Book Review : Ten Thousand Stitches

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Ten Thousand StitchesTen Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales, #2) by Olivia Atwater
Published by Orbit on July 19th 2022
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Romance
Pages: 288
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Source: NetGalley

Regency housemaid Euphemia Reeves has acquired a faerie godfather. Unfortunately, he has no idea what he's doing.
Effie has most inconveniently fallen in love with the dashing Mr Benedict Ashbrooke. There's only one problem; Effie is a housemaid, and a housemaid cannot marry a gentleman. It seems that Effie is out of luck until she stumbles into the faerie realm of Lord Blackthorn, who is only too eager to help Effie win Mr Ashbrooke's heart. All he asks in return is that Effie sew ten thousand stitches onto his favourite jacket.
Effie has heard rumours about what happens to those who accept help from faeries, but life as a maid at Hartfield is so awful that she is willing to risk even her immortal soul for a chance at something better. Now, she has one hundred days - and ten thousand stitches - to make Mr Ashbrooke fall in love and propose. . . if Lord Blackthorn doesn't wreck things by accident, that is. For Effie's greatest obstacle might well prove to be Lord Blackthorn's overwhelmingly good intentions.
From the author of HALF A SOUL comes a whimsical fantasy romance with a Cinderella twist. Pick up TEN THOUSAND STITCHES, and dive into another enchanting faerie tale set in Olivia Atwater's charming, magical version of Regency England!

Ten Thousand Stitches is my first time reading a novel by Olivia Atwater, but it certainly won’t be my last. I didn’t read this novel’s predecessor in the author’s Regency Fairy Tale series, and thankfully, this did not lessen my enjoyment of Ten Thousand Stitches at all, which can be read as a standalone. I was happily surprised at what a charming, eclectic read this novel is, which is anything but a typical Cinderella retelling.


Ten Thousand Stitches follows Euphemia “Effie” Reeves as she makes her living as a maid in a noble family’s household. Rather miserable being a maid due to awful working conditions and treatment at the hands of the noble family, Effie is even more discontent after a run in with the family’s handsome son, Mr. Benedict, who initially mistakes her for a lady. In a moment, she has fallen for him, and realizing the sheer impossibility of a maid ever being with a young nobleman, she reluctantly seeks the aid of an eager faerie named Lord Blackthorn. 


“‘There’s really no need to make extra work for you, is there?’ he said to Effie apologetically. He headed up the stairs before she could find the wherewithal to respond. As his figure disappeared, Effie was struck by a horrified realisation. ‘Oh bother,’ she said, “‘I think I’ve just fallen in love.'”


I really loved the hilarity of Effie’s developing friendship with Lord Blackthorn, who she originally and rightfully suspects of ulterior motives due to the mere fact that he is a faerie. I was perplexed that Lord Blackthorn was described as both a faerie and an elf with no real explanation of the lore involving this apparently singular race. But Ten Thousand Stitches keeps things simple and assumes that you have read at least one previous story about the tricky nature of faeries. 


Likewise, the nature of the divide between servants and noble characters is remarkably plain black and white. This is not Downton Abbey where there are a few scheming servants trying to throw other workers under the bus to climb the ladder in the household, or where some of the nobles are great, and others are awful, entitled people. In the household where Effie works, all of the nobles are universally awful, and all the servants have hearts of gold, despite being apparently worked to the bone. 


“‘I really can’t sir,’ she pleaded. ‘I’m just a maid.’

‘But of course you can!’ Lord Blackthorn exulted. ‘Why, I ask for your help especially because you are a maid! All of the maids that I have met have been the very best examples of English virtue, and so I consider it a high recommendation.’


I say “apparently” because the working conditions of Effie and the other servants were not nearly as bad as they actually were in regency England. Though Effie and her best friend Lydia bemoan their fates of having to wake up to tend to the fireplaces and complain of the sheer amount of tasks they have to do, it’s not quite realistic and certainly doesn’t do justice to the true circumstances of being a servant in Regency England, that were actually tantamount to slavery. We are only told about the work that has to be done, but not really privy to being shown it. There are no tales of sore fingers or burns from starting the fireplaces.


