This book was a cross between literary fiction and bodice-ripper romance. Katharine McMahon seems to be sitting over the fence, not quite sure what kind of book she wanted to write. She put her heroine in a similar position - Emilie is not quite sure if she prefers to sit in the lab and peform physical and chemical experiments or if she would rather have that dashing young man grab her and take her, take her like there is no tomorrow. This weird combination worked surprisingly well but must have given McMahon's publisher a bit of a headache.
It's not clean cut enough for the publishing world maybe, but isn't it true? We can all be very smart and sophisticated and suddenly, unexplicably we fall for a guy who has a peanut for brain and we don't seem to care. In our heads we go from 'literary fiction' to 'bodice-rippers' in no time.
I was a little put off by the title because it reminded me of that wretched The Alchemist book by Paulo Coelho. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I thought, like father, like daughter. Thankfully, inside I found a rather beautifully written, slowly paced novel that brings the 18th century England to life with all its colours, smells and sounds. It's very introspective too but in a humble, girly way rather than a self-absorbed one.
Some reviewers seem to think that the book would better off without the many sex scenes. I disagree. That was the substance of Emilie and Aislabie's relationship and they were essential to our understanding of that peculiar grip Aislabie held on Emilie. And they were not badly written either; that is, they didn't make me laugh, which is an achievement.
To summarise, "The Alchemist's Daughter" is a book about science and about love, about the errors of judgement, and about accepting defeat. It is pretty much the same for both, love and science. It's chick-lit with a smart twist, I would say.