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Monday, August 20, 2018

Purlieu by Michaela Daphne - Book Review, Interview and Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Evelyn is unhappy. Life with her father is difficult, he’s become withdrawn after the death of Evelyn's mother. Evelyn finds solace in her art, she’s an art school student hoping to travel and escape her suffocating home environment one day. She doesn’t have many friends and doesn’t feel loved or wanted. When she meets William this changes. He’s attentive and generous with praise. He shares Evelyn’s love for art and she thinks she’s found her soul mate. That’s why Evelyn lets William convince her it’s a good idea to leave home to live with him. 

What Evelyn doesn’t know is that William isn’t living in her world. He takes her to the Hidden Grove and shows her the way to his home in Purlieu. He’s the only inhabitant of his realm. As soon as they arrive something changes in William. Has Evelyn made the right choice coming with him or has she made a big mistake that can’t easily be undone? 

Purlieu is a fascinating gripping story. Evelyn is sad and lonely. She loved her mother with all her heart and the loss is almost too heavy to bear, especially because her father has become distant and cold. She desperately needs warmth and attention and that’s exactly what William is giving her. He takes her to a place where it’s just the two of them most of the time and even though there’s beauty in Purlieu it’s also incredibly creepy. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Evelyn once she’d join the mysterious William and this kept me glued to the pages. 

Michaela Daphne has fabulous world building skills. I loved how she makes the Hidden Grove and the realms she writes about come to life. I liked reading about the access routes, the usage of time and the intriguing and often dangerous inhabitants. Purlieu is a versatile story, it combines original fantasy with a deep emotional story about abuse, a mix filled with darkness that works really well. I was captivated by the amazing Purlieu from beginning to end and can’t wait to read Evelyn’s next adventure.


If you love stories that are a mix of emotional turmoil and fantasy Purlieu would be an excellent choice.

About Michaela Daphne

I'm an Aussie girl that's been dreaming up tales for as long as I can remember, staying up until the wee hours of the morning with pictures running through my mind.

This has translated into my love for all written words - story, copy and otherwise.

Purlieu is my first book and is inspired by personal experiences of my own life. 

I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband.


1) Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

I’ve come to discover that I get depressed if I don’t flex the creative part of my brain. I’ve always been a daydreamer of stories and of ideas. But if I get overloaded with chores and catch-ups with friends and work gets busy, the joy just saps right out of me. I need to create, to get my hands dirty, to dream up clever things. 

I’ve got a background in Mass Communication, working in marketing communications for the Catholic Church. I live in Brisbane with my husband. We don’t have a dog.

2) Can you tell a bit more about Purlieu and the inspiration behind the world?

Purlieu is one of many worlds that lie beyond the Hidden Grove. It was inspired by the rugged green and snowy landscape of North American farmland but with the fantastical twist of sunsets in shades of green, oh and the fact that it's inhabited by Pterodactyls. 

My inspiration for Purlieu came from things that I love most - misty mornings, autumn leaves falling, and cosy wood fires. That was the beginning point, anyway. The world has since grown and morphed into quite its own thing. Like a living organism. 

The element of the Master’s power in the worlds of the Hidden Grove came from my desire to highlight the manipulation and control of an abusive relationship in a literal sense. I wanted to bring this to the readers’ attention in a way that they couldn’t deny because controlling someone can be just as, if not more, damaging as the physical scars of abuse.

3) Can you describe your main characters in eight words each? 

· Evelyn (heroine): a disabled artist, who’s just looking for love. 

· William (antagonist): dashing farm boy with control issues. 

· Evelyn's father: overprotective Teddy bear. 

· Mr Cuthbert (Friend?! Foe?!): scheming, selfish, and secretive merchant. 

4) You combine a fantasy world with a serious story about abuse, how did you get this idea?

The inspiration behind Purlieu and the Hidden Grove Series came from my own experience of an abusive relationship. Shortly after high school I met a guy who appeared to be all forms of perfection. We started dating but soon enough he became controlling and manipulative. It took me a long time and a lot of courage to leave him. Since then I've spoken to a lot of women - friends, family - and found that my experience wasn't unique. Abusive behaviour in romantic relationships is quite common. Because of this, I wanted the Hidden Grove series to become like a warning sign to other girls so that they don't ever have to go through what I and countless other women have gone through. 

But talking about abuse is hard. 

I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi on TV and in movies and noticed they dealt with a lot of heavy issues – but everyone seemed okay with it, okay in a way that they wouldn’t have been if it had been a regular suburban drama. It’s for this reason that I took this serious story and thrust it in a fantasy world: to help the readers escape into the story and face themselves and maybe just maybe gain the courage to leave that abusive relationship they’re in.

5) Purlieu is the first story in a series, can you tell a bit more about this?

