An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother's honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.
Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.
Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.
She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?
And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?
About the Author
Award-winning and bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published four dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including Mist of Midnight, Bride of a Distant Isle (A Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick), and her most recent, A Lady in Disguise. For nearly two decades, Sandra has shared her secrets with the many writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area.
Read an Excerpt
Bride of a Distant Isle
NEAR MILFORD ON SEA, HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND
I had no warning before evil befell me.
Edward had abruptly recalled me to Highcliffe, but why now? It was not as if we’d often holidayed together, or enjoyed one another’s companionship. In fact, over the course of our adult years I’d been home infrequently and we’d been mostly separated, at school, years before that. Grandfather was long dead, as were Edward’s parents. Pretense could be done away with. Perhaps he’d had a sudden, inexplicable longing for family now we two were all that remained.
The day after I arrived, I walked from the house, which was now crumbling, across the green lawn, now thinning, toward the Edge of the World, to gather my thoughts. I’d forgotten how the sea around Highcliffe relentlessly pounds the land, undermining it so fiercely that the earth quickens, churns, and slips; the breakers smother all sound, throwing off thickly salted mist that clouds vision like a cataract. For this reason, I had no signal that someone was approaching. Instead, I suddenly felt his breath curdling in my ear.
The whispering started.
“It was many and many a year ago,” came the murmur, “in a kingdom by the sea, that a maiden there lived whom you may know by the name of Annabel Lee; and this maiden she lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me.”
“Mr. Morgan,” I acknowledged, then hard-swallowed my bile and turned round to see his face. I knew by the familiar warped timbre of his voice that it was my cousin Edward’s childhood friend and current associate. Their fathers had been friends, too, and their dubious dealings together extended back to that time. “I am taking my leave of you, returning to the house.”
“Take your leave? No, indeed. I’ve long prepared to read Mr. Poe’s poem aloud to you, Annabel. I purchased the book at great expense. Surely you’ll give me the respect of listening attentively to the complete recitation.”
“Please do not call me by my Christian name.” I turned to face him. “It’s forward.” He wore finely spun black trousers and highly polished boots, but his girth was poorly restrained by a red silk waistcoat. Nearby stood a young woman, her face flat-planed and impassive.
“My sister,” Mr. Morgan said at my glance. “Mrs. Wemberly. A widow.” The gaps between Morgan’s teeth had been charming as a child but now reminded me of the widening cracks in his soul, like a cobblestone path long left unattended, mortar washing away, extending the spaces as the years passed.
He placed himself between me and the worn walking trail, most often used by the sheep. I looked for a way around him, but there was none to be had without risking a fall. By the look of Widow Wemberly, she must have been a child bride. “I do not recall you having a sister.”
“My father had many children.” He grinned. “Not all of them born, as they say, on the proper side of the blanket. I do not hold that against a person, especially a beautiful woman, though many others have and undeniably still do.” He held my gaze. “Surely that is something you well understand, Miss Ashton. I’ve always kept you in my greatest admiration and esteem.”
I flushed deeply, and he delighted in my discomfort. He closed the costly gilt-edged book from which he’d read and handed it toward me. “A gift. You can read it as we travel to London.”
“Thank you.” I twisted the cameo ring on my first finger, as I often did when discomfited. “You will accompany us?”
He nodded. “Perhaps it would be better put to say that you’ll finally be coming with me.” He suddenly seemed to tire of the effort required for false cheer and let his face take its natural course, falling into expressive displeasure: mouth turned down, skin dropping in folds round ruddy jowls that remained half hidden by unruly, hedge-like side-whiskers.
“Good day, Mr. Morgan, Mrs. Wemberly.” I moved past them, walking toward the house.
Once in my room, I unwrapped myself from my light outer garments, using a corner of my shawl to scour the film of his words from my ear. I sat by the fireplace in my small room, though a fire had not been lit against the morning chill—to economize. I tentatively opened the volume and scanned a passage of Mr. Poe’s poem.
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
I closed the book and then closed my eyes to banish my growing apprehension. Perhaps, he’d said, it would be better put to say that you’ll finally be coming with me.
An hour later I made my way down to the kitchens. As a rule, the family did not venture below stairs, but I was different, not truly holding the same status as Edward and the others. Instead, I was caught between two worlds: born highly enough to be a lady, but with circumstances that dictated my lower position. It was an awkward and uncertain place to hold.
“Miss Annabel, how happy we are to see you!” Cook, a largish matron, crushed me into her substantial bosom, which smelt of flour and the eye-watering pinch of bargain-priced violet perfume. I melted into her for a moment until Chef came. He made a small bow before turning to shout an order at a scullery maid. Chef still conducted himself with vigor, but his step had slowed.
