Format Hardcover
Publication Date 01/02/18
ISBN 9781681776248
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 304

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Impossible Saints

A Novel

Clarissa Harwood

Set in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson.

Escaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

Clarissa Harwood holds a PhD in English Literature with a specialization in Nineteenth-Century British Literature. In addition to being a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. She lives in London, Ontario.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"A rich debut. Grounded in a wealth of research into the suffrage movement, the book will please readers who enjoy detailed historical recreations. With insight and sensitivity, Harwood explores century-old social mores and challenges that still echo loudly today." Publishers Weekly
"This frustrating but tender romance, teetering between hope and despair, doubtless represents many relationships challenged by change. The story is best for readers interested in women’s rights and the British suffrage movement." Historical Novels Review
"The perspective is refreshing in that the church is not the villain, nor are all the suffragettes cardboard cutouts. One interesting aspect is the novel’s exploration of the contrast in ideologies between the more conservative, peaceful suffrage groups and the militant, property-destroying Women’s Social and Political Union. This parallels the spectrum in today’s protest-heavy atmosphere, lending the novel contemporary social relevance in addition to its romantic plotline." Booklist
"An engrossing historical romance. By 1928, all British women over 21 could vote; readers will root for Lilia and Paul’s romance to have a similarly happy ending. For lovers of romantic historical fiction from the Brontës to Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring)." Library Journal
"A simply riveting read from cover to cover, Impossible Saints is an original and consistently entertaining, narrative driven novel by a writer with a genuine flair for both originality and deftly crafted characters." Midwest Book Review
"Anyone pining for a passionate yet principled historical romance will fall hard for this impossibly readable story. It’s the perfect thing for a long weekend. But months later, readers will still recall the harrowing descriptions of imprisoned, abused women. Lilia’s pointed, challenging questions will linger even longer." British Heritage Travel
"Harwood brings us vividly and convincingly into the past, as we see the whirlwind of social changes in early twentieth century England through the lives of two passionate and authentic characters." Jessica Brockmole, internationally bestselling author of 'Letters from Skye'
"A graceful and empathetic portrayal of a suffragette in 1907 England." PopMatters
"Clarissa Harwood’s historical novel Impossible Saints vividly portrays the difficulties—familial and societal, physical and emotional—faced a century ago by suffragettes in Great Britain who struggled to gain equal rights for women. It’s a story beautifully told, both absorbing and illuminating." Patricia Bracewell, author of 'Shadow on the Crown' and 'The Price of Blood'
"Impossible Saints is the meeting of ferocity and tenderness, a story with brave questions for both heart and head. It unfolds a hundred years in the past, but its roots are unmistakably—aptly—of the moment." Alison Atlee, author of 'The Typewriter Girl'
"Clarissa Harwood illuminates her characters’ strengths and foibles with keen insight and understanding. Caught in the push-and-pull between time-honored traditions and fresh new sensibilities, they grapple with the compelling questions of what is lost and what is gained by following either path. She captures the spark of wonder that occurs when two people with very different views of the world discover they are more alike than they’d imagined. A thoughtful and intriguing picture of the suffragettes and the society they wished to change." Jennifer Delamere, author of 'An Heiress at Heart' and 'The Captain's Daughter'
"Impossible Saints tells the passionate story of the suffragist movement in early twentieth century London, and the sacrifices made to secure what so many women take for granted today—the right to vote. Lilia Brooke won’t succumb to a society bent on curtailing her rights, or a man she loves who wishes to keep her safely at home, even if it means denying her heart. Consuming, well-paced, and important, this fascinating novel fills in the blanks of a past so rarely given air time in today’s myopic world." Heather Webb, author of 'Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I'
"Impossible Saints is a tale about passion, putting your life on the line for what you believe in, and sometimes being blindsided by the urge to compromise. This book is so readable the pages practically turn themselves. Make yourself a cup of tea and cancel all your appointments—once you start reading this novel you won't want to stop" Elizabeth LaBan, author of 'The Restaurant Critic's Wife' and 'Pretty Little World'