Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

by Melanie Dobson


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When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476746142
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 06/16/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 327,581
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor


    Moored fishing boats sagged in the harbor’s waves as the lights on Clevedon’s wooden pier flickered in the wind. A storm was brewing over the swollen waters that separated England from Wales, the dark clouds bulging with rain, but Maggie Emerson didn’t move from her bench along the wide promenade.

    She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her warm, woolen skirt over her stockings. In the summer, day-trippers paraded up and down this promenade, gawking at the sailing boats and the Welsh mountains across the estuary. They clambered over the rocks along the shoreline and paid two pennies each to stroll onto the famous pier that stretched over the water. But few people visited Clevedon this time of year, and on stormy nights like this, most of the town’s residents hunkered down in the safety of their homes.

    Maggie knew she should return home too, but even when the clock tower chimed five o’clock, she didn’t stand. Her gaze remained fixed in the distance where salty water from the Bristol Channel collided with the River Severn.

    Every evening, after she finished her work at the library, she sat on this bench and watched for a certain yacht to appear. But for the past two months all she’d done was sit alone, watching the fishing boats sway. Aunt Priscilla had warned that the yachtsmen who stopped here wanted only one thing, and then they’d be gone. Maggie hadn’t understood what her aunt meant at the time, but now she knew exactly what Elliot wanted when he’d sailed into their town.

    Last summer, when Aunt Priscilla found out about Elliot, she’d threatened to pack Maggie’s suitcase and drive her to the station for the next train headed to London. But Maggie had sworn that she’d never see him again, and she’d kept her promise . . . until Elliot sailed back in October.

    Another wave smashed into the seawall of the promenade, and the pier lights flickered one more time before darkness fell over her.

    Elliot had said he would return by Christmas and spend the rest of the winter in Clevedon with her. He said they would marry, and when the weather turned warm, they would sail far away from here.

    But more than two months had passed since she’d seen him and now—

    Her hand rolled over her abdomen, her tears mixing with icy raindrops that began to fall from the sky.

    Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Timothy—who weren’t really her aunt and uncle at all—might wonder why she hadn’t returned home yet, especially with the impending storm, but as their three biological children grew older, they’d stopped asking where she went after work. The Frasers had been fostering her since she was five, and recently they’d made it quite clear that it was time for her to either marry or return to London. She had opted for marriage . . . or at least, she thought she had.

    She rocked against the bench, her arms wrapped over her chest.

    What was she supposed to do?

    If the truth of her indiscretion took wings, it would taint the impeccable reputations of her aunt and uncle and destroy all they valued. Everyone in town admired Aunt Priscilla for her charity work and Uncle Timothy for championing the production of penicillin. If Aunt Priscilla found out about the baby, she would insist Maggie hide her shame—their shame—from the entire town, and Maggie couldn’t blame her. Though the Frasers had required Maggie to work hard over the years, she knew they’d sacrificed much for her.

    The people in Clevedon treated her like she was one of the Frasers’ children, but she’d never stopped missing her brother or parents. While she knew her dad and mum would never return, she’d dreamed for years about reuniting with her younger brother, Edmund. He had been evacuated with her in 1940, but after the war ended, the Frasers sent Edmund off to an orphanage. Maggie had begged them to keep her brother, swore she would care for him, but they’d only wanted a girl. Then by the time she was old enough to travel to Swindon to visit him, Edmund was gone.

    The conditions at the orphanage hadn’t been horrific—not like the stories she’d read about the old workhouses—but the rooms were sterile. Cold. The kind of place that probably killed her brother’s spirit before pneumonia took his life.

    The wind blew away the tears on her cheeks, her hand cradled over her stomach again. No matter what happened, she would never send this baby away.

    Another wave crashed over the pier and smashed into the seawall, shooting thirty feet above her, the frigid spray showering down on her head, soaking her coat and skirt.

    Like Edmund, not all orphaned children found homes, but even if her baby were adopted, she would never know if her child was being raised with love or contempt. She didn’t want to give up her child and yet the alternative was impossible. No reputable employer would hire an unmarried mother, and she wouldn’t be able to support herself and a child with assistance from the government. Even if she were able to get a job working as a skivvy or a laundress in Bristol, there would be no one to care for her baby.

    She shivered in her soaked clothing. If she stayed out here much longer, she might catch pneumonia like her brother. She might—

    A seed of a thought began to germinate in her mind.

    Perhaps an illness wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Perhaps an illness would be the answer to her prayers.

    She’d already begged God’s forgiveness in the chapel, her knees aching as she’d knelt by the altar. She and the baby could escape this world together. Surely God, in His goodness, His mercy, would welcome them home. Into a safe, warm place where her baby would thrive.

    A loud crash startled her, and she turned as the storm tore a shutter off a nearby shop. Then she curled her fingers around the edge of the bench, battling to stand in the wind. If she caught pneumonia, her aunt would call the doctor, and the doctor would find out—

    She couldn’t let the doctor examine her.

    Another thought slipped into her mind, a dim beacon in the haze.

    Maybe she wouldn’t have to succumb to an illness or the questions of doctors trying to cure her. She was terrified of the water, but maybe she should embrace the storm and its fierce lashing. Let the winds blow away her fears. In seconds all would be well again. Her heart would be calm—

    As her muddied mind cleared, her heart seemed to numb, sucking away her fear. She reached for the railing that separated the promenade from the harbor and wrapped her hands around it. Stepping onto the bottom rung, she imagined the waves sweeping her body into the depths of the channel, all her fear washed away.

    When she didn’t return, the villagers would pity her aunt and uncle for their loss. There would be no shame, no remorse for them, only a brief sorrow and perhaps curiosity at her disappearance. No one would ever know about the baby.

