Rosie McLeod, pub proprietor and a gifted herbalist of local renown, is thirty-nine and holding, but only just. The talons of her fortieth birthday are in her back and her bloody, bloody husband hasn’t laid a lustful hand on her for months.
Rosie sets out to discover if her husband is having an affair, using deductive powers based solely on the careful preparation of plants and herbs. But as her well-laid plans entirely fall apart, the sighting of a large black cat sets off another chain of events.
Rosie now realises that a psychopath is on the loose – and that she’s been selected as his next victim.
Thank you to the author, Charlie Laidlaw, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rosie, of course, was no witch. Her only vanity was to understand the changing seasons and to blend the properties of plants and herbs to her own desires. It was an instinct, beyond her mother’s teaching: a gift of healing, not of magic, despite what some people laughingly said in the village.
Having read The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and The Space Between Time, I can safely say that Charlie Laidlaw has an ability to blend genres. Love Potions and Other Calamities is a mix of humour, mystery and romance. This novel retains a unique writing style, but unlike his last two books, the tone is more light-hearted.
The story centres around Rosie McLeod, a gifted herbalist who is dreading her upcoming fortieth birthday. Rosie wishes that her husband Jack was more passionate and she uses her knowledge of herbalism to find out whether Jack is being unfaithful. Things don’t go to plan, however, and after a sighting of a large black cat, Rosie realises that she is in danger because something sinister is going on in the village of Holy Cross.
Each chapter begins with an excerpt from The Book of Secrets by Albert Magnus, a 13th century scientist, philosopher and Christian theologian. It’s clear that a lot of research went into this book about herbalism and I found it interesting to learn about the properties of herbs and plants.
Rosie felt like an authentic character and whilst I didn’t agree with her actions, I could kind of understand why she felt compelled to take such drastic measures. I think her storyline with Jack is a great way of showing that communication with your partner is key. If Rosie had initially spoken to Jack about her feelings, it would have saved a lot of mishaps!
One thing that stood out to me is how the author was able to draw on the rich history of Scotland to create a memorable village. After reading the novel, I thought that Holy Cross was a real village in Scotland. Laidlaw vividly illustrates Holy Cross as a place of myth and legend. It was fascinating to read about the setting of Holy Cross with its history of witchcraft and the Holy Grail.
There are lots of different characters in this book and quite a few narratives which connect the inhabitants of Holy Cross. I enjoyed the descriptions of village life and how Rosie’s herbal concoctions turn everything upside down in a place where seemingly nothing ever happens.
This is a quirky, well-researched novel with a wonderful cast of characters, plus a dash of Scottish history and mystery.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