Love Potions and Other Calamities by Charlie Laidlaw #BookReview

Love Potions and Other Calamities is a comic tale of love and unintended consequences. 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.

I'm so pleased to be sharing my review of Love Potions and Other Calamities by Charlie Laidlaw today. Many thanks to the author and to Headline Accent for my copy of the novel which I received through Netgalley.

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Things We Learn When We're Dead and The Space Between Time, I knew to expect something completely different when I read Love Potions and Other Calamities; Charlie Laidlaw could never be accused of writing to a formula! This is perhaps a more lighthearted book but is still as perceptive and absorbing as I've come to expect from an author who has become a must-read for me.
From the start, it's obvious that this is a novel which takes a ribald look at life as Rosie and her husband Jack are interrupted at a rather inopportune moment by a telephone call asking about appropriate flowers for a funeral. It's also immediately evident that Rosie isn't mourning this person's passing and on the contrary, has things she would far rather be doing...
Two week previously, Rosie was more concerned with her upcoming fortieth birthday and her fear of ageing. Feeling dowdy and undesirable, she could have spoken to Jack about her feelings but instead decided to use her specialist knowledge of plants and herbs to either tempt him back into her arms or to discover the truth about his fidelity. However, through a combination of bad luck, coincidence and the actions of a disturbed individual, unexpected events occur in the seemingly quiet, peaceful village of Holy Cross but with potentially portentous omens also sighted - not least a large black cat - there is a sense of malevolence and mystery amidst the more comic elements of the book.
At the start of each chapter of Love Potions and Other Calamities, there are excerpts from The Book of Secrets by Albertus Magnus, a thirteenth century guide into casting spells and using potions and as the novel progresses it becomes increasingly clear just how much research must have gone into writing a story which manages to so successfully combine a rather madcap tale about a woman's desperate measures to attract her husband's attention with a more unsettling look at the history of witchcraft and particularly how those suspected - most often women, of course - were treated.  There are some really funny scenes here; an unexpected interruption to a talk by a prospective Conservative MP and a sermon which proves uncomfortably memorable for all concerned are among the highlights but there are serious points raised too and as the central character, there is something actually quite moving about Rosie's story. She dreads becoming invisible in middle age but while her concerns could be dismissed as shallow, it is undeniably true that women are often cast aside once they reach forty. Her methods to reassure herself may be unconventional but her concerns are understandable. As is so often the case too, the scenes which give us an insight into Jack's thoughts and feelings show that a breakdown in communication can lead to all sorts of trouble.
There is certainly trouble in Holy Cross and Rosie isn't responsible for all of it. There is a genuine mystery here; as the sinister truth starts to come to light, there is very real danger and I second guessed myself throughout trying to work out who could and couldn't be trusted. The sense of place is fantastic too, from the entirely believable history of the village and its links to the Holy Grail casting it as a modern day tourist trap to the day to day community life, including a wonderfully realistic local cricked match.
Rosie is a wonderful character, of course but so too are the other villagers and I especially enjoyed the relationship between local policeman, Ritchie and barmaid, Mara. Would-be MP Adrian Mountjoy and his domineering constituency chairperson, Clare Derby are less likeable but just as vividly brought to life. Love Potions and Other Calamities is another hugely engaging novel by Charlie Laidlaw and is a delight to read from start to finish.

Love Potions and Other Calamities is published by Headline Accent and can be purchased from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Hive.

About the Author

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up children.
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