My hope with the Hidden Grove Series is that the books will follow Evelyn (the main character) as she journeys through the experience an abusive relationship, escapes from it, and heals from it. After all, the story of abuse doesn't end when you leave him: there is a lot of healing that needs to happen as you relearn how to have healthy relationships. That's what my aim is for the Hidden Grove Series - to model this... Along the way I'll also be introducing the audience to many more breath-taking worlds through the Hidden Grove!

6) Where does your love for books come from?

I was one of those kids who would stay up late reading, promising my parents 'just one more chapter, then I'll go to sleep'. I practically lived at the library in primary school. When I wasn't reading, I often would escape into my own imagination to create my own stories - often romantic in some form. I've always been very good at keeping myself entertained, often enjoying my own company more than the people around me. I suppose reading just gave me an excuse to escape without interruption. 

7) How did your writing journey start?

I remember it very clearly: I was in my final year of primary school, during a time when I was being bullied pretty badly. I often went home crying because of it. It was a Friday and we had a free period to finish off the week. The people who were bullying me were hanging out at the back of the classroom and I didn't want to be near them or give them any excuse to harass me, so I pulled out my notebook and escaped into a story of my own creation. When I'd finished the story, I felt so alive, so accomplished. It was in that moment, with the adrenaline running through my veins, that I decided I wanted to be an author. 

8) You’ve lived in Singapore before moving back to Australia, how was it to live abroad and in what way does the experience of living in another country influence your stories?

Singapore is probably the best thing that could have happened to my writing career. I moved over to Singapore to be with my husband but my visa didn't allow me to work. It was the perfect opportunity to finally get some quality writing time in, as I'd only been able to write on occasion in the past (hardly anyone makes money as an author, so we all need day jobs. Unfortunately day jobs are tiring and leave little time to write). It took me over 14 years to write Purlieu and most of the good stuff was written in Singapore.

Living in Singapore was also really tough as I experienced a lot of culture shock. I came to the realisation that people from other countries think differently to the way we do in Australia. But different isn't bad... It's just different. 

It was a very healthy thing for me to discover and it's opened my eyes to the world beyond the Brisbane bubble I’ve lived in. This, in turn, has helped me in world building - particularly for the second book in the Hidden Grove Series, Verja, as it centres around a very different kind of world to Purlieu. 

From experiencing a melting pot of religions I’d never witnessed firsthand before to family norms and public culture, Singapore has given me a new perspective that the Hidden Grove Series – where each book will be based in entirely new worlds – will continue to benefit from.

9) You read a lot of fantasy as well as writing it, which key characteristics should a good fantasy story have in your opinion?

I think any good book needs to play a balancing act – action, mystery, an element of romance, and a good dose of humour. It’s why I love the Harry Potter series so much. I think J. K. Rowling has measured each out perfectly. 

Specific to the fantasy genre, though, I’ve always been one to want to go against the tide. Give me fantasy that doesn’t have elves or dragons. Give me fantasy that is new and different and actually makes my mind wander into new territory! I’m not saying I do this perfectly myself, but I’m having a good crack at it. 

10) What are your plans for the future? 

Whilst continuing to work full time, I’m going to crack out the rest of the Hidden Grove Series. I can’t make any promises on how long that will take but I just hope it will be less than the 14 years it took me to write book 1. 

My husband and I are looking to settle permanently in Brisbane so we’ll be saving up for a mortgage. One day I hope to be in a position that I can support that mortgage with full time writing. 


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Purlieu and a wooden robin brooch from Michaela Daphne. 

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. This looks to be an interesting and absorbing read xx

  2. It sounds a really interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Purlieu sounds like a riveting and emotional coming-of-age adventure set within a well crafted fantasy world.

  4. Hello Michaela, Purlieu sounds great! Looking forward to reading it. Thank you

    1. Hey Linda! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

  5. This does sound like a gripping story. I love the cover.

  6. interesting characters

  7. A very interesting and intriguing story, full of fantasy and very interesting characters.

  8. I am looking forward to reading this

  9. Can really relate to the late night readings after bed time!

  10. This sounds like a wonderful fantasy story, can't wait to read it.

  11. I always enjoy a fantasy which is a little bit different and has its own world, sounds promising.

  12. Loving the cover of this books!

  13. This book looks like it has everything I want from a good read.

  14. id love to read this and i love the cover!

  15. Sounds amazing! And the cover is gorgeous.

  16. I really like the cover.Book sounds interesting.Thank you for giveaway.

  17. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  18. It looks really good. Thanks for sharing.

  19. I like the premise from the blurb I read and that little bird is too cute. Thank you so much and good luck with the book. I wish you many positive reviews.

  20. Sounds the book is very appealing to me, and it's inspiring to know that living abroad has helped in world building of the story. Thank you for the review, interview and giveaway. Best wishes for the plan.

  21. Travelling abroad certainly broadens one's outlook and I can see where it would help with world-building. Oh, and that cover is beautiful!