Lydia, though having her own supposedly endless amount of duties, is only too happy to help Effie with her scullery duties that she is assigned as punishment. She’s also never jealous of the fact that Effie essentially acquires her own faerie godfather and is eager to help Effie accomplish her goal of marriage to Mr. Benedict. She doesn’t have any mixed feelings about using a glamour to appear as Effie’s chaperone and being told not to speak, something that will expose her accent as indicative of her lower societal standing.


Though it’s absolutely lovely to see such an unmitigated supportive female friendship, I think it’s almost ridiculous how unreservedly wonderful and secure Lydia is, without any misgivings about told to be seen and not heard, or about about her own fate when Effie becomes a lady. Though the girls do have one misunderstanding in Ten Thousand Stitches it’s so inconsequential in comparison to all of the things Lydia has been willing to do to help Effie. This woman is purely made of steel to be mostly unbothered by the unfairness of it all. I couldn’t help but feel their friendship was a little too rosy, especially for two overworked young women without any kind of support systems, and came out far too unscathed for one friend literally getting a fairy godparent and expecting the other to help with no benefit to herself whatsoever. 


Despite the fact that Ten Thousand Stitches lacks any kind of nuance or complexity, it’s a purely fun and enjoyable read. Not to mention that there is the magic and glamours of the faerie, the lovely and unbelievable friendship between Lydia and Effie, and the fact that there is more to Effie’s sewing skills than meets the eye. It doesn’t hurt matters that the themes of kindness, anger, and social justice are spread throughout Ten Thousand Stitches as well. Plus, sometimes we all just need to read a novel where all of the characters get a happy ending of some sorts.


By far my favorite part of the story was everything involving Lord Blackthorn. Though I initially suspected his sincerity and earnestness, readers will quickly learn he is, in fact, just as cinnamon-roll-y as he appears. I would’ve liked to see a little more expounding on his development of feelings for Effie, complete with his confusion and revelation of his feelings, but Ten Thousand Stitches is just such a short and sweet novel, that there isn’t much room for a whole lot of subtlety, foreshadowing, and hints. 


“I wanted you know that I think the world of you, [Lord Blackthorn]. Whatever trouble you have caused, you have also made my life much better with your presence. I enjoy your company and your good cheer and you refusal to ever give up. I do not know if that is what you would call virtuous, but it is important to me.”


Effie does get her happy ending and it’s sugary and cute, but one really has to wonder if the ending is truly happy when the heroine simply has so few choices in her life. I truly wish Ten Thousand Stitches had been longer, taken more time to show Effie’s burgeoning feelings for both Lord Blackthorn and the world of faerie, in order to make it seem like she was really choosing what would make her heart happy, and not just the most favorable option available to her. Because honestly, who would want to remain a house servant when they could live a life of leisure in the world of faerie? This is especially true as the novel makes sure to tell us under no uncertain terms that View Spoiler »


Plus, readers are never exposed to any of the downsides of faerie. There is no scene where Effie is lost in the woods and attacked by an evil faerie, or repeatedly shown her worst nightmares or something, with Lord Blackthorn to come to the rescue. All of the true horrors of the Effie’s universe take place in the human world, rendering her choice to be with Lord Blackthorn less of an actual romantic choice, as shown by her rather bland confession quoted above, and more as the best option for Effie’s survival. A part of me couldn’t help but wish that there was some other happy ending, like Effie becoming some sort of faerie godmother herself, using her magical powers to help other servant girls find their happiness under the tutelage of the ever-eager Lord Blackthorn, who simply loves learning more about humans. This is somewhat alluded to in the ending of the novel, but not specifically spelled out.


Though it’s admittedly unrealistic and requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, how much realism does one truly want in a romance story between a maid and her faerie godfather? I think this this is the perfect novel for those that love fairy tale retellings, romance, or the regency era. Personally, I found Ten Thousand Stitches to be a delightful and fluffy read, especially when I didn’t look too closely at the lack of world-building, realism, and descriptions of love. In fact, even purchased the previous work in the series, Half a Soul, which I look forward to reading and reviewing. 


Book Review : Ten Thousand Stitches - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 5, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance


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