The ability to make bargains with the supernatural is a compelling notion. Whether the bargain is made with a jar of graveyard dirt, cat bones, a photograph, and yarrow buried at a crossroads, or the rubbing of a lamp to ask three wishes of a genie, or trading scraps of everyday objects lying around the house with fairies… they seem to ask so little of us in exchange for changing our lives. What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually. Just ask the miller’s daughter about her bargain with Rumpelstiltskin.
“I asked for something I didn’t really understand, and I got something I didn’t really want.”A character’s lament in The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill
Author Rowenna Miller takes us back to the 1900s to meet a family of fruit farmers in a little niche of America called Prospect Hill. The farm has been in the family for generations. Near the apple and cherry orchards grows an ancient linden tree, which blooms with beautiful white flowers all year long, even in the winter. Around the tree a lush, green ring of grass never goes dormant. Sisters Alaine and Delphine have been told since they were old enough to understand that they should never go near the old linden tree.
But the sisters have also been taught that fairies keep a watch over the farm, and the family, and they can be bargained with. All the fae ask in return is a token to be left for them and just like magic (because it is) the deal is done. They’re usually just small bargains; little conveniences, really. A bargain to help the hens lay, or the fruit to flourish. A bargain to make a ladies’ certain time of the month easier (and unproductive). A bit of ribbon, a silver pin, a button, or a scrap of cloth are all acceptable currency to the fae. It’s been this way on Prospect Hill for generations. The arrangement has always run smoothly, with very few problems. But now, Delphine’s gotten herself into a horrible marriage, and Alaine is determined to help get her out of it. Considering the size of the problem, she’s going to have to be very careful with the bargains she makes.
The first half of the book is an eye-opening study of women’s place in society in the 1900s. The suffragette movement was picking up speed, the middle and upper classes starting buying automobiles, and the differences between city and country life was becoming more pronounced. While Delphine quietly suffers the obligations of her new life in the city, Alaine tends to the needs of the family farm. I’ve seen other readers mention that the book starts off slowly. I felt the book started off cozily, allowing me time to explore Prospect Hill, become familiar with the family, and learn all about fairy bargains. By the time the second half of the book kicked into gear, I knew enough about what was at stake to know that this was going to be one rollercoaster of a ride.
Did the author manage to put everything on the line and still come up with a satisfactory outcome? Absolutely. I’m not giving away anything by telling you that. Clear your schedule, grab a cuppa and settle back with the book. Brace yourself for plenty of surprising twists and clever schemes before you reach the last page.
Want to know more about bargaining with the Fae? The Home Witchcraft website (nicknamed “The Cosmopolitan of the witching world”) has a good article titled “A Guide To Negotiating And Bargaining With The Fae”
Now it’s time for you to make a bargain with Amazon in exchange for your copy of the book.
Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields in Michigan, where she grows herbs and vegetables when she’s not playing games with a cat named Chives. She’s fond of crafting, reading in the dark, literary worldbuilding, and pulling up dandelions. Visit Lori at brassbrightcity.com and ceejaywriter.com.