    She leaned against the wind, her hair whipping her cheeks, sand and water piercing her face. Her mind screamed for her to run, to escape the gale, but she willed herself to push into it. It would be better for the baby. For her aunt and uncle.

    For her.

    The sea was the only way out.

    Another wave smashed into the wall. The surge shot straight up, entangling her, and she lost her grip on the railing. Her body began to teeter over the seawall, toward the bay.

    “Maggie!” a man shouted.

    At the sound of her name, her numb body wakened. Flailing, she grasped for the wet railing.

    But it was too late to stop her fall.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Melanie Dobson. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion.


    Years ago, the body of Oliver Croft, heir of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor, was found drowned in the River Coln. Authorities searched for answers, but no one was ever held responsible for Oliver’s death . . .

    Libby Doyle, a free spirit who spends much of her time dancing with the butterflies in Ladenbrooke’s gardens, has captured the heart of Oliver Croft. But after Oliver drowns, Libby also vanishes, and her parents, Walter and Maggie Doyle, are left to wonder what really happened between their daughter and the boy who lived next door.

    Forty-five years later, after Walter’s death, Libby’s sister Heather Toulson returns to her family’s cottage in the English countryside, in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, to sort through her parent’s things. What she uncovers is a string of shocking secrets that lead her to wonder if anything Walter and Maggie told her about her childhood was true.

    As Heather sorts through the belongings left behind in the cottage, trying to separate truth from deceit, she has an uncomfortable reunion with her first love. Together, they unravel a mystery that will change everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. At the beginning of the novel, Maggie feels as if suicide is her only option. After she is rescued, she begins to create a story to protect both herself and her child, and her stories are passed down through the generations in the Doyle family. What are the implications for Maggie’s deceit?

    2. Walter’s anger toward Maggie and her lies consume him at times, but he still chooses to stay married and raise Libby as his daughter. How does his commitment impact the Doyle family?

    3. Walter wants Libby to face her fears while Maggie wants to protect her daughter from the world and the children who tease her. In hindsight, would anything else have helped Libby succeed?

    4. Each of the mothers in the book, including Lady Croft, want the best for their children, but each woman has a unique way of relating to her kids. What are some of the positive and negative traits of these moms?

    5. In the 1950s, mothers of children on the autism spectrum were often called “refrigerator moms” because doctors believed the coldness of a mother triggered the autism in her child. We know now this isn’t true, but it is still easy to judge both the skills of a parent and the behavior issues of a child like Libby. How can we offer compassion and insight to the people we love in a beneficial way?

    6. Libby is a successful artist while Heather is an art restorer. How does the difference in their professions reflect in their personal relationships?

    7. Before Heather discovers the truth about Libby, she contemplates the following: “Anyone willing to expose their heart and mind through art, opening themselves and their work to both praise and critique, was a brave soul”(p. 15). How does Heather’s appreciation for art and artists prepare her for the relationship between her and Libby?

    8. Walter writes that it can be harmful to fixate on the past without using those reflections to make a positive change in the future. How does past shame hold people back from becoming the man or woman God intended them to be? And how do both Walter and Heather confront the past in order to change their family’s future?

    9. In Walter’s journal, he also says that God often gives us our desires in a different way than we expect because He knows exactly what we need (p. 94). Do you believe this to be true? If so, do you have a personal example of how God created beauty out of a hard situation in your life?

    10. Daphne Westcott is a faithful friend to Maggie Doyle, and in her faithfulness, she kept some of Maggie’s secrets for forty-five years. Do you think Daphne did the right thing in harboring these secrets? If not, what might she have done differently?

    11. Many of the characters—including Maggie, Walter, Libby, and Oliver Croft—feel trapped, and it is often hard to navigate right and wrong when someone is entrenched inside a difficult situation. How do you think clearly and seek wisdom when you don’t know what to do?

    12. Butterflies and shadows are two predominant symbols in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. What do these symbols represent to you?

    13. As Heather uncovers the past, the light of God’s truth reveals and then begins to heal what happened long ago. Do you have an example of reconciliation or healing from a past wound?

    14. Often a hero or heroine is someone who quietly sacrifices his or her life for someone else. Who are the unexpected heroes and/or heroines in this book?

    15. As Oliver watches Libby in his mother’s gardens (p. 125), he thinks: “She seemed to understand what so many people did not. That happiness was not found in trying to pigeonhole one’s self into another’s ideal. Happiness was found in embracing all you were created to be.” Have you embraced your God-given talents and gifts? If not, what is standing in your way?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Paint or draw a butterfly! To celebrate the theme of transformation in this novel, Melanie is creating a gallery of butterfly paintings and sketches from her readers and/or their children or grandchildren. If you would like to submit a butterfly picture for this gallery, please visit: Melanie will send you the link of your picture when it appears on her website.

    2. Contact a local or national organization that works with children on the autism spectrum and volunteer together as a group to support these kids and their parents, or host a bake sale or another fundraiser to raise money for the organization.

    3. Using a book such as The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths or a website that helps identify varieties of butterflies, study various types of butterflies and discuss your favorites. Why do you think Libby was so drawn to butterflies?

    A Conversation with Melanie Dobson

    In your latest book, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, we meet 19-year-old Maggie who finds herself in an unwed pregnancy during a time period when that was socially unacceptable. What does this situation mean for her and her family?

    Maggie lost her biological parents during World War II, and her beloved younger brother died in an orphanage after the war. Heartbroken and scared, she was raised by foster parents near Bristol, England. In the 1950s, British mothers often told their children that a midwife or a stork brought each new baby, so many young women were naïve about the facts of life. Maggie and her foster mother never discussed where babies came from.