None of them had been employed here in many years; most, I believed, had retired from service. I knew the reason they’d all returned to Highcliffe for one last season: to honor the memory of my late grandfather, whom they’d faithfully served for many years before Edward’s father had taken over. Edward, living in London, had leased the country house to others for years, hoping his finances would turn around. They had not.
Now, Highcliffe was to be sold. The old house was being packed. The rooms were ghostly, furniture packed or covered with parchment-colored dust sheets like loosely draped shroud cloths. Only current living areas were to be left untouched, for now.
Chef bowed politely, and then led me into the stillroom, a place I’d often visited and had even hidden in when I was a young child. It had been a refuge for me, a quiet corner away from Edward’s taunting.
“You’ll need the bonbons, non? For the long journey?” Chef handed a small box to me, neatly wrapped in ribbon, and I opened it.
Perfectly square-cut fruit jellies shimmered in a dust of sugar, releasing the perfume of blackberry summer. Candied orange peels rested like a bundle of kindling against one side of the box while puffy pink pastilles, lips pursed to kiss, rested on the other.
“I shall need les bonbons for any journey, long or short, or even for simply indulging while visiting home. Thank you very much. I’m afraid I’ve boasted of them so often that my friends at school have asked me to stop speaking of them. When I return to teach, I shall keep quiet about this gift lest I incite further hostilities.”
The room grew silent; unexpectedly, Chef looked with concern toward Mrs. Watts, temporary housekeeper, whose face grew sad. The others scurried away, none of them meeting my eye. Why the sudden change in their demeanor?
I stealthily returned up the back stairs to the second floor, the air dead and stale as it often is in houses long abandoned. I passed a new hall boy as I did. He, perhaps ten years younger than my four and twenty, nodded in surprise but didn’t speak, which was to be expected as I should rightly have taken the main staircase. I nodded and smiled in return.
Strangely, the door to my small room was open, and although Maud had not yet arrived, the room looked to have been readied. My small trunk was neatly packed with the few belongings I had brought with me from Winchester. My vanity was prepared: a porcelain salver of water for washing, a silver powder jar of lemon chalk powder. Horses sweat, men perspire, but women merely glow, I recalled.
Clementine’s lady’s maid, older than most, with a face pungent as ripe cheese, soon arrived and we nodded to one another. “Well, then, Miss Annabel, if you’re ready, I’ll just help you into your dress, do your hair, and then I must return to Mrs. Everedge and her trunks.”
“Of course, Maud, and I do appreciate your assistance.” I was painfully aware that the few minutes granted me with Maud were a generosity Edward’s wife, Clementine, spared as I would, of course, have no lady’s maid of my own. I did not need one. I, and the other teachers at the Rogers Day School for Young Ladies, looked after ourselves.
Maud laced me tightly, prettily but firmly, as Chef might truss a chicken prepared to impress and then be served, and I sat down again, balancing on the edge of the dressing chair in front of the mirror.
She reached around me, and the longish necklace in her hands dropped in front of my dress while she clasped it from behind. I could see it in the mirror. I did not recognize it.
“This is new?”
“Surely you would be better put to answer that than I,” she said. “’Tis yours, after all.”
“I am quite sure it is not mine.” I looked down. The chain was of finely polished gold, heavy and of the brightest quality. Dangling from the loop at the end of it was a silver fish with a gold ring in its mouth. “I would remember something so unique. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Nor I. It was in with your other jewelry, miss.” She held up the trinket box, and yes, I recognized everything else within it. Her voice lowered and was edged with a suspicious tone. “Perhaps you simply forgot, though it would be difficult to forget something as valuable and unusual as this.”
I owned very few pieces of fine jewelry and would not have forgotten this, or any, one. Maud looked at me, still, an uneasy expression stealing across her face. I recognized that look; I had seen it many times before and was well practiced at discerning its implication. Your mother was mad and died in an asylum. Are you quite sane yourself? An off comment, a tired day, an unusual observation—any of these would have been casually overlooked in another woman. But not in me. Never in me.
I pushed away the panic that particular implication always aroused and applied my most soothing voice, also well practiced, like a warm, gentle hand on a goose-fleshed arm. “I’ll bring it up with Clementine.”
Maud exhaled and her face relaxed. She finished with me and returned to Clementine, with whom I hoped she would not share the strange necklace appearance. I stared at it again, both in my hand and in the mirror’s reflection. From where had it come? I was certain it had not been there earlier in the day—nor ever. Had it been misplaced?
An unwelcome thought: had Mr. Morgan somehow acquired it and brought it with him this very afternoon, another odd gift? I grew light-headed with the thought and wished I were back in my small, safe room in Winchester.
