November 5 2015
Dark secrets lie just around the corner
The main thread of House of Shadows is very firmly placed in the present with the disappearance of Holly Ansell's brother Ben. Leaving his young daughter alone in an isolated mill house is so completely out of character, that Holly knows that something truly catastrophic must have happened to Ben for him to suddenly disappear without any trace. The links to Ben’s disappearance seem non-existent until Holly starts to discover some relics of the past which she finds difficult to explain. And, it must be said, that these relics of the past are very firmly placed at the heart of this novel, which chronicles the lives of two fascinating women and of a love story that binds them all together.
Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I, and on her marriage, Queen of Bohemia, is a woman destined to be forever subdued by royal protocol, and yet her illicit love affair with one of her gentleman courtiers will define her life in ways that she could never have imagined. Lavinia Flyte is an eighteenth century good time girl, who finds the security she craves in abusive and destructive relationships, until fate intervenes, and she falls in love with the right man but at the wrong time in her life.
There is sometimes a tendency in time slip novels for one time frame to completely outshine the other but that is not the case with this novel. All three story lines are strongly focused with no one story being allowed to dominate entirely, and time is allowed to move along quite seamlessly. All the characters are completely separate, and yet there is a tantalising thread to the story which ties them all, very cleverly, together. The linking of the artifacts which, ultimately, connect the story, namely, the Sistrin Pearl, the Diamond Mirror and the Order of the Rosy Cross is achieved very cleverly, so that, ever so subtly, they begin to take on a sinister appearance, and as their presence echoes down through the years they become integral to the eventual outcome of the story.
I am especially pleased to find that the eponymous House of Shadows, Ashdown House, which is at the heart of the story, actually exists, and the author has used her impeccable knowledge of this historic house and its past to bring alive a story which is rich in history and alive with intrigue.
House of Shadows is one of my favourite time slip novels this year.
Best enjoyed with a pot of light Darjeeling and sumptuous millefeuille ..