brooks
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Publication Date: 5 July 2023
Pages: 567
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

From the author of The Good Wife of Bath comes this brilliant recreation of the vibrant, optimistic but politically treacherous world of London's Restoration theatre, where we are introduced to the remarkable playwright Aphra Behn, now a feminist icon then an anomaly, who gravitated to the stage - a place where artifice and disguise are second nature and accommodates those who do not fit in.

Arriving in London, Tribulation is astonished to discover that the widowed cousin she's been sent to live with is none other than the most infamous woman in the former spy and traitor's mistress, the playwright and polemical poetess, Aphra Behn. Tribulation cannot believe her good fortune as she is thrust into city life and the heady, mercurial milieu of the theatre. Under Aphra's guidance, Tribulation is encouraged to write, think and speak for herself. But women aren't supposed to have a voice, or ideas, let alone wield a pen and write for a living, and there are harsh consequences for those who don't obey society's rules.

Together, Aphra and Tribulation must not only face vilification and mockery but terrible danger as plots to overturn the monarchy gather pace. When someone from Aphra's complicated past reappears, the women's loyalties - to King, country, and ultimately each other - are bitterly tested. Can their relationship survive the burning fires of religious hatred, suspicion and deceit?


The Escapades of Tribulation Johnson was an entertaining romp of a read from start to finish. I loved the setting of the London theatre and it was fun to see the characters reacting and interacting around real historical events. The romance element felt a little forced to me, perhaps because of how little page time it received as a percentage of the novel, but that aside the pacing of the story was good, the characters well drawn and interesting, and the conclusion pleasing. While I was aware of Aphra Behn, having read Oroonoko, I knew little about her, so it was fascinating to see her play a major role in this story and I was left keen to learn more about her life and works. All up, I am giving this book 4 stars. It is a delightful read for fans of historical fiction.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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