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A Plague on Mr Pepys

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1665 and The Great Plague has London in its grip. As the summer heat rises, red crosses mark the doors, and wealthy citizens flee. Only the poor remain to face the march of death ... Ambitious and attractive Bess Bagwell is determined her carpenter husband, Will, should make a name for himself. So she schemes to meet Samuel Pepys, diarist, friend of the King, and an importa 1665 and The Great Plague has London in its grip. As the summer heat rises, red crosses mark the doors, and wealthy citizens flee. Only the poor remain to face the march of death ... Ambitious and attractive Bess Bagwell is determined her carpenter husband, Will, should make a name for himself. So she schemes to meet Samuel Pepys, diarist, friend of the King, and an important manin the Navy shipyards. But Pepys has his own motive for cultivating Bess, and it is certainly not to benefit her husband. With pestilence rife in the city, all trade ceases. Will is forced to invest in his unscrupulous cousin Jack's dubious 'cure' for the pestilence. But this only horrifies Bess and leaves them deeper in debt. Now they are desperate for money, and the dread disease is moving ever closer. Pepys's help seems to be the only answer. But as with all bargains, there's a price to pay. A price that will cost more than Bess has to give.


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1665 and The Great Plague has London in its grip. As the summer heat rises, red crosses mark the doors, and wealthy citizens flee. Only the poor remain to face the march of death ... Ambitious and attractive Bess Bagwell is determined her carpenter husband, Will, should make a name for himself. So she schemes to meet Samuel Pepys, diarist, friend of the King, and an importa 1665 and The Great Plague has London in its grip. As the summer heat rises, red crosses mark the doors, and wealthy citizens flee. Only the poor remain to face the march of death ... Ambitious and attractive Bess Bagwell is determined her carpenter husband, Will, should make a name for himself. So she schemes to meet Samuel Pepys, diarist, friend of the King, and an important manin the Navy shipyards. But Pepys has his own motive for cultivating Bess, and it is certainly not to benefit her husband. With pestilence rife in the city, all trade ceases. Will is forced to invest in his unscrupulous cousin Jack's dubious 'cure' for the pestilence. But this only horrifies Bess and leaves them deeper in debt. Now they are desperate for money, and the dread disease is moving ever closer. Pepys's help seems to be the only answer. But as with all bargains, there's a price to pay. A price that will cost more than Bess has to give.

49 review for A Plague on Mr Pepys

  1. 5 out of 5

    MaryannC.Book Fiend

    Beautiful Bess Bagwell dreams of a better life for her and her carpenter husband, Will. Having escaped the mean streets of London where she lived in hunger and poverty, Bess seeks to meet the right people to help her husband gain meaningful work in the shipyards. As Bess tries to improve their station in life and make the right connections to help her husband, Will's money scheming cousin Jack seeks to advance his get rich quick plans by duping Will and others to invest in his anti-plague elixir Beautiful Bess Bagwell dreams of a better life for her and her carpenter husband, Will. Having escaped the mean streets of London where she lived in hunger and poverty, Bess seeks to meet the right people to help her husband gain meaningful work in the shipyards. As Bess tries to improve their station in life and make the right connections to help her husband, Will's money scheming cousin Jack seeks to advance his get rich quick plans by duping Will and others to invest in his anti-plague elixir. Set during The Great Plague of 1665, there was never a dull moment in this novel with it's cast of characters from the famous diarist Samuel Pepys, to Bess' nosey neighbor Mrs. Fenwick whom she seeks to impress with her charitable donations, Bess' determination to improve her lot in life only seems to get worse as her timid husband Will falls prey to cousin Jack's schemes. Very atmospheric of this period in history where many perished and many sought to prosper in the midst of The Great Plague. Interesting notes as well on the very real Samuel Pepys who I did not know existed in history. Thank you to author Deborah Swift and NetGalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 3 out of 5

