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The wooded hills of Oxfordshire conceal the remains of the aptly named Ashdown House—a wasted pile of cinders and regret. Once home to the daughter of a king, Ashdown and its secrets will unite three women across four centuries in a tangle of intrigue, deceit and destiny…
In the winter of 1662, Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, is on her deathbed. She entrusts an ancient pearl, rumored to have magic power, to her faithful cavalier William Craven for safekeeping. In his grief, William orders the construction of Ashdown Estate in her memory and places the pearl at its center.
One hundred and fifty years later, notorious courtesan Lavinia Flyte hears the maids at Ashdown House whisper of a hidden treasure, and bears witness as her protector Lord Evershot—desperate to find it—burns the building to the ground.
Now, a battered mirror and the diary of a Regency courtesan are the only clues Holly Ansell has to finding her brother, who has gone missing researching the mystery of Elizabeth Stuart and her alleged affair with Lord Craven. As she retraces his footsteps, Holly’s quest will soon reveal the truth about Lavinia and compel her to confront the stunning revelation about the legacy of the Winter Queen.
|Publisher:||Graydon House Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book begins in the 1600s at the death bed of Elizabeth Stewart, the Winter Queen. The story immediately fascinated me. Within the next several pages the story flashed back to the present day, with the main character, Holly, being awakened by her cell phone. Her niece was on the phone telling her that her brother was missing. She left her loveless relationship behind and went to Oxfordshire to find her brother Ben. She stays at the family’s ancestral home and an interesting cast of characters become part of her circle, including a slightly brooding character named Mark. The story moves back and forth between the story of Elizabeth Stewart and William Craven in the 1600s and Holly, Mark, and her friends in the village in present day. Eventually, yet another historical story makes its entrance when Holly finds an old diary in the house, and the story of Lavinia Flyte becomes another part of the historical side of a super intricately woven story. To say much more would likely ruin the plot for other readers. This story was fascinating with its intricate detailing, without being boring, as some historicals can sometimes be. The historical end of the story with Elizabeth is from a third person perspective, where you can see what everyone is thinking and saying. Since Lavinia’s diary is the source of her story, everything is told in first person point of view, with mesmerizing detail. And finally, the story from Holly’s perspective is third person limited point of view, where we see all, but know more about what Holly thinks and feels than the other characters. The location in Oxfordshire is very atmospheric, driving home the feel of an old European town. This may have been one of the best settings I’ve enjoyed in a long time. Also, the moves back and forth through time where done seamlessly. My favorite parts, however, were the part that featured Holly and the present day. This author is clearly very skilled. She was able to integrate three separate story lines that converge in this incredible story. Yes, there is a little bit of romance, but this is not a romance novel. Rather, it’s a fascinating story about people. I enjoyed this story so much that the characters became very really to me, especially Holly and Mark, and I didn’t want the story to end, so I put off reading the last couple chapters because I knew that a story, and characters I had grown to love, would come to an end.
The historical part was good. The story was okay. I was almost going to give it three stars, but then by the very end... suddenly it was not okay anymore. The novel suffers the "main character is a helpless fawning ditz" syndrome that many a historical novel has, and that on its own would be okay. I can quietly roll my eyes every time "the room temperature goes up" when the love interest enters. Who is apparently good at everything, by the way, and is also instalove. But one thing I can't tolerate. The next part is a spoiler. It's the fact that when a woman comes back home from getting lost in the woods, experienced shock and found her home has been in a fire, it's for some reason OKAY to pounce on her and all she does is fawn. Oh yay, the hot guy digs me! That is utterly depressing and very disappointing. And harmful to young women as well. Clearly after so much tribulation, all a woman wants is to be validated through that sort of attention from a love interest. Seriously? The novel could not redeem itself after this. Yes, it's readable. The historical parts are interesting. But no thanks, no god complex please. And no damsel. We need to stop promoting damsels.
I very much enjoyed this book - which was actually 3 stories woven into one, and yet I was able to effortlessly follow all 3 stories without losing track of which characters belonged to which time period. I really enjoyed how everything was handled at the end, too. Very satisfying book altogether. Will definitely read much more by this author in the future.
I liked this one - it was interesting and the time periods covered (most notably the Winter Queen portions) were new to me, which I always enjoy in historical fiction because I get to learn something while being entertained... I am generally a fan of stories-within-stories, and found that the overlay of the three women's tales satisfied that quite nicely - particularly through the format of Lavinia's diary, which was a nice counterpoint to the more traditional narrative format of the other two sections. The present-day mystery was enjoyable and well plotted and paced. I found all of the women to be engaging narrators of their lives and times, and despite their very different voices, think that their stories meshed well into a single book. This is a relatively new genre to me (a modern-day mystery, resolved through historical first-person accounts), and I must say that I find it very enjoyable. It's a nice twist on the more classic mystery, and I probably enjoy it so much because it satisfies my inner history buff as well as my interest in more traditional whodunits. There was a little more steamy romance than I tend to prefer, especially in historical fiction, but that's a matter of personal taste and offered by way of comment rather than judgment, and should not be taken as a negative reflection in any way. All in all I quite enjoyed this book, and would look for more from the author. My review copy was provided via NetGalley.
Ben is wanting to know all about his family. He begins to research his past and his family history when he disappears. His sister is determined to find out what happened to him. In the process, she discovers more than she bargained for. This book is rich in history. I love a book which has me researching. I had to look up the Winter Queen. She is not someone which I was very familiar. This novel follows her pearl and her mirror throughout the years. These items were thought lost to history until Holly discovers the mirror. There is magic attached to these items. You need to read the novel to find out what all this magic entails. The recovery of these artifacts keep you guessing till the end. This story rotates between time periods. The Winter Queen, 19th century courtesan are just a few of the historical figures recreated in this tale. However, I did feel there were several plot problems. One is very noticeable. When Ben disappears you very seldom hear anything else about it. A word or two dropped several chapters apart. It is like an unimportant factor. But, he is the reason his sister is researching. It just sort of falls to the wayside. The story more or less follows Holly and her discoveries. This is minor in the grand scheme of this novel and does not take away from the story. And the story is riveting and creative. I have a huge amount of cover love! This cover is super. Makes you just want to dive in and get started! I received this novel from Harper Collins for a honest review.
Queen Elizabeth is married to King Frederick who is a member of the Order of the Rosy Cross. From this group she was given a crystal mirror surrounded by diamonds plus a large pearl known as the Sistrin pearl. Both of these things are said to be powerful and while the force was once used for good, the power has now been corrupted by the greed of men. Thus begins the story of how this mirror and pearl have affected the lives of people from 1596 to the present day. William Craven was a loyal courtier to Queen Elizabeth for many years. It is said that they had married after the death or King Frederick. Craven did the Queen’s bidding in many different ways. Knowing that the mirror and pearl have now become symbols of evil, Craven thought he had destroyed them. But they resurfaced many years later. Today, we find Holly whose brother, Ben, has gone missing from their vacation home called Ashdown Mill. The area was once part of a home that Craven had built for Elizabeth. Holly decides to move into the house while the search is on for Ben. When she starts researching the area and the history of Craven and Elizabeth, she uncovers information about the mirror and pearl. In addition, she finds an old diary written long ago with ties to this significant past. This was an interesting book, but a bit too long and detailed for my taste. It goes back and forth from the 1600’s to present day. History buffs will probably love it. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.