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The Beloved by Alison Rattle

Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place.

Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother's rule.

After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands. She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last.

But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince's strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man's charm. Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?

My thoughts
Alison Rattle hooked me with her first book. Her books are a perfect example of what I want Historical Fiction to do and be. This book is no exception.

The beloved is the story of Alice. Alice's mother is horrible and treats her poorly. Once her father dies her mother decides to put Alice into a lunatic asylum. Alice decides to run away and finds herself joining a religious cult led by a strange man and made up of lots of women.

The entire story about the cult is deeply unsettling when you see the situation in which the women live in under Prince's rule. The abuse they suffer both psychologically and physically is really chilling and made me distinctly uncomfortable as I read along.

For me what made this book fantastic is the rich historical detail. I love how you can see that Alison really knows her stuff and does her research. I know with complete certainty that if I give any of her books to any of my students that what they will learn from it won't teach them things that are completely incorrect unlike some other historical fiction.