    Please Pass the Books

    A Plague on Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift is the second book in the author's Mr Pepys series, following the acclaimed first installment, Pleasing Mr Pepys. Swift has taken the 17th century diary of Samuel Pepys and created this series from the point of view of the women who surrounded Pepys; first his maid, and in this volume, his mistress Bess Bagwell. As she diligently strives to promote her husband Will as a carpenter and expand both their financial and social standing, Bess is often compelled to A Plague on Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift is the second book in the author's Mr Pepys series, following the acclaimed first installment, Pleasing Mr Pepys. Swift has taken the 17th century diary of Samuel Pepys and created this series from the point of view of the women who surrounded Pepys; first his maid, and in this volume, his mistress Bess Bagwell. As she diligently strives to promote her husband Will as a carpenter and expand both their financial and social standing, Bess is often compelled to push boundaries and play many parts to a great many different people. When she determines that an alliance between her husband and Samuel Pepys would be advantageous and sets to making sure the introduction happens, the direction her plan takes runs wildly off course. This is a brilliantly written piece of historical fiction that dives into one of London's most treacherous times. The Great Fire and the plague feature heavily, and Swift has given us a novel that transports with astonishing and engrossing detail. The characters come to life with authentic dialogue and intriguing backstory in a city so well developed that it feels we're enveloped in the fear, heat, and pestilence ourselves. While the famous diary of Pepys allows for premise, it is the skilled hand of a master storyteller that fleshes out the most enduring in a string of affairs by the infamous lothario, with all the necessary involvement of political positioning, personal posturing, and -of course - redecorating and hiding wheels of cheese. Highly recommended for lovers of all the best that historical fiction aficionados expect in their books. Review written for Readers' Favorite.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Terry Tyler

    I LOVED this book, so much I think I may run out of superlatives! Without doubt the best book I've read this year, and has taken over from The Gilded Lily, my previous favourite of Ms Swift's. Set in London in the mid-late 17th century, the main characters are Bess and Will Bagwell. Will is a modest, unassuming but exceptionally talented carpenter, while Bess is a spirited girl who comes from the dingy and dank slums and is determined to build a better life for the couple. But from the moment the I LOVED this book, so much I think I may run out of superlatives! Without doubt the best book I've read this year, and has taken over from The Gilded Lily, my previous favourite of Ms Swift's. Set in London in the mid-late 17th century, the main characters are Bess and Will Bagwell. Will is a modest, unassuming but exceptionally talented carpenter, while Bess is a spirited girl who comes from the dingy and dank slums and is determined to build a better life for the couple. But from the moment they buy the house in respectable Flaggon Row, their troubles multiply. Financial disaster is ever-looming, as one stroke of bad luck and bad judgement follows another, not helped by the slippery presence of Will's cousin Jack Sutherland, a man with the eye for a good swindle. Will longs for work on a ship, in dock, and Bess knows the only person who can help is Naval bigshot Samuel Pepys. But for his help there will be a price, and one which might destroy her marriage. Pepys features in the book as a secondary character and the reason for much of what happens to the Bagwells rather than as a main character; I mention this in case potential readers think it is a book primarily about the man himself. For me, though, the real star of the book was London itself, dirty, noisy, 17th Century London, with its dangerous characters, dodgy dealings, the vast chasm between rich and poor, social snobbery, and finally, the plague, which lurks in the background until the last quarter of the book when it takes a terrifying centre stage. It's riveting. The whole book is, but especially the way in which the plague takes hold of the city. Ms Swift's characterisation is so compelling, her storytelling is a dream, and her descriptions of the time and place and the way the people lived are so vivid, so detailed and intricately researched (without you ever feeling that you're reading research notes), that I felt as if I was being given a window back in time. A special mention for Beth's mother, Agatha, a former prostitute and wonderful character. A short author's note at the back gives more information about Pepys and reveals the real identity of Bess Bagwell. Utterly brilliant, you have to read it. I've just finished it at one in the morning after being engrossed for two evenings, and had to write the review immediately. Thank you, Deborah Swift ~ I don't think I will be able to pick up another book for a couple of days!

