Book Club: The Locksmith’s Daughter

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Author: Karen Brooks
ISBN: 9781489210548
RRP: $32.99

The Locksmith’s Daughter is an historical tale set in the 1580s that deftly weaves fact and fiction into a captivating tale. My history is, let’s be honest here, pretty appalling. School was a while ago but that’s no excuse, I think my history was always pretty average. There are times that I will get intrigued by an historic event but it’s generally pretty shortlived.


It isn’t often that I read historical novels but when I do it’s fantastic to stick around for Author’s Notes to find out a little bit more, especially about the relationship between fact and fiction.

The Locksmith’s Daughter features real historical figures and actual historic events alongside an entire story imagined by the talented Brooks.

It took me a little while to really get immersed in the story but I think that has a lot more to do with the crazy weeks I’ve been having than the story. Historical stories, I find, are generally not as light and easy to read as contemporary novels and that may simply be because of the language and the completely different world the characters inhabit.

One of my issues with the book in the early chapters was the depth of description, I found it a little overwhelming and it seemed excessive. I soon realised that level of description served a purpose and once I understood the reason it ceased to overwhelm.

Mallory Bright is the daughter of a talented London locksmith who is trying to re-establish her reputation, a feat thought too difficult by some because of her unladylike behaviours. Instead of spending her time perfecting the role of dutiful daughter and future dutiful wife she’s been in the workshop learning the tricks of the trade. She is a formidable lockpick with skills that Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and protector of the realm, recognises as being a valuable asset to his network.

The Locksmith’s Daughter tells the tale of a turbulent time in England’s history. The accepted religion of the realm had recently seen changes which lead to great upheaval between Catholics and Protestants, a theme which has lead to great turbulence in many countries through the centuries. It is believed that the Catholics are plotting against the Queen in a bid to restore the Catholic faith and so it becomes a religious divide in which innocents are caught up in the crossfire of fanatics.

The Locksmiths Daughter

Locks, keys, secrets and lies are elements of the story just as important to the narrative. It is Mallory’s skill with locks that brings her to the attention of Walsingham and sees her become the first woman included in the network, for the very realistic reason that no-one would ever suspect a woman. That may have been true then but I certainly don’t think it’s true anymore.

Locks and lies become an integral part of Mallory’s work as a watcher but trying to keep that separate from her private life proves difficult, especially when there are things she’s still hiding to try and protect herself and her family.

Loyalty is of the utmost importance, in her work but also to Mallory personally so what happens when her loyalties are tested and she has to make a choice?
The plot of The Locksmith’s Daughter is fascinating, the historical detail is meticulous and it’s untold hours of research evident. The characters are insightful, intriguing and believable. I think this book will have immense appeal to lovers of historical drama, especially in the Elizabethan era, but also to everyone who loves a bit of mystery and suspense.

The Locksmith’s Daughter is book #41 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

Karen Brooks can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her Website.

The Locksmith’s Daughter is available from October 2016 through Harlequin and available to pre-order now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Locksmith’s Daughter so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments, and we are ever so excited to be getting such an early look at this great book.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: The Locksmith’s Daughter

  1. would love to read The locksmiths daughter if you need more people, love history, so outrageous with clothes when you look at todays people…..

  2. Love historical fiction and The Locksmith’s Daughter is just that. Set in the Elizabethan era in England it tells the story of Mallory the only child and daughter of London’s sought after locksmith Gideon Bright. What a story is told – lots of twists and turns and unexpected events keep you gripped and wanting more. I kept wanting to devour page after page as I wanted to find out what had happened to Mallory in the past and what was going to happen to her but I needed to slow myself down and savour the wonderful storyline. Spies, locks, intrigue, deception and danger make for an interesting as well as entertaining read.
    Mallory has grown up in her fathers workshop and has become adept at picking locks and this skill is not lost on the Queen’s Secretary and spymaster Sir Richard Walsingham who takes Mallory in his employ to become the missing piece in his ‘information network’. Mallory is trained to become part of Sir Richard’s network of spies. Her skills as a lock picker are enhanced with code breaking, geography, intelligence gathering and other necessary traits required for her to become an intelligencer. Throughout the story there is an undercurrent of tension, loss, and love.
    I had not read any previous Karen Brooks books but am now a fan. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review.