    Maggie craves love at the beginning of this story, but the father of her baby has sailed away from their coastal village, and she knows this unexpected pregnancy will humiliate her foster family. Since she has no place else to turn, Maggie begins to contemplate suicide, thinking it will be better for her child to be cradled in heaven rather than dying slowly in an orphanage like Maggie’s brother.

    Maggie chooses a stable, safe love with Walter Doyle instead of renewing a romance with the biological father of her child. Why did you choose to have Maggie’s husband as the hero of this story?

    Walter is the victim of Maggie’s deception, but he is committed to their marriage even after he finds out that he isn’t the father of Libby, Maggie’s child. Walter spends part of the story wallowing in his anger and bitterness, but, by the grace of God, the love for his wife is reawakened, and he begins to appreciate Libby’s creativity and beauty. As Walter experiences the power of forgiveness and grace, the healing process begins for his entire family. He spends the latter part of his life rescuing Libby, and the lessons he learns are passed along in the journaled reflections on his life.

    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor spans four generations of women, slipping back and forth between a past and contemporary story. Why do the three older women keep secrets from their daughters? How far are some people willing to go to cover the shame of their past?

    Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. This relationship can be one of the closest a woman might experience, but it can also be one of the most hurtful. In both the past and present parts of the story, the mothers kept secrets from their daughters in order to protect them, but as these secrets are passed down through generations, they almost destroy their family.

    While these women believe they are protecting the people they love, they are really protecting themselves. The wounds from shame have been around since Adam and Eve sinned against God and then hid themselves in the perfect garden. Like Adam and Eve, many of us are willing to go a long way to cover up sin or abuse from our past. This makes me even more grateful for the grace of God that has the power to redeem our past and cleanse all our shame.

    The contemporary story features a descendant of Maggie’s, who is named Heather, and who is dealing with the complicated relationship she had with her father. Can you identify with Heather’s feelings about this?

    Thankfully, I have a fantastic relationship with my dad! I dedicated this novel to him because he has been a faithful, caring father who loves God and his kids. I do have other complicated relationships in my family that remain unhealed, but even though our family has experienced some hard times, my dad has been rock for all of us. I pray that I will have a lifelong friendship with my girls like I’ve had with my father.

    Why did you choose to weave the theme of butterflies through this story?

    Maggie’s daughter, Libby, is a unique young woman who is fascinated by butterflies. She is a beautiful, passionate girl who thrives on wandering among the flowers in Ladenbrooke’s gardens and spilling her heart onto the pages of her sketchbook. Even though she struggles socially, Libby is enchanted by the beauty and dance of butterflies. As she grows older, Libby loves creating colorful butterflies—her friends—through painting, and these butterflies ultimately bring new life to her as well.

    I chose to use the example of butterflies throughout this story because of their struggle to break free of the cocoon that both shelters and confines them and because of their transformation into elegant, vibrant creatures that rely on the sun for life. Once we allow God to peel back the shame and guilt that bind us, we—like these magical butterflies—are finally free to be exactly who He made us to be.

    How does the bond that forms between Libby and Heather change the way they view their pasts?

    The journals Walter left behind help Heather understand what happened to her family and how the truth can change the future of her relationships with Libby, Ella, and her ex-fiancé Christian Westcott. When Libby and Heather reunite, Libby shows Heather how the gift of creating art can bring healing while Heather uses her gift of art restoration to help restore Libby’s heart as well. Together they seek and find the truth about what happened to Oliver Croft, the man Libby loved long ago.

    You’ve said that if Libby had been born in modern times, she could have fallen on the autism spectrum. Why did you choose to include that aspect as part of her story?

    My oldest daughter has sensory processing issues, and we have journeyed with friends throughout the years who have children on this spectrum as well. Parents of kids on the autism spectrum often experience a lot of guilt and shed many tears on behalf of their son or daughter. Until parents have a diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion as to why their child is different than other kids and why they struggle to do seemingly simple tasks when, really, they are fighting to survive. There can also be judgment from teachers and other adults who are confused or uneducated—like my husband and I used to be—about this spectrum.

    Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with self-control and relationships, but they can also be incredibly bright, passionate people, such as Libby, who excel at art or science or whatever talents God has given them. In this story, I wanted to celebrate these wonderful kids and encourage moms, in particular, who might feel hopeless and alone.

    Do you think sensitivity and understanding for those with autism has increased in modern times? What can individuals do to help change the way society views and interacts with those impacted by autism?

    I am incredibly grateful all for the advances in understanding the spectrum of autism and all the amazing techniques, exercises, and therapies for helping kids on this spectrum succeed. Still many children with Sensory Processing Disorder are misdiagnosed. It’s important to continue educating parents and teachers about the range of this spectrum and how children with heightened sensory awareness might react with fear or anger when they feel threatened. It is also helpful when parents of children on the autism spectrum are able to be honest about the successes and failures of their journey. Instead of judging, we should all encourage parents who love their kids yet feel discouraged in their quest for answers.

    Willow Cottage, the home of the Doyle family, sits in the shadows of the Croft family’s Ladenbrooke Manor. What is the significance of these shadows?

    The Crofts are an upper class, noble family in England while Walter and Maggie Doyle are solidly middle class. During the 1950s there were strict social rules dividing the British classes, but both Oliver (the son of Lord and Lady Croft) and Libby (the Doyles’ daughter) defy these rules. Like the boundaries of society, a stone wall separates Ladenbrooke Manor and Willow Cottage until tragedy strikes both familiesand these social boundaries begin to crumble. Ultimately God’s light shines through the shadows on both sides of the wall.

