A romantic novel, with suspense, crime, history and mystery. Jane is struggling to recover from chemotherapy, uncertainty over her health still lingering.. Her long relationship with Eddie has become flat, while his lack of support through her illness has left her emotionally drained. Now her beloved mother has died. Clearing her Mother’s house she discovers appealing letters from Olivia, a cousin she vaguely remembers. Disturbed at the wording, Becky immediately takes herself off to Olivia’s house in Cornwall, Chynalls, keen to help someone who was close to her Mum.
Becky is a lovely heroine with whom readers will immediately relate. Her pain and distress is palpable, as is her innate kindness. On arrival, the frosty housekeeper, Rosie Sparrow, is not at all welcoming, the house in poor condition, with Olivia hospitalised with uncertain symptoms. Against the antagonism of the Sparrow family Becky rises to the challenge of caring for Olivia.
The house has to be adapted for the elderly and frail Olivia returning home. Her mumbled and distressed comments suggest sinister secrets from the past. Why is she so anxious that the underground passage to the cove be bricked up? What secrets does it hold? There is evidence that someone is making use of the access.
Set in two time zones, Olivia’s lonely childhood, struggling alone and vulnerable, is revealed. Cornwall was targeted by the Germans and not everyone was as patriotic as would be wished. Some of the events stretched my belief as being nigh impossible. Whatever happened in the war years has left a shadow over Chynalls. Becky’s changes to the house and caring for Olivia is rattling a few cages..
The characters are interesting but their dialogue can be stilted and unnatural, lacking spontaneity. The author has dropped in background snippets on the some of those featured, but few have any link to the main story and tend to break the continuity of what is a good going tale.
It is an intriguing story, and the writing is good, but I think tightening up the story would give it more bite. The finale is splendid, a real cliff hanger bringing the book to a satisfactory conclusion. A holiday read, easy and undemanding from a writer I have always enjoyed, but on this occasion I was slightly disappointed.
Review by Sheila Grant
Personal read ***
Group read **
Head of Zeus (September 2020)
isbn: 9 781789 545166