Anyone who knows me, or follows this blog, knows that contrary to the old phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover“, I often do. I love covers, and this one called out to me. Then, when I read that the book was set in a huge country house in Yorkshire, my fate was sealed.
Madeleine has had a life filled with loss. Her mother, then her beloved husband, Michael have all died. She is vulnerable and when Liam enters her life she is susceptible to his Irish charm and good looks. (I pictured the character of Ciaran McCarthy from Coronation Street) Little does she know that when she and her three-year-old daughter, Poppy, move in with him, her life will change irrevocably for the worse. Liam is a possessive, cruel, volatile, controlling bully. After only a few months she is driven to leave him, fearing for her daughter’s and her own emotional health.
A novelist, with income only when she receives an advance from her publisher’s, she has little choice but to run to the father she barely knows. Her mother had led her to believe that he didn’t want her in his life, but nothing could be farther from the truth. He welcomes Madeleine and his granddaughter Poppy into his home with open arms.
And what a home! Madeleine’s father owns and runs Wrea Head Hall, a country house hotel in Yorkshire. There Madeleine meets many wonderful people who nurture her and her daughter as much as they do the old house.
After a few short days, she faces loss in her life once again… With the aid of her half-sister Jess, and the wonderful people who live at the Hall, she is left reeling with the knowledge that she is now the owner manager of the fantastic house. And, of course, there is Madeleine’s new love interest. The gameskeeper/handyman of the Hall is Christopher Lawless (nicknamed Bandit), an ex-marine, who has strong family ties to the hall and shows more than a passing interest in Maddie and Poppy.
Madeleine and Bandit find an old diary written by the daughter of Wrea Head Hall. She writes about what life at the Hall was like for her in 1942. The entries of this diary are interspersed throughout the novel. Her diary mentions aspects of the house that Maddie and Bandit did not previously know.
The pace of this debut novel moved along well, and the setting was spectacular. I’m not usual a fan of romantic fiction, but this one did have enough of the suspenseful elements that it maintained my interest throughout, even though I found the plot quite predictable with any twists there might be, unsurprising, at least to me.
I cringe sometimes when a romance story makes the heroine just a little bit two unaware. Madeleine was unaware that Liam was a monster, unaware that she was falling for Bandit, unaware of the many coincidences and clues that she should have picked up on…
Yes, I guess you know, I’m not a huge fan of romance. But as I mentioned, this one did hold my interest to the end. I guess I just wanted to read the ‘happily ever after’ for myself. Thus, I’m rating this debut romantic suspense novel quite highly. The reason being that I believe (from my many years of working in a public library) that this book will be very well received by readers who enjoy romantic fiction. It had a trace of a ‘Harlequin’ feel, but that was laced with enough suspense that it was lifted up from the everyday romance. The historical diary entries added enough respite from the current day narrative to add extra interest. It was an entertaining and easy read.
Lynda Stacey is the Sales Director for a stationery and office supplies company in Doncaster. She has also been a nurse, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Staff Instructor (which is a Scuba diving instructor who can teach people to be instructors themselves) and now, she is proud to say that she is an author.
In 2008, she was involved in a car accident that damaged all the nerves in her shoulder. She couldn’t dive, or teach anymore and was left with many hours on her hands. It was then that she once again turned to her love of writing and found that she naturally steered towards creating stories of romantic suspense.
Her life story, along with varied career choices helps her create both unique heroes and heroines. She likes to give them challenging back stories, unpredictable plots and eventually, (as in all romance) happy endings.
Her debut novel ‘Keeper of the House’ (now known as “House of Secrets”) won the Choc Lit & Wholestory Audio books, Search for a Star competition.
She lives happily in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her real-life hero/husband, Haydn.