  3. The Locksmith’s Daughter by Karen Brooks is a Historical Fiction that has attention to details that make this book a pleasure to read.
    The descriptions of clothing, food and even the language will take you back in time to London in the 1580’s, to the time of Queen Elizabeth’s rule.
    Mallory Bright is our main character who is the daughter of a Master Locksmith.
    We follow her turbulent story of a female these times and how a woman is only a chattel.
    Mallory is not a usual woman of the times. She has learnt her fathers trade, and is unusually good at it. Her talents are utilised by the Queen’s Secretary, spymaster and protector.
    This takes Mallory out of her comfort zoned into a world of intrigue.
    Brooks has written well with twists and turns that will keep you riveted to the last page.

  4. I feel really bad. I thought that I would really enjoy this book, but I must confess that I am struggling with it. I have nearly finished reading it, but have found it really slow going and a lot of hard work. There were a lot of words that I didn’t know and so to help me understand more about that period I have stopped numerous times to look them up in the dictionary. I have enjoyed the story, but I feel it’s been on a really superficial level. Maybe I will have to re-read it again to get a more in-depth understanding because I felt there was so much that I missed. I know that Queen Elizabeth was in power, but women were looked at so poorly back then. I wonder whether there really were a few women like Mallory who were seen to be different and appreciated for their talents?

    Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me review this book >:o)

  5. Wow, what an amazing book and what a talented author Karen Brooks is. Like Michelle I initially found the book hard work, mainly because most books I have read recently have been very light and haven’t required the depth of concentration required by quality historical fiction. Once my head adjusted to the use of language that matched the era Brooks was writing about, and the depth of description used I was utterly absorbed. Historical fiction is not my favorite genre, but the period in the locksmith’s daughter is one which has always fascinated me and which I have some knowledge of and therefore I was interested to see how Brooks dealt with this.

    The mark of quality historical fiction is the seamless blending of fact and fiction and Brooks achieves this to an incredibly high degree. Her author notes at the end which shows the level of research she entered into to produce this work is testament to the quality product produced.

    The story revolves around Mallory Bright, the daughter of a locksmith during the era of Elizabeth the first and begins with Mallory returning to her home in London after a significant indiscretion for this period of time. She is accompanied on her return home by Caleb Hollis, a playwright of some repute who is a lodger in her parent’s home, who writes plays that border sometimes on a disrespect for the Queen and her Protestant beliefs.

    Unusually for a woman of the time, Mallory is well educated, and a skilled lock picker due to her work with her father. Her return to her home town is blighted by some of the townsfolk’s attitude towards her, and the aloof/cold attitude towards her by her mother.

    Her father Gideon therefore entreats his friend Sir Francis Walsingham to assist in finding Mallory some suitable employ. Sir Francis (one of the characters in the book who existed in real life) is the spymaster and protector of the Queen. Recognising Mallory’s enviable abilities with locks, Sir Francis draws her into his web of spies and intrigue in order to protect the then Protestant nation against Catholicism and Popery.

    As the story progresses Mallory is horrified as she witnesses the brutal and unjust execution of three Jesuit priests, realising her involvement in bringing them to such an end. Other events make her question the decision to persecute a group of people based on their religious beliefs, especially when all else aside, at the end of the day they all worship the same God. Then, as she discovers a Catholic spy close to home and heart she must make a decision, knowing the impact her actions will have for her future.

    There are scenes within this book that are represented with a level of accuracy that are not for the faint of heart yet were justified in the day through propaganda and religious prejudice.

    As well as being an amazing work of historical fiction, Brooks appears to use this work to endeavour to open people’s minds to the way religion and religious fervor can be used in a destructive manner. Much as we always hope that history will not repeat itself it seems we are unable to learn the lessons of the past, and horrors justified by religious fervor have continued through the ages and continue to this day.

    As Brooks herself says “In many ways, parallels between what happened in Elizabeth’s reign can be drawn with the world today where assumptions are made about people on the basis of faith – a person’s religious beliefs have become synonymous with their politics, calling into question an individual’s patriotism and loyalty to their nation and fellow countrymen and women. Just like Elizabethans, we’re being taught to fear an ‘enemy within.'”

    Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book (which my husband is now also reading and enjoying). I would give it 5 stars.

  6. This is my second helping of Australian historical fiction writer Karen Brooks. Last year I read and enjoyed Karen’s first novel, The Brewers Tale. The Locksmith’s Daughter is another fascinating historical tale from Brooks that expertly weaves fact with fiction together with a compelling female protagonist.