    Your favorite characters to write about are everyday heroes and heroines who sacrifice their lives for someone else. Do any of your characters sacrifice their lives in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

    I am fascinated by seemingly ordinary people today and throughout history who have done extraordinary things to help others. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter chooses to sacrifice his career and his plans for the future to raise Maggie’s daughter. He grows to love Libby, and even though his emotions are tumultuous throughout this story, Walter ultimately decides to accept and care for this girl he believes God has given him. Also, Maggie originally thinks that taking her own life, along with the life of her unborn daughter, is the most loving thing to do for her child, but Walter stops her from killing herself. She ultimately sacrifices herself to fight for Libby and to care for Libby’s daughter.

    Despite the fear of disappointing people we love, how can we learn to live our lives in the light of truth instead of hiding?

    One of the verses I cling to regularly as a parent is 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT): “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”Christ ripped the veil of our shame in two when He died so we no longer have to hide behind it. I love when women of different generations are honest with one another about their weaknesses and offer each other grace, just as Christ gave freely to each of us.

    There seem to be some similarities in time period and setting between the BBC’s surprise hit Call the Midwife and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Why do you think Call the Midwife has become such a popular program in both England and the United States, and what are some of the parallels between this show and your latest novel?

    Viewers love Call the Midwife for many reasons, but some of the main reasons are because it’s a show about a character reflecting back on her life during the 1950s with new clarity and because of the rich themes of faith and morality that echo through the generations. Also, the stories take an honest look at both the beauty and sometimes sorrow that happen with each new birth. Each episode is authentic in its display of inner and external conflict while maintaining its focus on the relationship between God and humanity.

    The story in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is also bound together by Walter’s journal entries as he reflects back on life in England during a similar era. I hope readers will appreciate the honest perspective of the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy and wrestle through their own emotions alongside the characters. Also similar to Call the Midwife, the themes of faith and grace are integral to this story.

    Could you tell us about the trip you took to research this book?

    I visit all the main settings of my novels to capture the spirit and culture of each location along with the sights, sounds, and even tastes of the area. I spent a week on a “whistle stop” tour of England last spring, exploring Oxford, London, Bristol, and the lovely manor homes in the Cotswolds. I thoroughly enjoyed my many pots of English tea, sleeping in homes that were almost a thousand years old, and meandering through cottage gardens around Oxford. I also had the pleasure of meeting up with friends and fellow novelists Carrie Turansky and Cathy Gohlke while they researched for their upcoming novels and then spending the day with a lovely British woman named Evelyn who thought my novel should be set in the quaint village called Bibury. Turns out, she was exactly right!

    You have said you almost feel a compulsion to write. What do you mean by that?

    Someone gave me a red journal when I was seven, and I’ve loved to write and create stories ever since. I enjoy the challenge of researching and writing fiction, and when I’m not working on a new book, I’m either making up stories for my girls or dreaming about ideas for my next novel. I’m not an artist like Libby, but I believe we all have talents and abilities that God wants us to use. Writing is life giving to me, and I get cranky (as my family will confirm!) when I take too long of a break from my pen and paper.

    Ultimately, what is the main message of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation—how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives.