I fingered the chain and then the fish. Touching it made me discomfited and wistful; it dredged up something murky and painful and anxious that I could not clearly place.
Stop being childish, Annabel. I pushed the feelings away and hoped whatever had been stirred up would soon settle once more to the bottom, allowing the emotional clarity and control I so carefully kept to return.
I walked down the hallway, where Clementine was finishing her travel preparations with Mrs. Watts.
“Yes?” Clementine asked impatiently.
“This necklace.” I held it out. “Did you place it in my room?”
A strange look crept across her face. “Why . . . no. It’s not yours?”
I did not know what to answer. “I thought it might have been misplaced.”
She shook her head.
“It may just be that I don’t remember it,” I offered. “I do not wear much jewelry when I am teaching,” I finished honestly, if perhaps a bit feebly.
She nodded. “You do not remember your own jewelry? You have so much, then? Or is your memory so unreliable for a woman your age? Of course, I do not know where you could have obtained the resources to purchase such an item. It looks quite valuable.”
I said nothing. The hallway remained silent and still but the implication that the necklace had been stolen was nearly palpable, though unspoken.
“Yes, I must have forgotten it,” I said, taking control of the conversation. “I’ll continue my preparations and leave you to yours.”
They each nodded slowly, but did not return to their conversation till I’d turned my back and retreated down the hallway. I heard Clementine’s hushed, concerned voice whisper, “Her mother.”
I certainly could not remove the necklace now without calling attention to our awkward conversation and all that it might imply. I would wear it for a week and then put it away.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Engaging from the first page." Sandra Byrd is a great writer.
Well. I have to say that if one feels like being transported to 19th century England, complete with all the mystery, intrigue and romance of a wonderful Gothic novel, do pick up Sandra Byrd’s “Bride of a Distant Isle", the second installment in her Daughters of Hampshire series. The author executes a brilliant gothic novel, complete with the setting being one conducive to things that go “bump in the night” with an English Manor called Highcliffe positioned right next to a sea whose water pounds mercilessly against the land creating all kinds of atmosphere and “thickly salted mist that clouds vision like a cataract”. Oh yes, Sandra Byrd sets the scene perfectly. Our heroine Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers day School for Young Ladies In Winchester but is at the mercy of her not so merciful cousin Edward, who has been helping with her financial provision. Edward has decided that to further his business connections that cutting Annabel’s financial assistance which will prevent her from teaching, while also trying to arrange an advantageous marriage to help him with his failing finances. The problem is while the man may be of good financial means, his character is truly that of a fiend, which of course plays well into the Gothic themes of the novel. While the villain is admittedly awful, our hero, a Maltese captain named Captain Marco Dell’Acqua is about as swoon-withy a hero as they come. He is at Highcliffe, also on business, looking to help his people the Maltese by forming a business alliance with her cousin Edward. As mentioned, Marco is truly a dreamy hero, but author does a wonderful job of keeping you just a little off –balance at times in wondering, is he really a good guy or… not? Both Annabel and Captain Dell'Acqua have much in common as they both have a link to Malta- for the Captain, it is his home and for Annabel, all she knows of it is that her father was from there, but she knows nothing else as she always lived under the shame of being “illegitimate”. Dell'Acqua has secrets of his own, and its fascinating to read how those unfold. Some of my favorite parts in the novel were the chemistry between these two. I loved their “hidden meaning” gifts that they would give to each other throughout the story, very romantic and always a message meant only for each other. I loved that special touch to the story. As the novel unfolds, and mysterious items start showing up in Annabel’s chamber, beautiful combs that were clearly her mother’s as she saw a painting with her mother wearing them, a special necklace, a wedding cap, all of these items link her to the mysteries of her mother’s past and help to unravel the secrets that have been kept silent for far too long. There is so much more that I can’t even really touch on all of it- poison, madness, deception and the list goes on and on. This novel kept me turning the pages and wanting to escape from 2016 back to 1851 so that I could find out exactly how it would all turn out in the end. The story truly comes to a fever pitch and there is a lot of twists and turns that make it so much fun to read and so many secrets and sub-plots to emerge as the novel goes on. If you loved her first novel in this series Mist of Midnight, I am absolutely certain that you will love this one even more! Don't miss this special story, it is worth the ride!! 5 Stars I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opin