    It took me no time at all to fall into The Locksmith’s Daughter. The first person narrative style employed by the author, allows the reader to immediately develop a bond with main protagonist, Mallory Bright. Mallory is an interesting young woman of her time. She is the only daughter and child of a well known locksmith in London, Gideon Bright. Gideon knows the extent of his daughter’s talents and has not restricted her as a result. As well as being a language expert, Mallory is successful at the lock picking trade. Her talents catch the eye of one of the most important figures in the Elizabethan era, Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Francis hires Mallory for her language aptitude, in the hope that she can teach his daughter. However, as the book progresses, Mallory’s role and life becomes much more complicated. Under Walsingham’s direction, Mallory becomes a spymaster for the Queen’s protector and is caught up in a world dominated by religious divisions and political intrigue.

    I had an immediate feeling, just from reading the prologue of The Locksmith’s Daughter that it was not going to take much at all to get me hooked on this novel. It should be said that I am a long standing fan of historical fiction, in fact, only a few years ago it was the only genre I would read. The Tudor and the Elizabethan era has fascinated me for some time. When I saw that The Locksmith’s Daughter was set in an era I enjoy reading about, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. It always amazes me that I continually find more interesting historical stories that are borne from this era. The Locksmith’s Daughter is a prime example of this. Author Karen Brooks should be commended on sheer amount of research she has undertaken, in order to bring this particular story to life. She deftly combines rich historical fact, with her own imagined fictional tale and it comes off just perfectly. What I appreciated about The Locksmith’s Daughter, was the effort Brooks has put into her novel to ensure that her prose is historically accurate. Although this was tough going reading wise, I still feel this is an important ingredient to good historical fiction novel. Added to this is the specific Elizabethan period detail, such as Brooks’ insertion of key historical events, players and even dress codes. All these points combine, to give the book an air of historical authenticity. Readers will find this book delivers a great mix of themes, from drama, to romance and intrigue. The focus on the trade of lock picking, through the main characters of Mallory and Gideon Bright, was particularly enlightening to read. There were some tough moments in this book too, such as instances of domestic violence and torture scenes, which serve to highlight the true extent of women’s inferiority in this era. Brooks has cast her characters well, offsetting the main protagonist Mallory, with a superb cast of good and bad minor characters. In particular, I found the character of Caleb fascinating and his minor story thread involving homosexuality in this era, utterly absorbing.

    My final word on The Locksmith’s Daughter should be directed at giving a shout out to the fantastic author’s note contained at the end of the book. It provides further detail on the inspiration for the book and provides insight into the sheer level of research that is involved in the creation of a book such as The Locksmith’s Daughter. The Locksmith’s Daughter comes highly recommended, especially for those who appreciate full bodied historical fiction, written by an Australian author who knows her craft.

    *I wish to thank Beauty and Lace for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. Thank you for the opportunity to read the Locksmith’s Daughter by Karen Brooks.
    Whilst this historical fiction was well descriptive and full of interesting twists and turns, I did find it a little difficult to read. Maybe it was because of the language that I was not used to.
    However, the plot, descriptions and characters all contributed to my enjoyment of this book. I especially enjoyed following the story of Mallory Bright, the female heroine. Her strong character, wit, determination and feistiness together with her fears and dreams helped capture and hold my interest.
    This is certainly a must read for lovers of historical fiction.

  8. Research, research and more research is what Karen Brooks has done to create “The Locksmith’s Daughter”, and for that I must thank and commend her on creating a great, intriguing read.

    When I started reading the book I found it hard to grasp the writing, text and coming to like or dislike the characters. We all love the hero and heroine in a book. I grew to love Mallory, (she seemed to me to be born before her time), who gets caught up in a world of spies and ugliness, from which see frees herself and comes out he heroine.

    Thank you Karen, you are a great novelist. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for giving me the chance to read a enthralling book.