    Customer Reviews

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    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
    ARS8 More than 1 year ago
    Melanie Dobson has written a very thoughtful, heartbreaking and at times heart-wrenching novel. This is a family drama that affects several generations of women and the men that they love. Told from multiple points of view, we have 45 year old Heather, who after the death of her father needs to go back to the family home in England and get it ready for sale. Burdened by secrets of her own, she and her daughter Ella begin going through the home and its contents. Heather uncovers her late older sister Libby’s book of drawings of butterflies. As her parents never really shared any information with her concerning her sister and her death, only that she was sick, Heather decides to learn more about the sibling she never knew. We the reader, like Heather, are then pulled into a story of secrets, lies, forbidden love, family sin, sickness, and even murder. As Heather is learning all this, she then realizes that even her secrets are just too costly to keep. This was a riveting read with a Gothic feel and I enjoyed Ms. Dobson’s way of telling the story in both the past and the present, always keeping us on our toes with wanting to find out how each story will resolve itself. Bravo. I look forward to more of her books. I received a copy of this book for an honest review from the author and the publisher, Howard Books, and the opinions are my own.
    ECowgill More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is the story of two families whose lives are irrevocably tied together.  It is a story of greed, of anger and beauty, of bitterness and freedom. It is a story of a love so strong that death only deepens it. It is, above all, a story of forgiveness and reconciliation, of God's mercy, wisdom and grace. There is great beauty in the gardens of Ladenbrooke Manor and there are hundreds of butterflies, many  with names and personalities. (You'll have to read the book to understand.) The descriptions of the  countryside, the gardens, and the manor are described in such great detail that I felt like I was there.   Author, Melanie Dobson, has written a book that moves seamlessly from one era to the next and back  again. From one family to the other and back again until the connection between the families is  revealed in a climax that will leave you speechless. (You'll have to read the book to understand.)  Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is full of twists and turns, of unexpected surprises and beauty,  it should definitely be the first book on your summer reading list.  (You'll have to read the book to understand.) I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
    MeezCarrie 7 days ago
    Romance is usually the high priority for me in a novel, and there is a lovely romantic thread in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, but for once it wasn’t what makes this one of my top reads. That honor goes to two characters – Libby, an almost otherworldly character whose story alternately brought tears and laughter and the desire to just hug her, and Walter Doyle, a husband/father who wants to do the right thing but struggles to process the disappointments he’s been dealt without hurting those he loves. Today, we would say Libby is on the autism spectrum but in the 1950s/60s part of this dual timeline novel they didn’t have that much knowledge – or vocabulary – about autism. As a result, Dobson treats us to tender insight into Libby’s complex personality, highlighting what makes her so special, what makes it so difficult for her to fit in (even with her family) and what makes the world so dangerous to her. As for Walter, the sacrifices he makes for his family (long after the reasons for those sacrifices are forgotten by most), despite the fact that life hasn’t turned out at all like he’d thought it would, is redemptive in the questions it provokes in our own hearts as well. Not only that but Walter’s choices and actions are a poignant demonstration of how God makes beauty from the ashes in our lives. The other characters besides Libby and Walter are all just as layered and clearly drawn, flawed and redemptive, their stories in turns heartbreaking and uplifting – always compelling. Finally, Dobson sets the scene so perfectly, the Cotswald countryside coming alive with her descriptions, you’ll feel as though you’re right there in the middle of either timeline. The narrative switches easily back and forth between the past and present timelines, as well as utilizing multiple voices/perspectives. It’s all done so seamlessly and smartly though, there’s no effort for the reader either in making the mental switch back and forth between characters or timelines. You just become absorbed in every page, in all the feels the story evokes. Bottom Line: I know this review is interminably long, but I still don’t feel like I’ve done it justice. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is the kind of novel that you want to savor, drinking in every bit of its beautiful prose and compelling characters, yet you find yourself so caught up in the story that you can’t linger for wanting to find out what will happen next. I wept more than once, particular scenes touching my heart deeply – whether because the descriptions were so tender and vivid or because that aspect of the plot was so emotional. This isn’t a light read but it’s ultimately so redemptive that it’s a must-read. (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Dobson is a master storyteller. She paints a beautiful, vivid, touching, heart wrenching story of three women...their lives, loves, and redemption. Highly recommend.
    Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
    Heather is back in the United Kingdom after many years of living overseas. She's inherited her parents' cottage and has to sort out their belongings. Heather discovers her family had many secrets. The cottage is close to Ladenbrooke Manor, which was abandoned after a tragic death. Can Heather discover what happened in the past and get the answers she needs? While trying to find out the truth, she runs into her first love. Is there a chance they can at least be friends again? Will Heather only meet despair now that she's back home or will exposing the truth also have a liberating effect? Libby isn't like the other children in the neighborhood. She isn't interested in school and prefers spending time outside in the gardens of Ladenbrooke Manor. She loves to dance, gives each butterfly a name and tries to set her spirit free whenever she can. This attracts the attention of the boy next door. He can't help falling in love with Libby's beautiful spirit, even though his parents have other plans for him. What will happen when they try to chase their dreams? Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a fantastic compelling story. I loved reading about Heather's quest to find answers about her family. She's a strong and talented woman and deserves to know what happened all those years ago. I was intrigued by the secrets her family was keeping from her and equally enjoyed reading about the past and the present. The story begins just before Libby's birth. She's a gorgeous girl with many fantastic skills, but she's different and not everybody accepts that. I loved how Melanie Dobson portrays her, she's a very special main character with a fascinating history. Each chapter is equally amazing and well written and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Melanie Dobson makes the English countryside come to life in a terrific way. I could easily imagine Libby's love for the extensive gardens she loves to dance, wander and play in. She describes them in a brilliant enchanting way. The scenery is an important part of the story and I liked how she skillfully gives it the emotional value it deserves. That makes the story extra fabulous. Each secret completely captivated me and I was incredibly curious to get to the bottom of Heather's family history. I loved every single page of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and highly recommend it.
    BlueJeansAndTeacups More than 1 year ago