I always enjoy books by Sandra Byrd, but her "Daughters of Hampshire" series has taken my love of them to a whole new level. The first book in this series, Mist of Midnight, was one of my favorite reads of 2015(though I forgot to put it on the official list...that's what I get for not keeping up with my reading like I should). It's on my reread list, and I'm greatly looking forward to the revisit for many reasons. I have no doubt that Bride of a Distant Ilse will also be on my favorites list this year, and any year, for that matter. I loved every single minute of reading it! In Bride of a Distant Ilse, we get somewhat of a Cinderella tale. Annabel Ashton is considered the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died within an insane asylum. She depends completely on her cousin, Edward, and his wife, Clementine. When their money starts running out, Annabel's situation gets more and more desperate. When strange objects start appearing, things get more and more mysterious. I have to mention the romance. It was done to perfection! It wasn't overdone, but was incredibly sweet and melted my heart. I've had zero tolerance for romance within books lately, but I didn't roll my eyes one single time while reading this story. THAT is a huge compliment coming from me! ;) Sandra proves that one doesn't need all that extra "stuff" that most all Christian authors insist on these days to keep things "real". Seriously, it was perfect, and I'm grateful that I was once again able to enjoy a sweet romance without my sarcastic side coming out. Despite the fact that the romance portion was beautifully done, there's a great deal more to the story than that. That's really such a small portion of the book. There's also so much historically to learn from the book, and it's all done in an interesting way. That is another thing I love so much about Sandra's books. They're like "living books" for me! (Charlotte Mason/homeschooling term) While this book is considered Christian Fiction, I really do think that it will be enjoyed by a wide audience. Annabel is Catholic, and that plays a huge part of the story. I have to admit that my knowledge of Catholic things is hugely lacking, but this story gave me a small glimpse into that world, and I can't help but appreciate that. In the end, I have to say that Bride of a Distant Ilse is an amazing story, and one I can easily recommend, especially if you enjoy Gothic Victorian romances. I loved it, and I can't wait for more from this series! *I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have long been a fan of Sandra Byrd's writing and have read and enjoyed all three books in her Ladies in Waiting series (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, and Roses Have Thorns) as well as the first book in this Daughters of Hampshire series (Mist of Midnight). I always know that when I see a new historical fiction book by Sandra is coming out I'm going to want to read it and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm happy to say that Bride of a Distant Isle kept her on this streak and once again provided hours of entertainment. From the get-go I knew I was going to like Annabel. Right from the start she is thrown into one horrible situation after another - from being ripped from the school she loved teaching at to being thrown at a man she couldn't stand to having her very freedom ripped out from under her - and at every obstacle she refused to give up and barreled through to try and find the best outcome of each dire situation...and she did it all with more grace than I believe I could ever have had. I found her to be such a well drawn character, along with Captain Dell’Acqua and a most of the other secondary characters. I have to admit I wasn't as big a fan of the development of Mr. and Mrs. Everedge or Mr. Morgan (the man her cousin tried to force her to marry and who I didn't think necessarily warranted the vile disgust she seemed to feel for him, but that could just be me) but all of the other characters seemed very realistic. I also really enjoyed the development of the surroundings our characters found themselves in. Sandra Byrd did an exceptional job of immersing me in the dark, slightly decaying Highcliffe Hall as well as the asylum we get to peek into. This whole world was so easy to see and experience along with the characters and I'm always delighted when an author is able to make me feel like I'm actually seeing the situations play out in front of me. It makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable! I do have to say that I didn't have a very hard time figuring out the mysteries surrounding Annabel and who was involved in them. I don't want to say too much and spoil any surprises for other readers, but for me I had most of it figured out pretty soon, even if I didn't know the exact why's and how's. There weren't any big surprises or gasp-y moments, but that isn't to say that it wasn't enjoyable going along for the ride and seeing Annabel figure out what was really going on and whom she could really trust. I should also mentioned that this is clearly Christian fiction, so if you do not enjoy those elements in your historical fiction please take note. I think Sandra did a good job of never becoming too preachy (which I've experienced in other Christian fiction books and didn't enjoy) but I thought it should be noted. I really do mean it when I say that I always know I'm going to enjoy a Sandra Byrd historical. She hasn't disappointed yet and this being my fifth book of hers I've read I have the upmost confidence that she'll continue to entertain me. Any reader who enjoys Christian fiction will especially love her books.
