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All booksHistorical fictionThe Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
Historical fiction

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Imogen Hermes Gowar, on your first book!

by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Quick take

A lowly merchant finds himself in possession of a surprisingly hideous mermaid in this romp through 18th-century London.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Ornate


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This is a Dickensian read with numerous characters, a slower pace, and highly stylized prose.

Why I love it

Brianna Goodman
BOTM Editorial Team

If your first thought upon seeing this book was a story starring a redheaded woman with a tail, let me clear the air: This is not one of those mermaid tales. The magical creature that haunts these pages is small, clawed, and, most importantly, dead. And yet, it is this small curiosity that brings together an unlikely cast of characters at the heart of this transporting novel set in 18th-century London: shady brothel keepers, corrupt politicians, and the lonely, humble merchant thrust into this unfamiliar world.

When a mermaid falls unexpectedly into Jonah Hancock’s hands, he decides to parade it about the country in exchange for fame and fortune. From intellectual coffeehouses to high-class brothels, Hancock and his unusual possession travel throughout London, seizing the notice of a host of remarkable characters, including Angelica Neal, a savvy coquette on the lookout for a way out of her unsavory profession.

If you’re looking for a luxurious and ambitious read to sink into for the fall, this book is for you. With the embellished writing of a Jane Austen-era classic, this rags-to-riches story is as well-crafted as it is entertaining. The historical details are expertly rendered, the characters are full of heart, and while the supernatural creature that kicks off this novel might be dead, this is one imaginative story that is full of life.

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One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlors, and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr. Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on … and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost …

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock.

Member thoughts

All (2975)
All (2975)
Love (709)
Like (1379)
Dislike (887)
3337 ratings
  • 21% Love
  • 41% Like
  • 27% Dislike
  • Denver, CO

    Although I’m not quite sure ExAcTLy what happened at the end, and wasn’t crazy about the ending, I still loved this book. Kept me up reading late, didn’t want to stop reading it! It was mesmerizing!


    Beautiful and atmospheric, I didn’t think I was going to love this book until the very end. It’s not a quick read, a book to immerse yourself in the time and place and the lives of women in the 18th c

  • Pensacola, FL

    I have a hard time explaining what this book is about, but I find myself thinking of it often in the weeks since I finished. It’s worth reading just for the period setting — and the Victorian deserts!

  • Portland , OR

    The first 100 pages were a bit slow for me. I wasn’t sure that I would love this book. It turned into something magical and beautiful. Some very unexpected and peculiar things occurred. Very original.

  • Salt Lake City, UT

    The recurring theme of a woman trapped and how she finds her escape is elegantly rendered in both sweeping and subtle ways. It’s beautiful in its unexpectedness, like the mermaid found in its pages.

  • Omaha, NE

    The beginning was confusing. At first it was hard to keep track of all of the different characters & how they would fit together. However, it is definitely worth it to stick it out & see where it goes

  • Apex, NC

    I loved reading this delightful novel! It stirred up my imagination; and touched my soul with melancholy, mirth, and a tender affection for these characters. I heartly recommend this seductive book!

  • Los Angeles, CA

    Gowar paints a picture so real that you feel like you are standing right there with the characters. Angelica's feelings/emotions as a woman experiencing love and tenderness were at times so relatable.

  • Anderson, SC

    A beguiling mix of historical fiction, folklore and magic with an unusual cast of characters. Bawdy. Some may find it objectionable. But I found it to be a unique and layered, thought-provoking story.

  • Tucson, AZ

    I love the prose in this book. The writing definitely harkens back to the style of the 18th Century and with vivid imagery. The plot is slow, but it allows the reader to truly appreciate the writing.

  • Rochester , MN

    I was so drawn into the characters in this book that it was difficult in the end to let them all go at the last page. I loved the historical detailing mixed with the fantasy and the desperate humanism

  • Hillsdale, MI

    This book is not for someone looking for a light read,nor for the faint of heart(a few areas get graphic),but I loved it.To read a book is to escape to another time and place and the author delivered

  • Odessa, TX

    1780s time machine of ornate storytelling.Whimsy and wonder with every flip of a page. I was fully immersed within the world the author built. Each character is as colorful as the story they live in.

  • Phoenix, AZ

    It was a lovely book to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee while the rain came down. The language was intoxicating, and the story was arresting. I will be on the look out for works by Imogen.

  • New City, NY

    Beautifully written and an interesting combination of historical and mystical genres without being predictable. Well developed characters that are believable and sympathetic. Slow pace put worth it

  • Gretna, LA

    I loved that the characters were so different but equal time was given to both. I was so invested in each of their lives and decisions. The descriptions of emotions were so good that I felt them too!

  • Des Moines, IA

    Historical detail and compelling characters made for a lovely, strolling story about love--erotic, familial, and career--and longing. It felt like a walk through a forest of surprises and discovery.

  • Cottonwood Heights, UT

    Very quirky read but the characters were unique and honestly made me laugh out loud quite a bit. The mermaid entity still has me slightly puzzled but a book that leaves me thinking is <3 in my mind!

  • Farmington Hills, MI

    Wonderful read! I enjoyed all of the characters and watching them grow. Beautifully written descriptions from the author and an unpredictable plot. Great portrayal of London during this time period.

  • Alexandria, MN

    As an English teacher, this book reminded me of the great works of literature that came before it. From entertaining historical times to the vast array of unique characters, this book was top-notch!

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