    •°o•:*:•.HEAVY SUBJECT MATTER .•:*:• o°• I found this book extremely frustrating. The book jumps from the past to the present throughout the entire story. It’s in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and then present day with iPods and cell phones. Whenever it’s in the past, it clearly tells you the date, but in the present it never does. The POV (point of view) switches back and forth from character to character: Maggie / Walter / Libby / Heather / Mrs. Wescott / Christopher When Christopher finally learns why his heart was broken, he says nothing and takes a phone call instead. When Heather learns a huge secret, she says nothing and the story just switches to the past. Both very unrealistic acts. Additionally, the story is very heavy, involving THREE different times teenage girls give up their virginity to boys and suffer all the consequences that can come from that choice. Although faith and forgiveness along with interesting detail about places and an autistic girl are also in the book, the story was so heavy with the rest of it, that I could not enjoy it. A good reminder for me to check the label for the publishing company first. I did NOT enjoy this novel, and do not recommend it. © 2015 Howard Books, div of Simon & Schuster 336 pages Read: 1/30&312018 - Reviewed: 2/2/2018 2 stars I received a purchased copy from a friend. My opinion is my own for no compensation.
    BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
    Libby doesn’t really get along with her parents and turns to Oliver for comfort. She ends up pregnant and kicked out of her home. Oliver ends up dead after drowning in the river. I don’t really enjoy a story going back and forth with the past and present. I didn’t enjoy this, just not my type of story. **I received an ARC of this story for an honest review
    SarahSundin More than 1 year ago
    For the second year in a row, Melanie Dobson has penned my absolute favorite novel of the year. In 2014, Chateau of Secrets blew me away, and in 2015, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor did the same. Maggie, Walter, Libby, and Heather are fascinating characters, and the intricate web of secrets is slowly unraveled. With writing as lovely as Libby’s butterfly paintings, I was swept into the world of English gardens and intertwined families. Do not miss this novel, my friends!
    MarB1 More than 1 year ago
    Heartbreakingly beautiful. This is an ingeniously plotted and cleverly written story filled with old secrets and mysteries from the pen of Melanie Dobson. Like no other book I have read this year, “Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor” draw me in from page one. I was hooked and found myself returning to this book every free moment of my time. “Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor” tells the story of three generations women; the decisions they made and the consequences of their choices in their own lives and that of their children. The characters became my friends right away. I got to know these people and loved them with all my heart. After turning the last page, it felt like saying goodbye to good old friends. It’s not like they were perfect, but they were real and their struggles recognizable. I felt sad for what was lost, but there’s also hope blooming and perhaps a bit of romance. Highly recommended.
    WishEnd More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was so heart-wrenching and yet so beautiful. At the end of the story my thoughts were a little jumbled with the sadness of the lives of these characters and all their wrong choices, mixed with the hope and joy of the way they loved and their decisions to push through or make amends where they could. There was tragedy and heartbreak, which made the healing and precious moments that transpired that much sweeter. This was a tough story to read. There were things that I didn't like or actions I didn't approve of, which made it difficult to endure in parts. The story was shrouded in mystery and there was a question as to what had happened until almost the very end. I just wanted things to work out and for the characters to be protected and loved. I wanted this family to be healed and whole and it was hard to read what they went through. Even though it was tough, it's what made the story so wonderfully good because it showed how these characters struggled, learned, and grew, and how they changed to let love in, to love with all they had, to protect and cherish. There was forgiveness, truth, love, and romance. There was healing and bringing family and friends together to reconcile the past and to make a better future. These characters were perfectly flawed and I loved them for it. I loved Heather and her heart. She wanted to know what had happened and those around her finally were willing to give her the truth. I also loved Christopher and even though we only see him briefly in the story, it was enough for me to understand who he was. I loved Heather's daughter and the other characters, including Libby, Maggie, and Walter. They each came alive as their stories were told. I loved how the past and the present came together and the hopeful future the characters had in the end. It was a perfect ending. I'd recommend Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor to those who enjoy women's fiction, romantic suspense, inspirational romance, and stories full of family and relationships that feel real and heartfelt. It was a beautiful story about life's difficulties and of what can be. Content: Some context in regards to women becoming pregnant out of wedlock, but would definitely consider this clean. Source: I would like to thank Howard Books for my complimentary ARC through Litfuse, which did not affect my review in any way.
    millstreetreader More than 1 year ago
    I am not a world traveler, but I have been to Great Britain twice and on the first trip was fortunate to travel to the Cotswolds, small picturesque villages that include Stratford on Avon and Bath, When I read the first page of Melanie Dobson's new book SHADOWS OF LADENBROOKE MANOR and learned it was set in a Cotswold village, I so wanted the book to capture special essence of those villages. While the village does not play a crucial role in the story, the huge manor at its edge and the small cottage next to the grounds does. And so do the gardens, so I was not disappointed. I am not going to share much of the story; you can read the publisher's blurb for that. Instead let me tell you that Dobson has created a world of magic amidst a backdrop of secrets and tragedy. At the center is Libby, who is not like other children, but whose connection to butterflies and artistic talent might remind you of a young Beatrix Potter. As I read, I could almost imagine the fantasy butterfly world Libby created for herself and wished there really was a book of her paintings. There have been many recent novels with a protagonist who returns home years after leaving, only to uncover secrets kept from them when younger. SHADOWS OF LADENBROOKE fits into that category. It also fits into the category of returning to find a lost love. But neither category captures the mystery, pain, and beauty of this book. I hope that Melanie Dobson continues to write. And while I am waiting, maybe I will sit among my flowers, watch the butterflies, and imagine what Libby would see.
    BookReviewerNicole More than 1 year ago
    _________________________________________ *My Thoughts* I had a really tough time with this one. I wanted to love it. I did. It's a historical novel after all, and I've heard great things about this author. I even heard great things about the book. It was just hard for me to get into. I loved the characters. It's a beautiful story with more twists and turns then a race track. Unfortunately, for me, it was hard to keep up with. There were so many characters from different time periods that it's hard to focus. Fortunately, it was really well written but it's not for someone with attention issues. The Christian focus on the story was impeccable! I loved the focus of forgiveness throughout the many wrong choices made. I have no doubt that this book would be perfect in our Church library where many others can enjoy it. Would highly recommend it. Definitely not a beach read for relaxation but a sweet historical just the same! Just make sure you're wide awake before reading it! _______________________________________ *My overall thoughts* Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson is a historical novel with more twists then a suspense! Through every page, this one will keep you on the edge of your seat! __________________________________________ *My Rating* I give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson... 4 stars!! *I received this book from the Litfuse, publisher, and the author in exchange for an honest review, which I have given. All thoughts were my own and I was not compensated in any other way.
    Britney_Adams More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is an atmospheric tale that sweeps the reader away to another time and place! I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the setting and enchanted by the manor, cottage, and gardens. This multi-generational narrative boasts elements of drama, suspense, and romance and a compelling story line that kept me turning the pages. While I found the multiple points of view to be a bit cumbersome at times, I enjoyed the characters and their journeys. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a unique story that won’t soon be forgotten! I received a complimentary copy of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor through Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an unbiased review. I appreciate the opportunity to read this story and share my thoughts.