Sandra Byrd in her new book, “Bride Of A Distant Isle” Book Two in the Daughters of Hampshire series published by Howard Books takes us into the life of Annabel Ashton. From the Back Cover: Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge. Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe. She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart? And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late? “Bride Of A Distant Isle” is a historical that is both fascinating and entertaining. All kinds of things are happening to Annabel and she might be the rightful heir to Highcliffe Hall. Her cousin is out to destroy her setting her up to marry a man who is frightening and doesn’t love her. Now it is up to the ship captain to help Annabel escape from all the evil that her cousin had planned for her. “Bride Of A Distant Isle” is full of deceit, mistrust and a handful of shady characters. It also has romance. This is a page-turning Gothic Victorian romance with a good bit of mystery. Start reading this book early as you will not want to go to sleep until you finish. Sandra Byrd did a great job. You will like this book as well. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Highcliffe Hall is the family home of Miss Annabel Ashton, the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum. Her cousin, Edward, has seen to the estate and made sure Annabel has funds to live as a teacher at a school for women. When she comes for what she believes is a short visit, Annabel soon discovers that the family money is nearly gone. To avoid financial ruin, Edward plans to sell Highcliffe, and has promised Annabel in marriage to the vile Mr. Morgan. But Annabel begins to uncover secrets that could prove she is the true family heir. With Mr. Morgan circling, she finds hope in the arrival of the handsome and charming Captain Dell’Acqua, even as rumors of his true intentions are whispered around her. Another great novel! I do admit that I have some disappointment that this novel seemed to follow a formula very close to the first novel, Mist of Midnight. That being said, the story is still mysterious and romantic. While I wasn’t suspicious of everyone, I didn’t guess the full truth before it was revealed. I also wished for a little more interaction between Annabel and Dell’Acqua, but what was there was wonderful. And now I have to nitpick a little. There is an editing/printing mistake in the last half of the book, where Annabel introduces herself as “Ashcroft” instead of Ashton. Because of the scene it occurs in, I thought at first that it may have been intentional, but it goes completely unnoticed by the other characters, so it had to have been an error. Other than that, the writing is wonderful. The story is engaging and doesn’t let go, even if it is somewhat of a formula.
If I had to pick only one fiction genre to read for the rest of the year it would have to be Gothic Romance. And if I had to narrow it down to only one author it would be Sandra Byrd. Her newest series, Daughters of Hampshire showcases her unbelievable talent. Mist of Midnight was the first book and it introduced us to the exotic land of India. Now the series continues with Bride of a Distant Isle and takes the reader to the mysterious isle of Malta. Our damsel in distress this time around is Annabel Ashton. When we meet her she is about to have a huge curve ball thrown at her but she doesn't have a clue. She thinks she's off for a nice little family visit and then she'll return to her quiet yet satisfying life. But this is Gothic romance my friend so there's not a chance that things will go as planned. Annabel's slimy cousin Edward has plans for Annabel. He in essence is asking Annabel to take one for the team but the only team member that is going to benefit is Edward himself. While Annabel may seem to be trapped in a horrible situation, there's always hope. Enter the Maltese Captain Dell'Acqua. Mmmmm . . . let the swoons begin! But the more you get to know him the more you wonder if he can in fact be trusted. There's something about him that just seems a bit shady. When Annabel is put in an inescapable place it feels like all is lost. But Annabel isn't some shrinking violet, she's got spunk with brains to back it up. I refuse to give any spoilers, but let me just say THE COFFIN . . . yes the coffin. When you get to it you'll know what I'm talking about! Total and complete Gothic creepiness at it's finest. I read this delicious book curled up in my bed with a storm going on outside and a small bedside lamp casting barely enough light to read by. My recommendation is that you do the same. The atmosphere is the perfect compliment to this dark romance. I must say I'm jealous of you the new reader. You are in for a wild ride. I'd love to go back and read the story again not knowing what was coming. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
In this incredibly detailed and rich story set in 1851, we learn of Annabel’s illegitimate standing and how her mother was committed to the asylum having been deemed insane & her eventual death. She has no rights to the family inheritance or name. Her brother Edward has not handled finances well and therefore must both sell Highcliffe Hall and sever Annabel’s teaching position since there is no money for her stipend. With no means to support herself or promise of marriage by a suitor, she has little choice but to be under the authority of her brother. She learns of the possibility of a marriage he has arranged with Mr. Morgan; a man of questionable intents, but again, what choice does she have? And what of her mother’s things which keep mysteriously showing up among her few possessions? Then throw into the mix a Marco Dell’Acqua, whom her brother has asked her to make acquaintance with to entice a lucrative partnership to enhance the families fortune! Oh what a tangled web the author weaves! Sandra snared me with the very first page of her book. Having read her previous work “Mist of Midnight”, I knew what to expect. However, she took me by surprise so many times I felt like my world turned upside down….at least story wise! There’s so much mystery & intrigue it’s hard to put down for want of trying to solve it. