Heloise Chancey is officially my hero; seriously, I’m obsessed with her & this book, & I absolutely cannot wait for the next book to come out!! In the first book about her, Heloise Chancey is sent back into a world of brothels & prostitution with the intention of finding a missing girl who has been shunned by her family. But, Heloise gets far more than she bargained for when she discovers that prostitutes are being murdered. Filled to the brim with mystery & strong female characters, She Be Damned is the historical mystery I’ve been waiting for!
I was sent an e-copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.
This book contains racist characters, female genital mutilation, insults to sex workers,
mentions of rape, graphic sex scenes, gruesome details of murder & sexual abuse.
So, it probably seems a bit strange that I can say I loved this book with that list of trigger warnings, but this is a historical mystery that weaves in & out of brothels & the lives of prostitutes so the above things are sort of to be expected… but, you definitely need a strong stomach if you’re going to read this book, so be warned.
As I’ve said twice already, I loved this book! This review won’t be very long because I can’t really talk about the plot without spoiling the mystery, but Heloise is absolutely one of the best protagonists I’ve ever experienced… she’s witty, strong, intelligent, sexually confident, a total badass feminist & is absolutely not scared of anything. She’s everything I could want in a protag & so much more! She runs this novel so well & the mystery aspect could have been awful, but I still would have read the book because of Heloise. Plus, I really love her name.
Then there’s Heloise’s maid, Amah Li Leen! Amah is half Chinese & pretty much just as badass as her mistress; she spends her time rolling her eyes at Heloise’s life choices & cutting down racists & sexists as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. She’s fierce & strong, & I liked her almost as much as I liked Heloise. On a serious note though, Mjia has written Amah’s character & experiences so, so well & her flashbacks really did pull at my heartstrings. Mjia has also portrayed the type of abuse Amah would have received in the 1860s with a lot of care, & you can tell from the writing that Mjia is 100% not okay with how Amah gets treated by the majority of people in the book. I thought it was a brilliant addition to the story that Amah gets arrested because she’s apparently a suspicious individual, & I adored the relationship that Amah & Heloise shared.
The mystery aspect of the book was also really good – I didn’t work out who the murderer was, despite wracking my brains for clues, so that alone means that this was a good reading experience for me. The layers to the story were put together really well, & the final plot twist was beyond exciting; it was timed & executed perfectly & sent my brain into a spin.
The historical accuracy of the book was also really good as well – at least in my opinion; Mjia did a good job of highlighting how much prejudice was around (or, more obviously around) in the 1860s & I liked how consistent the highlighting of this was throughout the book. There was a lot of sexism in the book, but also details of the stereotypes women like Heloise & Amah were stuck with during this period of English history, & it was obvious that Mjia had considered how these stereotypes & judgements would have affected Heloise & Amah’s personalities. I also loved the descriptions of Heloise’s clothing choices, & laughed more than once at how inconvenient they could be.
She Be Damned was a book I really needed during a time of self-doubt; Heloise helped to remind me that men really are useless, & that I shouldn’t let them get me down (if you want to know what I’m talking about here, see my most recent Medical Mondays post). Heloise is amazing, & so is M. J. Tjia, & I want you all to read this book. Seriously, girls, you need Heloise in your life!
Although I was sent an e-copy of this book by the publisher, I ordered my own print copy half way through the read; you can also buy the book using the links below: if you use the Amazon.co.uk or Book Depository link to make a purchase I will receive a small fee at no cost to you, so please consider doing so.
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Book Depository | Waterstones | Wordery
Unfortunately, She Be Damned isn’t currently available on Audible (which totally sucks).