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Indulgence Set Me Free

Ten Thousand Stitches  (Regency Faerie Tales, volume 2)

By Olivia Atwater 

15 Dec, 2022

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2020’s Ten Thousand Stitches is the second of Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales novels. It is a stand-alone fantasy HEA (happily ever after) romance tale.

Working as Effie does for self-centered, thoughtlessly unkind Regency-era English aristocrats, it takes only a few kind words from Mr. Benedict Ashbrooke to leave Effie infatuated with Benedict. Alas! The class divide ensures the two will never marry. Not without a miracle, or at least powerful magic.

Which is where Effie’s faerie godfather comes in.

Lord Blackthorn — Juniper Jubilee to his friends — has resolved to be a virtuous person, according to the faerie lord’s rather theoretical grasp of virtue. He will be unkind to the powerful and kind to the powerless. A maid like Effie is the very definition of powerless. Encountering Effie, Lord Blackthorn resolves to help her find true love.

Effie has heard the stories about elves, how the Fair Folk spread chaos in their wake. Nevertheless, her lot is an unhappy one. It does not take long for Effie to accept the offer of help. 

The primary barrier between Effie and Benedict is class. Therefore, Lord Blackthorn need only provide Effie the means to appear a proper lady. Effie will be able to win Benedict, convince him to propose, and the rest will no doubt be a life-long happy ending. Everybody wins.

There are always catches. The most obvious catch in this case is that the Fair Folk may do nothing for free. Since Effie cannot pay Lord Blackthorn, he proposes a wager: Effie has a hundred and one days to marry the man she loves. If she fails, she will work as Lord Blackthorn’s maid for the rest of her life. Since Lord Blackthorn has every intention of helping Effie to win, it is hardly a wager at all, but it is sufficient to allow Lord Blackthorn to work his magic.

Whereupon the real catches become apparent. For example, Effie does not know Benedict at all. More importantly, Lord Blackthorn’s comprehension of human society is superficial at best. His sincere efforts only cause unwanted complications for Effie. In short order, her friends are angry at her, her employer has sacked her, and marriage seems farther away than ever.

As the deadline approaches, it seems Effie will have to resign herself to slaving in an elf lord’s household for the rest of her days. 


Trilogies being on my mind for various reasons, this example of a middle volume caught my eye because it avoids the common traps of a middle volume. It functions as a novel in its own right and the events depicted matter in their own right, rather than serving to set up volume three. 

It’s an odd thing to read about a servant so unhappy with her lot when the vast majority of fiction (written in or about the UK) either suggests that English servants were happy forelock-tuggers whose main discontent was they were not themselves the upper class (Downton Abbey) and sometimes that the servants were the ones actually running society (Jeeves). Sometimes they are completely absent; their existence can be deduced only because the household tasks couldn’t possibly be doing themselves (various regency romances). How astonishing to encounter a novel in which the lower orders have interior lives, in which the servants might possibly be real people.

To balance this, the novel offers an assortment of proud aristocrats whose lack of common sense would give Lord Darlington pause. For example, the upper classes often have problems living within their income. The consequences may fall on their servants, who often find themselves discarded like unfashionable hats when money runs short. The powerful do as they please and the only people who suffer are people who do not matter at all.

(I regret to report the novel does not end in a People’s Revolution and the deployment of an astonishing number of guillotines.)

For his part, amiable knucklehead Lord Blackthorn really does mean well. In keeping with the novel’s running theme of power used without understanding the consequences1, Lord Blackthorn is greatly hampered by the fact he is inhuman, is unfamiliar with human mores, and misunderstands what little he thinks he knows. Also, faerie magic has rules he cannot circumvent2. Thus, the results he gets are not necessarily the ones for which he was aiming.

What prevents the novel from descending into a Thomas Hardyesque tale of escalating misery or worse, Lovecraftian horror, is that Effie does have one well-informed, powerful person on her side and that person is God. Or rather, author Olivia Atwater. Atwater’s goal is to present a series of amusing misadventures that highlight the inequities of the day, before presenting her protagonist and the readers with a satisfactory ending, which, while not the one for which Effie hoped, is implicit in the initial setting.

Only a cad would observe that the resolution was obvious as soon as the main characters were introduced. Clearly the important thing here is the journey, not the destination. Oh yes, and the amusing characters the reader encounters.

Ten Thousand Stitches is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Readers eventually learn that Effie has a certain magic of her own, seamstress magic that she has been using willy-nilly because she had no idea of her own abilities. British magic is in dire need of comprehensive cataloguing (not sure if the male academics of the age would have bothered with women’s magic).

2: One has to wonder why faerie magic works the way it does. It is not because all magic works that way (Effie’s does not). My head-canon is that the system was automated ages ago: the current Fair Folk aren’t akin to programmers but to users who know how the rules work but not why. Why would it be set up that way? Our users are idiots who won’t RTFM” has powerful explanatory potential.