  9. Karen`s talents as a writer are outstanding beyond words as she has a fascinating knowledge of history and can put us as readers right in the story and era she is trying to depict (although she is that good she doesn`t have to try very hard I don`t think)
    My first thoughts on this book was mysterious because the look of the book makes you feel like it is a wooden box that you can`t help but opening as you unravel it` contents. When starting to read the story I found myself really having to immerse myself into the first few pages because I was trying to adjust to this era and it`s way of speech but when I got through that deep concentration phase of those few pages, I found myself wanting more and more.
    It really makes you realise how they lived and how things these days are accepted, were not then as they brought shame to families just from a split decision to choose a way or path in life.
    I loved the main character Mallory and found the whole book a real fascinating insight into history and the events that unfolded with some other great characters and not so great which made this book that much more exciting to read.
    You wont regret reading this book as it is worth every word and may even open up a different avenue of reading choice like it did for me. Am very happy I got chosen to read this one as it definately got and held my attention all the way through.
    Thankyou B&L and Karen Brooks for taking me back in time it was an enjoyable and learning experience. XO.

  10. The locksmiths daughter from the first page kept me enthralled until the end. Written with passion and an ability to bring the characters alive! At first I thought how would I get thru this book within the time frame but I could not put it down.

    Extremely well written, an eye for detail and plenty of thought have gone gone into the plot, the period and a story woven around the characters that did not become mediocre at any stage.

    The title did not give me any clue to what the overall story would be, her character or time frame within history, so it was a pleasant surprise to be immersed and find a snippet in time. I loved the cover, it too did not give away any information on the story within, rather creating a mystery waiting to be found.

    Mallory is a girl ahead of her time and I found myself thinking I hope that would have been me if I was in that time/place/situation. I also found myself wondering if certain scenarios were going to happen but the author presented a whole different process and I had no idea what was to happen.

    This style of writing, era and history is my favorite reading and not a word was wasted in the Locksmiths daughter and I certainly hope that this book is made into a movie, it has so much potential.

    I believe the author Karen Brooks has another book, which I will be finding and reading.

    Thank you so much to Beauty and Lace and to Karen Brooks for letting me read and review the LocksmIths daughter.

  11. The Locksmith’s Daughter is a novel set in the 1580’s during a turbulent time of England’s history. At first I found the book hard to settle into but once I had the feel for it I found it a great read. I really enjoy reading books set in this time period and this book was no exception and very well written.

    The way that Karen Brooks researched and wrote the story of this historical time is with great depth including language, clothing, and all aspects of life were very enlightening to what life was like in this period and for me at times I felt like I could have been there.

    The story focuses on the life of Mallory Bright the only daughter of a well known London locksmith Gideon Bright who has taught his daughter the tricks of the trade. She is not only talented at lock picking but also talented in many languages. Her talents do not go unnoticed; Sir Francis Walsingham hires Mallory for her talents to teach his daughter. But this is not what he has in mind for Mallory, and life gets complicated from here. He has other thoughts and wants her to work for him as a protector for the Queen and teachers her to become a spymaster involving a world of religion and politics.

    The story has many twists and turns, and keeps you wanting for more and you will not be disappointed as you read to the very last page.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to read The Locksmith’s Daughter.

  12. I am late leaving this review as I have been away on holidays and only received the book on my return.
    I am not really a lover of historical fiction, but actually found it to be a very interesting read. Karen Brooks is definitely a very talented author, has a really good knowledge of history and the way she blends fact and fiction is quite amazing. Mallory, the main character, is well educated, which is unusual for a woman of that time. Learning her father Gideon’s trade of a master locksmith is also unusual for a woman and she was extremely good at it as well as her expertise with language. She is taken out of her comfort zone when she is trained to become part of a network of spies and her life gets very complicated. This book kept me interested right up until the last page, there were so many twists and turns as well as romance and intrigue. I definitely recommend this book and am sure that you will not regret reading it.
    Thank you to both Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for giving me the opportunity to read and review this novel.

  13. I am late leaving this review as I have been away on holidays and only received the book on my return. I did write the review a couple of days ago but have found that it hasn’t appeared, so am writing it again.
    I am not really a lover of historical fiction, but actually found it to be a very interesting read. Karen Brooks is definitely a very talented author, has a really good knowledge of history and the way she blends fact and fiction is quite amazing. Mallory, the main character, is well educated, which is unusual for a woman of that time. Learning her father Gideon’s trade of a master locksmith is also unusual for a woman and she was extremely good at it as well as her expertise with language. She is taken out of her comfort zone when she is trained to become part of a network of spies and her life gets very complicated. This book kept me interested right up until the last page, there were so many twists and turns as well as romance and intrigue. I definitely recommend this book and am sure that you will not regret reading it.
    Thank you to both Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for giving me the opportunity to read and review this novel.