    Shopgirl152ny1 More than 1 year ago
    I loved this fascinating story! The interweaving of the past and present stories was done so well. It was interesting to see how the choices of one generation affect the next. The characters were done so well and really made me feel what they were going through. I loved the mystery of trying to figure out how Libby and Heather connected and discovering what happened to Oliver all those years ago. There were multiple romances and a focus on reconciliation, truth and forgiveness. There was some talk of faith with a couple of the characters. The setting was gorgeous and definitely made me want to visit! This was a well-written story I highly recommend! I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
    J_Augustine More than 1 year ago
    A poignant tale of love and sacrifice... Shadows Of Ladenbrooke Manor is a poignant tale of choices, decisions that affect and haunt the lives of four generations of women, and the men closest to them. It is a story of heartbreak and tragedy but it is also ultimately a story of the many facets of love. Melanie Dobson has woven a butterfly tapestry in story. Lives interconnected by the most tenuous of threads, some of the them dark and some bright. Secrets that can tear apart the lives of two families, will they pull together or will they ultimately crumble under the weight of the past mistakes? Some of the things that really jumped out at me were: we ultimately make our own choices but the decisions of those around us can still affect us even if we don't know about them, fear and bitterness can cause us to push away and hurt those we love the most, and so often we don't love people for themselves but try to mold them into something other than what the Creator meant them to be. When I first started reading Shadows Of Ladenbrooke Manor I would only finish a chapter or two at a time, mostly when I woke up and when I went to bed, but as the story drew me in I began to realize I HAD to know what came next, finally I kicked back on a hot summer afternoon and finished the last half in a matter of two or three hours. In many ways it isn't a book to rush through, more like one to slowly soak in, to ponder, and to savor. Melanie Dobson takes on some tough subjects in this novel but she does so with a tenderness and delicacy that is to be admired. I would say more but that might spoil the story so all I'll say is that it is a truly beautiful story about the complexities and messiness of real life. Shadows Of Ladenbrooke Manor was the first novel by Melanie Dobson that I have read, I am so glad I got the chance, and I know that it won't be the last. (I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.)
    debhgrty More than 1 year ago
    Deb’s Dozen: Like Mother, Like Daughter—a story of hope, redemption, and devoted love. Maggie stood in the wind of the storm waiting for Eliot. Walter Doyle stood watching her only knowing he loved her. Maggie knew she was pregnant with Eliot’s child and lost. Walter saved her from the wind and water and gave her his name. Maggie and Walter had a daughter they named Libby. Libby was a free spirit who loved bright colors and flowers and above all butterflies. Maggie and Walter struggled to raise her. She was different—quiet and solitary. She spoke little but painted abundantly. Others teased her—except Oliver. Heather came from Portland, Oregon, to Bibury in the Cotswolds to close up and sell her father’s house. Walter and she had been distant for years and had not reconciled before he died. He’d not approved when she eloped and married Jeffrey—a marriage that ended after six years. Now all she had was memories and her daughter, Ella. Three women—all harboring secrets—all seeking forgiveness and redemption. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a fabulous British romance told first from Maggie’s perspective in the 1950s and then from Heather’s in the present. The writing is evocative and powerful—the characters complex and strong. And tying them all together is steadfast, loyal Walter Doyle. You’ll want to read their stories—and see the flowers—and dance with the butterflies. Melanie Dobson has created a wonderful world for her characters to reside in. You’ll be there as you read. Five stars! Melanie Dobson has written fourteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011. Formerly the corporate publicity manager for Focus on the Family, Melanie now lives with her husband, Jon, and two daughters near Portland, Oregon. Learn more about Melanie and her books at her website, Howard Books and the Litfuse Publicity Group graciously gave me a copy of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor in exchange for my candid review.
    simpleharvestreads More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a fast-paced book about love, forgiveness, and the harm that secrets can bring to a family. The storyline goes seamlessly between past and present which allows the story to unfold in a way that makes you want to keep reading. I was drawn in from the beginning and could not put the book down. I wanted to find out the secrets and what happened to each of the characters. This book has everything you want in a story: Love, mystery, secrets, surprises, struggle, tension, and hope. As a teacher, I could tell that Melanie had done research on Autism and what it looked like for families who had a special needs child before they had diagnosis. She also shows the real-life struggle of parents in which society does not understand their child and thinks you are not a good parent. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is an extremely well-written book with well-developed characters. There is much we can learn through the relationships of the characters of the book. Melanie’s display of the hurt that is caused by molding people into what we want them to be, not how God made them to be is evident throughout the book. The hurt caused by forgiveness and the regret we have at the end of our lives reminds the reader to think about our actions each and every day. I give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor 5 out of 5 stars. This book will keep you captivated from the very beginning. Thank you to the Litfuse Chicks for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own.
    Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
    I absolutely love it when an author so richly describes a novel, especially one that cross back the historical timeline in such detail, that you aren't reading a book, but you are really there as part of the story, merely watching it unfold before your eyes. Melanie Dobson is one such talented author. In her latest novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, the reader is taken between two generations of family members as it toggles back and forth from present day to 1954 in England to uncover a long buried mystery from the past that is now unfolding the answers in present day. In 1954, we are thrust back in time to the life of Maggie Emerson who sits waiting to the man she loves and who has promised to marry her once he returns from the sea just in time for Christmas. Only this time, she has to make some important decisions. She has found herself pregnant and with not only her reputation on the line, but those of her foster family. She finds Walter Doyle, on the eve of planning to throw herself and her unborn child into the sea, a man who has proposed many times to her with a regrettable no each time. She realizes that if she plays it right, she might just have the answer to her problem if she can keep it a secret. But like all great secrets, some day they find their way to the light and in the process ruin the lives of those they promised to keep safe. Present day, moves us through Heather Toulson who is returning to her father's cottage in England in hopes of settling his belongings after his death. Along with her daughter Ella, she is reminded of a childhood and love she once hoped would offer something more, but now it something she wants to keep buried. As fate would have it however, Heather runs into her old love, Christopher and discovers that the family she once thought she knew was far from what they seem. This may be the one thing that time won't be able to mend and at the heart of this lies the murder of a young boy from the past. I received Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, and Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review outside of a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions contained here are strictly my own. Sometimes the best part about novels like this is the ability to weave together to very different stories from two time periods and be able to blend them so well, you forget that they are so different. They work so well that it appears seamless as they begin to merge almost like ghosts from the past. For fans of a great mystery and a love of historical England complete with old wealthy manors complete with secret gardens, thatched cottages and cobblestone paths, will absolutely be drawn to this novel. Well worth a 4.5 out of 5 stars in my opinion.