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, something else came up to take my breath away. Annabel is an incredibly strong character in spite of her dire circumstances. Many times I wanted her to stand up for herself, but I understand the times she lived in. Women like her, especially being deemed illegitimate, had little choice in their well-being and must rely on the nearest male relative to care for them. Some are cruel masters while yet others treated them well, providing abundantly for them. Edward, at times, seemed the loving brother and other times the cruel master. It was hard to tell his character at first, but got to know him better as the story progressed. The one thing he wanted to do was provide well for his wife & son, and did what was necessary to secure young Albert’s inheritance. There was much depth and many layers in this story to uncover as you read it. The author kept me enthralled & invested in the characters, vivid scenery, and well researched history. Everything came to a very satisfying conclusion as I knew it would. Just like in life sometimes, it’s not the end result, it’s the incredible journey to get there, and Sandra knows just how to take you on that journey too! If you love mystery, history, intrigue, a little suspense thrown in, untangling webs, depth of character, and rich, vivid details that keep you ensnared in a book, you will well enjoy this! I look forward to future adventures from this author. **I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review which I have provided here. Thank you Sandra Byrd for an thoroughly engaging story!**
Incredible Historical Suspense Sandra Byrd is an author I have not read before, but the cover of her latest novel drew me in. After reading it, I am so impressed with how the story is told, the characters, setting, research and really, every aspect of the book, that I will be going back to find out what I missed in her earlier work! This novel is quite different from other books I have read, especially recently. I would classify it as historical suspense, and I can only think of a handful of books that do it well; Jane Eyre and Rebecca fit that bill, as do the classic movies Rebecca (based on the book) and Gaslight. Bride of a Distant Isle would make a fantastic movie, especially an exotic, Victorian period piece. Of course, even well-done, it would be hard to match how this book played out in my mind as I read. First person narration adds to the mystery and uncertainty, as does the question of the narrator’s sanity and whether she is reliable enough to tell her own story. It worked well in this suspenseful tale, especially as it is populated with many characters whose motivations remain hidden much of the time; we only know what Annabel knows, and many people come across as mysterious, creepy and ominous. Even those we think are on her side have moments where we question loyalty and intention. There is always a sense of impending doom—this book is intense! It isn’t merely what is happening, though that is suspenseful enough, but the prose itself adds to the feeling of certain disaster. Inanimate objects become sinister and foreshadow future events. Rooms provoke buried memories. Everything lends itself to uncertainty and anticipation of what may be on the next page. I became fully immersed in the story and invested in Annabel’s situation, rooting for the character and holding my breath as I rapidly turned the pages. And the romance is outstanding! While it takes some time to develop, the moments that are then manifested are well worth the build-up! Things that maybe today would not be thought of as intimate, such as using first names or holding hands, for example, are so layered with meaning and even passion that I couldn’t help but sigh several times as I read. Rich and atmospheric from the first pages, Bride of a Distant Isle drew me in immediately and would not let go until all of its mysteries were revealed. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to those who enjoy a well-rounded storyline, engaging characters, and a tightly crafted, suspenseful plot. I have found a new author for my keeper shelf! I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for this review. All of the opinions expressed are my own and I have received no further compensation for sharing them.
One of the things I’m really loving about Sandra Byrd’s current series, Daughters of Hampshire series (you know, besides fabulous writing and intriguing stories with mystery), is how she brings different cultures as key parts of the stories (the first, Mist of Midnight, had hints of India. Also it was one of my favorite reads last year, so go read it!). It’s not something I have really seen in books written about 1850s England, but I absolutely love love love it. Like I mentioned, I loved how Byrd brought about another culture and how it was for those in England. This book focused on Malta and since I knew next to zero about it, I loved learning more and how she weaved it perfectly in the story. Not only that, but the look at Catholicism during this time in England was fascinating too. I also have to say the thread of mystery was done so well too. And our Annabel and Captain Dell’Acqua? Loved them! “All will be well in the end; if it’s not well, then it’s not the end.” This book also gets you, how shall I saw, “involved.” I wanted to be in the book, so I could have punched some people in the face (not really internet, I’d go for the kneecaps. I kid people. Kid!). Oh man, did some folks in this book make me angry…And I absolutely loved it! So yes, if you couldn’t tell, this series continues to get better and better and I’m already looking forward to more. Fans of Sandra will absolutely love this one and historical fans, if you haven’t read any of Sandra’s book, get on it! (She also has a fabulous contemporary novel series you should read as well!) What’s a recent favorite Victorian novel you’ve read? (Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review) See more at: http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/03/24/bride-distant-isle-sandra-byrd-book-review/
Bride of a Distant Isle is the second installment from the Daughters of Hampshire series. The writing style by this author is quite refreshing and I enjoy reading her books. Though, I didn't like this book as much as the first in the series, I still found it enjoyable. Recommended. 4 1/2 stars. I received this book from Howard Books in exchange for my honest opinion, which was given.