  4. 3 out of 5

    Cryssa

    I loved reading the first in Deborah Swift’s series, Pleasing Mister Pepys, and I was eager to read the next instalment. A Plague on Mister Pepys more than met my expectations! Swift has given the shadowy women mentioned in Pepys diary a voice. This time, it’s Bess Bagwell, a respectable wife to Will Bagwell, a master joiner/carpenter, set around the time of the Great Plague of 1666. A Plague on Mister Pepys is every bit a page turner as the first Pepys book and just as compelling a read. Swift I loved reading the first in Deborah Swift’s series, Pleasing Mister Pepys, and I was eager to read the next instalment. A Plague on Mister Pepys more than met my expectations! Swift has given the shadowy women mentioned in Pepys diary a voice. This time, it’s Bess Bagwell, a respectable wife to Will Bagwell, a master joiner/carpenter, set around the time of the Great Plague of 1666. A Plague on Mister Pepys is every bit a page turner as the first Pepys book and just as compelling a read. Swift has brought the scrubbiness and rank poverty of Restoration London to life and with an entirely different story than the first. Bess is Will’s biggest supporter, and she’d love nothing better than to see him succeed as a craftsman and for them to move up in society. When Will gets a custom commission for fine chairs, Bess convinces Will to purchase a house in a better neighbourhood, one with a workshop and access to a better class of neighbours. This requires a large loan from a private lender, and despite Will’s concerns, he signs the loan and the Bagwells are on their way. Except they aren’t. The Guild is not accepting Will’s application and this prevents him from being able to pick up work in the shipyards. Meanwhile, his swindler cousin Jack takes advantage of his windfall and leeches Will and Bess’s savings on a shady venture. When finances become tight, Bess sees an opportunity to plead Will’s case with Pepys, but his patronage comes with conditions. Bess and Will are realistically flawed characters. Bess has enough fire and drive for the both of them, but Will resents her stepping in when she does. Will, is a true artist with a gentle, sensitive personality, who is an easy mark for his manipulative cousin. There were many times when I echoed Bess’s frustration with her husband, but I did truly appreciate the generous nature that made it hard for him to be disloyal to family. Not only do Bess and Will have to keep from losing everything, including their marriage, their very lives are at risk as the plague rages throughout London. A Plague on Mister Pepys is a harrowing, emotional yet satisfying page turner. Highly recommended! Really looking forward to the next one in the series!

  5. 3 out of 5

    Amy

    A Plague on Mr Pepys continues the Women of Pepys's Diary series. I thought it was good. I give it 3 1/2 stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ankita

    Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite This is the first book of Debora Swift that I have come across and, trust me, it is not going to be the last. A Plague on Mr Pepys is set in 17th century London, a time of plague and war. However, the world of Bess Bagwell is unaffected by these tragedies. The only thing that concerns her is ridding herself of the poverty that she has known way too well in the past. She has high hopes for her husband, Will Bagwell. He is an excellent carpenter and s Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite This is the first book of Debora Swift that I have come across and, trust me, it is not going to be the last. A Plague on Mr Pepys is set in 17th century London, a time of plague and war. However, the world of Bess Bagwell is unaffected by these tragedies. The only thing that concerns her is ridding herself of the poverty that she has known way too well in the past. She has high hopes for her husband, Will Bagwell. He is an excellent carpenter and she knows that if more affluent people could see his work, he would be earning according to his true potential. She is a headstrong woman whose voice will not be ignored. Therefore, when she insisted that they move to a bigger house, Will could not deny her wishes in spite of his unwillingness to take a loan. Bess was ecstatic as she thought this move guaranteed their good fortune. However, Will's cousin, Jack Sutherland, kept borrowing money from them -- the money that they themselves were having a hard time earning. When things did not materialize as per Bess' liking, she thought it best to meddle a bit to turn things around. This meddling got out of hand when Mr. Pepys noticed the beautiful Bess and suggested an arrangement in exchange for offering Will a job. As much as she despised his offer, can beggars be choosers? If your past was filled with haunting memories of poverty and only now you have tasted a little bit of luxury, can you bear the thought of going back to that life? When you are desperate to move up in society but money is always tight, can you be bothered by a moral compass? Bess is determined to improve her living conditions and when she notices that her husband is not pushing hard enough, she has no choice but to poke her nose where it does not belong. Even at a time when women were not supposed to interfere in men's business and were to follow a husband's wishes, Bess openly expresses herself, no matter who her audience is. There is a fire inside her that both impresses and challenges Will, Jack, and Mr. Pepys. There is an age-old debate of right vs wrong but while reading A Plague on Mr Pepys, the lines that seemed so clear in my head blurred. According to social rules, there was something very wrong with Mr. Pepys' proposition, yet when Bess considered his offer, I could not put her at fault. Did she have any other choices? Similarly, although Will is a good guy, his impractical decisions made me want to shake him. Other than the moral dilemma of the characters, one thing that will remain with me for a long time is the naked presentation of the effects of the plague on society. On one hand, the suffering of people was breaking everyone's hearts, on the other hand, there was a set of people who were making money from their misery. By selling false potions and such, these heartless people were putting humanity to shame. Deborah Swift has picked up a part of Mr. Pepys' diary, mixed it with her creative imagination, brought the characters to life, and written a masterpiece. This is a book that will force you to ponder many aspects of the 17th century. It is a bit dark since several serious issues are examined throughout the story; however, the execution is so perfect that I could not put it down before knowing if everything ended well for Bess and Will. I would recommend this book to readers who like learning certain facts about history presented in an entertaining plot. Review is also available on my blog: https://mojitowithatwist.com

