Hodder to publish Sheridan's historical botany novel

Hodder to publish Sheridan's historical botany novel

Hodder will publish Sara Sheridan’s Edinburgh-set historical novel The Fair Botanists in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  

Hodder & Stoughton has acquired the "spellbinding historical intrigue", to be published in hardback, e-book and audio on 5th August 2021. World rights (all languages) were acquired by Hodder editor Lily Cooper from Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associated in an exclusive submission.  

The Fair Botanists draws on King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822 – organised by Walter Scott, who features in the novel – and the simultaneous movement of the Botanic Garden from its location at Leith Walk to a new destination at Inverleith, where it can be found today,” Hodder said.  

In celebration of this storyline, Hodder has partnered with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to promote the publication through its retail and digital channels, with plans for an author event in August.  

In the novel, “Edinburgh’s botanical circles are gripped by the imminent blooming of the exotic Agave americana plant – an event which only occurs once in several decades – in the Botanic Garden Glasshouse,” Hodder said. “Newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in the city to live with her late husband’s aunt and meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation. The two women bond over their shared interest in botany, although Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest in the garden secret from her new friend. Yet as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city, and when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.” 

Cooper said: “Sara wanted to create a time capsule into 1822 Edinburgh, and she has perfectly succeeded with The Fair Botanists. With a gorgeous eye for detail, vividly realised characters and a delightful intrigue set within the grounds of the Botanic Garden, she seamlessly weaves fiction with history to spellbinding results. I am delighted to be working with the team at the garden to highlight the book to its many members, patrons and visitors.”  

Sheridan said: “Writing this book set in a key era in the history of my home town and having the opportunity to peer into the lives of some of people who lived here before me was a treat – especially the women. I wanted to create a romp that would intrigue the reader and reflect the hearty and exciting decade that drew the Enlightenment to a close with all its rambunctious pleasures and intellectual vigour.” 

Paula Bushell, head of marketing and communications at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Sara and her reimaging of a time which was very significant for the Garden is fascinating and entertaining. It is true that, when the garden moved location, large mature trees were transported across the city in a procession consisting of carts, horses and horticulturists, a spectacle that delighted the residents of Edinburgh. These facts, now merged with fiction and much plotting and mischief, will delight readers.”  

Edinburgh-based writer Sheridan has been writing both fiction and creative non-fiction for more than 20 years and was previously published by Constable and Arrow. In 2019, she remapped Scotland according to women’s history to memorialise the country’s mostly forgotten foremothers, Where are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland (Historic Environment Scotland). In 2016 she co-founded REEK: a feminist perfume project now in the collections of the National Museum of Scotland and the Glasgow Women’s Library. She has been named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 Most Influential Scottish Women past and present.