'The Penmaker's Wife' Book Review

Updated: Apr 18

Book: The Penmaker's Wife

Author: Steve Robinson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Pages: 252 (Kindle)

Published: December 2019 (UK)

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Hello all! Today's book review is on Steve Robinson's book 'The Penmaker's Wife'.


In Victorian England, a mother is on the run from her past—and the truth about what she did. Birmingham, 1880. Angelica Chastain has fled from London with her young son, William. She promises him a better life, far away from the terrors they left behind. Securing a job as a governess, Angelica captures the attention of wealthy widower Stanley Hampton. Soon they marry and the successful future Angelica envisaged for William starts to fall into place.

But the past will not let Angelica go. As the people in her husband’s circle, once captivated by her charm, begin to question her motives, it becomes clear that forgetting where she came from—and who she ran from—is impossible. When tragedy threatens to expose her and destroy everything she’s built for herself and William, how far will she go to keep her secrets safe? And when does the love for one’s child tip over into dangerous obsession?

(Synopsis from Goodreads - Link)


It's been such a long time since I've written a book review - despite reading SO many books, and DNF-ing a few more...

Steve Robinson's 'The Penmaker's Wife' is my latest read, and hmm I have mixed opinions on it really. It's got everything that I love about a book, historical fiction (tick!), strong female lead (tick!), intriguing plot (tick!), but something wasn't quite right.

'The Penmaker's Wife' follows the story of Angelica and her son, William. While her husband's business ventures continue to fail, Angelica decides that she wants better for her only son and begins to act on an elaborate plan to achieve this. She deceives her husband by faking her own suicide and, ensuring William's disappearance is also accounted for, decides to run away to Birmingham for a new life. Once there, she meets a few more people - some for better, some for worse - who set her on a path of murder, deceit and love.

I did find it enjoyable to have a strong female lead, clearly deciding upon her own actions and thinking of cunning ways to ensure her tracks are covered throughout. However, I didn't feel that the story gave much of the 'historical fiction' vibe, as although it was set within the Victorian era, the language just didn't seem quite right for the time. Yet that's only my opinion and it could be.. who knows? There was an element of homosexual romance between two of the main characters, which was obviously a big no-no situation back in this era, whom I think the reader is supposed to connect with and support on their secretive relationship, yet I feel it was barely touched upon and not too relevant to the plot as a whole. I didn't find myself rooting for them or their story.

Speaking of the plot and structure, it started well and sparked many questions - Who is she? Where's she running to? Who is following her? Etc. Yet it soon became quite uncomfortable to read as Angelica is forced into prostitution and (Trigger Warning) there's a very descriptive part where she is raped. I very nearly put the book down at this point because it really is horrific to read, and therefore I wouldn't recommend it to people who may find this sort of thing disturbing or triggering in any way. Yet moving past that part, it became better once Angelica found her feet in Birmingham. She soon finds a kind family who happily welcome her into their home. Yet as the book continues, Angelica begins to fall into darker territory as her secrets soon risk becoming revealed...

Overall, I'd give this book a rating of two out of five stars. I wouldn't read it again and didn't particularly enjoy it (sorry!). I just didn't feel to connect with any of the characters and often became close to DNF-ing it. I can see however why other people would enjoy it due to the thriller side of things, but this one just wasn't for me. As previously mentioned, there are a few trigger warnings to mention of including attempted suicide, rape, prostitution and there's some strong language in there also.

So yes, unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. Did you enjoy it more than me? What are your thoughts? Comment down below (Sign up is quick and easy!) or connect on social media to let me know!

Take care,

Sophie x

'The Penmaker's Wife' - Steve Robinson

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