  7. 5 out of 5

    Divina Zape

    A Plague on Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift is compelling historical fiction, a story that explores one woman’s relentless quest to make life different for her husband. Not satisfied with her husband being just a mere carpenter, Bess Bagwell wants him to become part of the Navy shipyards, so she establishes an important connection with Samuel Pepys, who has strong ties to the king and who is respected in the navy. But does Pepys have any plans of helping Will or does he has his own personal plans for A Plague on Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift is compelling historical fiction, a story that explores one woman’s relentless quest to make life different for her husband. Not satisfied with her husband being just a mere carpenter, Bess Bagwell wants him to become part of the Navy shipyards, so she establishes an important connection with Samuel Pepys, who has strong ties to the king and who is respected in the navy. But does Pepys have any plans of helping Will or does he has his own personal plans for Will's wife? In a story set against the backdrop of the Great Plague, readers are introduced to compelling characters chasing wealth and opportunity, but can Bess Bagwell and Will save their marriage after the many losses that come with wrong choices, or will they be felled by the ever advancing plague? The writing is awesome, atmospheric, and I enjoyed the way the author weaves historical details into the narrative. This is a great story that explores the workings of the hearts of characters, touching on themes like family, social crisis at the time of the plague, the morbid desire to gain wealth at any cost which leads to unhealthy relationships and scheming. The pacing is fast and the author succeeds in captivating the attention of the reader, thanks to the emotionally rich characters, the rising sense of suspense, and the masterfully handled conflict. A Plague on Mr Pepys is a historical novel that scores on multiple levels and Deborah Swift writes with the confidence of the masters in this genre.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Helen Hollick

    This book has received a Discovering Diamonds Review Helen Hollick Founder #DDRevs "....Which rather goes to show just how well Ms Swift has painted her characters, both major and minor."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie L

  11. 3 out of 5

    Jacqui & Anthony Sharp

  12. 4 out of 5

    julie maclaren

  13. 3 out of 5

    Latha

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mhairi

  15. 3 out of 5

    Sue Harding

  16. 4 out of 5

    carol sweeney

  17. 3 out of 5

    Gloria Serne

  18. 3 out of 5

    nikkia neil

  19. 3 out of 5

    Clare Harney

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

  21. 3 out of 5

    Bookish Ally

  22. 4 out of 5

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  23. 4 out of 5

    Fivewincs

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karla

  25. 3 out of 5

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  26. 3 out of 5

    Rissi

  27. 5 out of 5

    J.B (Debbie)

  28. 5 out of 5

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  29. 5 out of 5

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  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen Klein

  31. 3 out of 5

    Ginni

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Kelly

  33. 5 out of 5

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  34. 5 out of 5

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  35. 3 out of 5

    Debbie Hoffman

  36. 3 out of 5

    Megan

  37. 5 out of 5

    Beth Burns

  38. 5 out of 5

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  39. 4 out of 5

    Sinead

  40. 3 out of 5

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  41. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  42. 5 out of 5

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  43. 5 out of 5

    Asmyerrawati

  44. 5 out of 5

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  45. 4 out of 5

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  46. 5 out of 5

    Mr Puddy

  47. 4 out of 5

    Summer

  48. 4 out of 5

    Jackson Screwitt

  49. 3 out of 5

    Kelly-Ann Deaves

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