Sins as Red as Scarlet – by Janet Few

C17th Historic fiction from the author of Barefoot on the Cobbles

August sees the launch of the second novel from respected historian and genealogist, Janet Few. With a slew of acclaimed non-fiction books in her back catalogue, Janet sat down to write “Barefoot on the Cobbles” a novel based very closely on real events that took place in Clovelly around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Meticulously researched and beautifully written it has sold solidly since publication. We are now looking forward to another bestseller from Janet.

Sins as Red as Scarlet

Sins as Red as Scarlet is a time-slip historical fiction set in 17th century Devon and the present day. Janet Few knows more than most about the century of the English civil war and the Mayflower sailing since she spent many years as a historical reenactor at the Torrington 1646 living history exhibition (now sadly just a cafe) and she still forms an integral part of the Swords and Spindles living history group which came from that exhibition. She also maintains an excellent blog covering aspects of historical research, genealogy, and her writing including her other books on her History Interpreter blog.

2020 and the pandemic

While most of the story takes place in the 17th century, this also interweaves with the life of a modern day student, Martha, who is studying history and meanwhile having problems of her own in 2020 Devon.
Now, as Janet was putting the finishing touches to the story, events of 2020 overtook her, leaving her with a serious dilemma. The writing had to be finished back in May, to give sufficient time to go through two stages of editing, as well as formatting the book ready for printing, followed by proof reading the printed block, and then for the print run to be completed in time to be able to send out ARCs to key reviewers.
All this for a story set partly in the middle of the worst global pandemic in living memory. For consistency reasons, it was not practical to change the modern-day setting to 2019, therefore, a decision was made to largely ignore SARS-CoV2/COVID-19, and to state that the setting is an AU (alternative universe) 2020 in which the disease does not have the impact it does. We hope this small alteration is acceptable and can only apologise that we could not realise it in the real world.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

The true story of a Devon town in turmoil

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

Cover Design by the Branch Line

Janet had a very clear idea how she wanted the cover to look and she engaged local artist Robin Paul a.k.a. The Branch Line to create it. The dark and forbidding image in black, white, and red is striking and beguilingly simple. We chose a font called “Hamlet or Not” to give a suitably C17th feel and this was pillow embossed and bordered with a black stroke and a white outer glow to make it stand out. The result is appropriately sanguine.

Small section of a larger poster of bird pictures by Robin Paul. See The Branch Line for more.

In terms of art style, this cover is a big change from most of Robin’s work which is more obviously suited to children’s books etc. Things like birds and furry animals being common features, like this puffin for example.

Preorder special offer

Now, for those who love their history, both fiction and non-fiction, you may wish to head over to Janet’s blog and pre-order direct from her because she has a brilliant offer available. Here’s what she says.

The first 500 people who pre-order Sins as Red as Scarlet (RRP £9.99), to be sent to a UK address, by 28 August 2020, will receive a copy of my social history of the seventeenth century Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs (RRP £12.95) absolutely free. These will be signed copies. They will also have the opportunity to purchase the accompanying CD for £3 (RRP £4). There will be no charge for UK postage. So if you are interested in this, you need to go to her site here and contact her directly.

One thought on “Sins as Red as Scarlet – by Janet Few”

  1. I couldn’t wait to read this – and I was not disappointed. Intriguing and easy to read.

    My most interesting project as a Bideford schoolgirl in the 1970s was understanding why the bridge has different sized arches! The concept here is great, Martha’s history project helps us learn not only something of daily life in the 17th century, but also how to research historical figures as a family historian would, gently promoting the wealth of archive resources and archivist’s skills. We are drawn into the daily life of 17th century Byddeforde (pre-NHS!) and start to understand how and why accusations of witchcraft arose (and still do in other parts of the world). We are also drawn along in the not so alternative 2020 world to consider present day equivalents. The ‘chapters’ are almost complete stories in themselves making it easy to pick up and read in those spare moments – gradually building to its dramatic climax. Slightly unsettling, we are left with questions to ponder and a gentle challenge to have the courage and forethought to support the outsider. Looking forward to the next one! PS Great pre-order offer too.

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