  14. I am certain I wrote my review for this but let’s try again!
    I certainly found this book a little hard to get around at first with the language, but it was well worth the read. This period piece is full of wonderful descriptions and is full of twists and turns that keeps you hooked right up to the last page.
    This story gives us a glimpse of how difficult things could be for women of this era, especially if they are misunderstood and even slightly intelligent.
    A very good read, thank you for the chance to review

  15. The Locksmiths Daughter is the perfect book for getting lost into. I love historical fiction and this was a wonderful journey back in time, Mallory , the main character is strong and beautiful . The book made me reflect on the differences between now and back then re being a woman… It made me happier to be a woman of the present and not the past . The story about Mallory is full of love, strength and regret. Her story line is mapped perfectly…a great read and was difficult to put down. I have already passed it on to my neighbour who is excited about reading it. Thank you for letting me be part of this trial.

  16. Wow, really enjoyed this book as it is not what I generally choose to read, Mallory, the main character is–“the locksmiths daughter” and her character is so strong and not a sweet unassuming girl like I would of assumed women to be like in the Tudor period. The book and contents are very well researched and written, sometimes the detail was so in depth that I found muself having to re-read the section to take it all in. In saying that, I couldn’t not keep reading it! There are twists and turns, romance and abit of a spy story in there as well which I wasnt expecting.
    Thankyou for the opportunity and glad I went out of the square to read something different.

  17. The Locksmiths daughter was a good deep meaty read ,It took a couple of chapters to really get into it but once in couldn’t put the book down .I was full on intrigue /sweetness /faith in humanity with just enough romance not to be overly .`Mallory showed courage in adversity .the research into the time period was impeccable .as this novel was not my normal read I was pleasantly surprise d how much I enjoyed it

  18. The Locksmith’s Daughter is a richly detailed and entertaining story. Set in the age of Queen Elizabeth the First its twisting and turning plot kept me riveted. I loved learning more about that slice of history and about the trade of a locksmith. The blend of fiction and fact brought the setting to life.

    The central character, Mallory Bright, was beautifully drawn, caught as she was between the social attitudes to women and her unusual upbringing. She was ably supported by a vast cast of supporting characters, who were also vividly portrayed.

    Mallory’s moral dilemmas felt very real set amongst the bloody retribution and religious intolerance of the times. I enjoyed the books enormously and would recommend it to anyone who loves a realistic historical. It did take a couple of chapters for me to adjust to the language but by the third chapter I stopped noticing it and simply enjoyed the story.

    Thanks to MIRA and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review it. And thanks to Karen Brooks for writing such a fascinating story.

  19. What a wonderful story. At first I found it difficult to get into the book, but I soon became captivated. I am an avid reader of many genres. I had recently been reading some books set at a similar time. So I was surprised to come across words I had never seen before. I think this added depth and authenticity to the story.
    It is incredible to think that women had no rights, her father signed her work contract. The formality that was part of every day life and the small things that gave offence were fascinating, Brook weaves fact and fiction in an intriguing way. Small things like the reference to knowing peoples status by their clothing and that only certain people were permitted to wear lace and velvet.
    The last book I read was “Bitter Greens” by Kate Forsyth, an Australian author. This was set a century later and based on the Kings court and life at that time. A very pleasant coincidence that I have read two works of fact and fiction, both expertly researched and spell binding. Having read one added depth and understanding to the second.
    I was intrigued by Mallorys secret and could not wait to discover what it was. Mallory is a very strong character, in today’s world she surely would have had PTSD. She is a woman in a mans world, very unusual for the time. Her relationships had me intrigued. What was the tension with her mother? Why was Lord Walsingham interested in her, and why his wife’s dislike of Mallory?
    All this and more had me glued to the story. Another great book that proves how fantastic Australian authors are.

  20. Firstly thanks to Beauty and Lace for allowing me to read and review The Locksmith’s Daughter by Karen Brooks.

    Karen Brooks immersed me in the world and times that surrounded Mallory with the use of the descriptive language and attention to detail.
    I did stop and start this book a couple of times and I think this was because at times I did tend to get lost in the language.

    From the first page of The Locksmith’s Daughter It felt almost like I was there walking down the street as Mallory, being aware of every single detail, every building and person. I really enjoyed the character of Mallory, in particular her empathy for humankind and ability to look deeper at a lot of the societal issues of the times.

    This would not be my usual type of book, however I always enjoy any read that has a main female character who is strong willed and so focused.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for their patience due to my late review.

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