"I had no warning before evil befell me." So begins the riveting tale of Miss Annabel Ashton, whose nearest relative is her cousin Edward Everedge. He is the owner of the family home, Highcliffe, and what little is left of the family fortune since Annabel is believed to be illegitimate and her mother died years ago in an insane asylum. In our modern day of women's rights, it is somewhat difficult at times to wrap the mind around the customs of 1851, when a single woman like Annabel is almost completely dependent on her male relative, and people could be committed to insane asylums for actions that seem pretty normal now. There is much suspense in this book and it's often difficult for the reader (as it was for Annabel) to know who is trustworthy. Items belonging to Annabel's mother appear in her room, then disappear. Annabel has "spells" several times after drinking tea; is this an indication that she, too, is going mad? Or is someone trying to make it appear so? Is the handsome captain from Malta, Marco Dell'Acqua, using Annabel to secure a contract with Edward (as Edward is using Annabel), or is he really falling in love with her, as she is with him? Is Clementine, Edward's wife, really a friend to Annabel, or someone to beware of? Were Annabel's parents really married, which would mean she was the heir of Highcliffe, rather than Edward. This book reminds me a lot of the old Victoria Holt and Daphne Du Maurier novels I used to read, in a very good way. Part of what makes these books so effective is they are written in first person. We only know what the main character knows and experience what she experiences. I stayed up way too late to finish Bride of a Distant Isle. It became impossible to put it down before I finished. I highly recommend this book to those who love to read historical fiction.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Bride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd, © 2016 Daughters of Hampshire, Book Two Alla fine andrà tutto bene se non andrà bene, non e le fine. All will be well in the end; if it's not well, then it's not the end. An Absolute Ten! My review: I am thrilled to have received Bride of a Distant Isle ~ I have read several of author Sandra Byrd's historicals and looked forward to reading book 2 in the Daughters of Hampshire series. So excellent, I began reading until the wee hours of the morning. The story takes place from May to December 1851, with an Epilogue three years later. I love writings that you can envision and draw you in from the beginning. Thus, is so as Annabel Ashton prepares to leave Highcliffe Hall at Milford on Sea with her cousin, Edward Everedge, and his wife, Clementine, repairing to London to attend the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations Hoping to meet with other investors, Edward greatly anticipated the outcome of having funds to retain Highcliffe, as heir to the country house. Annabel is looking forward to returning to her teaching position at the Rogers Day School for Young Ladies in Winchester following the remainder of the summer season. "A lifetime has unraveled and then been re-knit since I'd left Winchester seven months earlier, hoping for a quiet life as a teacher. I had learnt who I was, and that I was beloved, and that I could chance risk and prevail." Annabel ~ Bride of a Distant Isle, 359 Today is release day and you are in for a treat! As much as I have enjoyed author Sandra Byrd's other historical fictions ~ I will have to say this was most *i*n*t*r*i*g*u*i*n*g. Pulling in the happenings of the time period, this story was magnificently written. Flawlessly crafted, riveting throughout. ***Thank you to author Sandra Byrd and to Howard Books for sending me a review copy of Bride of a Distant Isle. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
The second book in the Daughters of Hampshire series definitely has a Gothic feel to it, with references to Edgar Allan Poe, the bleak setting of a manor house perched on a cliff looking out towards the sea, named the Edge of the World by Annabel, a genuine heroine in need of a serious rescue on many levels. Told from Annabel's point of view, the descriptions of the dark manor house, surrounding countryside, and windswept seashore, coupled with the threats to her life, made me feel like I'd stepped into a scene from Jane Eyre or a Victoria Holt novel. It felt so somber at times, especially as it seemed more and more that she had no one to defend her, with few friends to count on, and the web of deception laid by her cousins is cinched tighter. Then, the hope of faith shines through, as Annabel prays that God would help her, reminded that He will never leave nor forsake us. The touch of the supernatural or divine intervention added a mystical sense to her story, plus some interesting twists. The mention of a visit to the Great Exhibition was interesting, learning more about the Maltese culture that had such an impact on her mother's story, as well as her own identity. The Maltese Captain Dell'Acqua was an elusive hero figure, one that left me guessing a lot at his true motives. The treatment of the mentally ill, or those suspected as not being mentally stable, was a sad historical feature. Also the religious prejudices against Catholics that lingered even into the 1800's seemed a strong influence on how Annabel was treated, making her fate seem even more unfair. I found the author notes included at the end about the history of the area at the time to be quite interesting. Readers who enjoy a good Gothic tale full of mystery, sinister characters, with a genuine heroine, a little romance, and a divine touch, will like this story. Recommend! 4.5 stars (Book provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)
Milford on Sea, Hampshire England - 1851 Miss Annabel Ashton, a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies, has been summoned to her home, Highcliffe, by her cousin, Edward. Edward informs her that Highcliffe is to be sold as there is no money to care for it. The furnishings are being packed and they are heading to London for a few days to view the Great Exhibition, after which they will return to Highcliffe and then Annabel will return to her school. While in London, Annabel is introduced to Captain Marco Antonio Del’Acqua, a Maltese man. He is very handsome and Annabel is attracted to him. She has been asked by Edward to friend Marco and learn what she can from him about his business dealings. Annabel has been presumed illegitimate. But for this, Annabel would have inherited Highcliffe instead of Edward. When it was assumed that Annabel is illegitimate, Edward seized her dowry funds and spent the money, leaving her penniless. Annabel’s mother had been deemed insane when Annabel was a small child and died in an insane asylum. Some think that Annabel may be going mad as well. Annabel never knew her father who appears to have left her and her mother, breaking her mother’s heart. He was a Maltese man. Her mother told her that they were married, but the family did not believe her. However, Annabel was given a necklace by her mother that shows that she was indeed married. Edward wants Annabel to marry a Mr. Morgan, who is quite wealthy but extremely unappealing. Edward’s wife, Clementine. is a strange woman under Edward’s demanding ways. She tends to drink Anisette, the act of which is called “visiting the green fairies.” While Annabel is attracted to Marco, Edward does all he can to assure that she has no freedom. Before long, she starts suffering bouts of hallucinations and wonders if she truly is going mad which Edward and Clementine feel she is. That is when Edward has her committed to an insane asylum just as her mother had been. Is Annabel truly insane? Will she ever be able to leave the insane asylum? What about Marco? Does he know where she is? This was an interesting book, but I did not like the heroine. Even for the time period, I feel that she was a “victim” with no real gumption to help herself. Some parts of the story are too “theatrical” to be believable. However, I am certainly hoping other readers will enjoy it. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
It has been awhile since I have read a book from this time period. This has always been my favorite time period to read about. I have to say that the author did a good job describing everything so that I/we could get a vivid picture of everything. I thought Miss Annabel was a strong woman who had to go through a lot in her life. She went on an emotional journey in this book learing that she may actually be "more" than what she thought she was. I have to say I did not like Edward or his wife. I thought at times they were quite mean and rude to Annabel.I enjoyed learning about the Great Expedition and what exactly that was about. I also liked how the author included other real life events in this story. I thought that added to the telling of the whole story. In this story we have mystery, romance and adventure which all makes for a good story that keeps moving at a steady pace. I am looking forward to the next book in this series and whatever the author had to offer us next.
Captivating Gothic suspense! ** I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Howard Books in exchange for my honest opinion. ** I love Gothic stories, and really enjoyed, Mist of Midnight, Sandra Byrd's first story, in her series Daughters of Hampshire. This time, with Bride of a Distant Isle, Ms. Byrd, captivated me from the first page and kept me sitting at the edge of my seat! An excellent Gothic story to enjoy! It tells the story of Annabel Ashton and Marco Antonio, Dell'Acqua. Set during the Victorian period in England, their fascinating story is filled with mystery and romance. Being an illegitimate daughter of a presumed insane woman, people thought of her as strange as her mother. She was a teacher in Winchester and loved every moment of it, but her uncle Edward, in serious need of funds to pay his depts, wants her to come back to Highcliffe Hall, her family home. There strange things happen during her visit! Maybe, clues to reveal her true identity! Marco, help her? Can she trust him? Who is she really? Will she finally discover her true heritage? Treacherous characters Edward, Morgan and Clementine added a touch of mystery to this amazing suspense! Just follow her journey into the unknown and discover her secret! Bride of a Distant Isle, is truly the beautiful tale of a brave and smart heroine, who had to live under the condition of being an illegitimate person during that period of time. It's a well written story filled with twists and turns, until the very end! Again, Ms. Byrd didn't disappoint me.
Once I became totally involved in this book, there seems to be non-stop moments of terror or intrigue, what is going on? Annabel Ashton has grown up an orphan, but with family, that is, her mother’s sister and her family. A constant companion at their estate was her cousin Edward, and now seems to be at his mercy. Annabel is Catholic and at this time period the papists have to more or less hid underground, England is Anglican. Her cousin is interested in money and his right to own the family home Highcliffe, and their may be proof that this all belongs to Annabel. We watch, as Edward and his wife seem to go to all lengths to claim the heritage, including committing Annabel to a mental hospital. They try to marry her off to a very distasteful man; they also use her to get information. If you enjoy a story that is full of action, seems there is never a dull moment, and a bit of romance thrown in, but even then we don’t know for sure, if it true or some other form of the evil that seems to follow Annabel. I wondered if I would like this book from the first, but I loved it, it is full of history, and really keeps your attention. I received this book through Howard Books Blogger Program, and was not required to give a positive review.