    CaraPutman More than 1 year ago
    This is a multi-generational delight that had a bit of a slow start, but by the time I reached the end, I did not want to leave these characters. The story is a beautiful portrayal of brokenness, misunderstanding, redemption, and love that endures. Libby is a character misunderstood and yet beautiful in her own unique way. She sees deeply and not on the surface, something that many can't understand. Maggie is hounded by past choices and the way others judge her. Walter is trying to be honorable, but oh so broken in so many ways. Then there's the modern story of a woman heading home after the death of her father to ready the family home for sale. Along the way she discovers a story, the family she never really understood and a future that gives joy where the past is filled with shadows and regrets. A beautiful story that is perfect for those who love characters you come to care about and never want to leave.
    amybooksy More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is Melanie Dobson's best yet. I just love her writing style and ability to write contemporary and historical in one book. I loved reading the several generations of women and what they went through.. The history, mystery, and drama intertwined with the power of forgiveness. Highly recommended. Fabulous book! Five stars
    WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
    Mystery, Romance,  Drama   When Heather Toulson travels back home to clear out her parent's cottage in the English Cotswolds, she unexpectedly stumbles onto clues that lead her to solve a local mystery involving her family. Part mystery and tragic love story, this multigenerational tale  will resonate with anyone who has been a parent, especially to a special needs child, or made mistakes in relationships.  As the story unfolded and characters made some poor choices, it was evident how a lie told even with best intentions could have  consequences for years to come. The need for forgiveness, especially of oneself, redemption, honesty, and reconciliation, plus the universal need for love and acceptance were important themes throughout.  I loved the descriptions of the English countryside, with its green hills dotted with sheep, beautiful gardens, bike rides down country lanes, thatched roof cottages and crumbling manor homes. It was easy to picture the setting and made it seem so real. The mystery surrounding the family, their secrets and Oliver's unexplained death kept me reading on with interest especially towards the end, hoping for something good to come out of it all, or shed light on what really happened.  A few references to faith in God, prayers and forgiveness, but not overtly Christian. Recommend to fans of Francine Rivers (Marta's Legacy), Susan Meissner (Secrets of a Charmed Life) and other stories with flawed characters seeking redemption, especially between mothers and daughters. 4.5 stars (Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary e-book provided in exchange for my honest, unsolicited review.)
    VicG More than 1 year ago
    Melanie Dobson in her new book, “Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor” published by Howard Books takes us into the lives of Heather Toulson and Libby. From the back cover: When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder. Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death. Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history. Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways. Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations. Secrets simply cannot remain secrets forever. Sixty years ago there was an unexplained death. Now Heather finds a clue that would lead her to an answer about this mystery in her family. The English countryside, history and a multigenerational story what more can you ask for? All of the characters are richly portrayed and some of them make poor choices which have major consequences through the years. Ms. Dobson shows us the need for forgiveness, especially of oneself, redemption, honesty, and reconciliation. This book does not disappoint at all. I enjoyed it and I am sure you will also. 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.”
    coramdeo540 More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor: A Novel Melanie Dobson Book Summary: When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder. Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death. Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history. Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways. Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations. Review: This is another home run for me. I was glued to the book and was not disappointed. The characters were solid and the story was well written. I did not want the experience to end. Going back and forth between the present and past drove the story and helped to understand and root for even the characters I might not agree with yet so believable it made me want to go find the Ladenbrooke Manor. From beginning to end time stood still and these people were so real that I forgot I was reading a fiction book. I wanted to know all the people and by the end no one can say that for a little while these characters were real. The mistakes that take on a fantastic beauty of forgiveness, love and tragedy. That these characters were so real and had a depth of character that I am richer just for having read this. Ms. Dobson took the failings of these people and wove beautiful story of redemption. The richness of this story and the previous book are a benefit to every reader who wants to experience life’s complexities even if it is only vicarious. The world is more vivid and people are a mystery worth interacting with just to uncover the longings of an individual and sharing these triumphs that sometimes seem so tragic at the start. I would like to thank Net Galley and Howard Books for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone. 
    TheAvidReader_KA More than 1 year ago
    Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson is a wonderful novel! It all started with a lie. Margaret “Maggie” Emerson is pregnant with Elliot’s (Baron Bonheur) child. Her aunt told her not to get involved with the men who came in on their yachts, but Maggie let herself be seduced by Elliot. Just as Maggie was about to throw herself into the ocean (and drown), she is saved by Walter Doyle. Walter is in love with Maggie and has proposed once before to her. This time Maggie accepts Walter’s proposal, but she does not tell him about the baby (their lives would have been much happier if she had told him). Heather Toulson lives in Portland, Oregon and works as a restoration artist. She is heading home to England to clear out her family’s home. Her father, Walter recently passed away and she is taking a couple of weeks to clear out the cottage and put it up for sale. Heather’s daughter, Ella is going with her for the first week. Heather ends up finding a lot more than family pictures when she cleans out their home. Decades of secrets are about to be released. It is amazing how one lie can lead to another and then another and so on. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor take us from the 1950’s through the present day as Heather discovers family secrets and an old love. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. It was the type of novel that grabs you, pulls you in, and keeps a hold of you until the very end. The ending was so lovely and sweet. I give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor 5 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
    Bookworm2Bookworm More than 1 year ago
    Clevedon England When Margaret (Maggie) Emerson finds herself pregnant and deserted by Elliot, a foreign sailor, she accepts the proposal of Walter Doyle, editor of the local newspaper.  When her pregnancy begins to show right away, many of the local gossips figure she was pregnant before she got married.  When her daughter is, Libby, is born, she is a tiny baby so Maggie convinces Walter that she is premature. Walter loves his job writing for the newspaper, but Maggie finally persuades him to move somewhere else because she is afraid he will find out that she was pregnant when he married her.  He gets a job as a postman and she gets a job as housekeeper to the family at Ladenbrooke Manor and the family lives in a house adjacent to the Manor grounds.   As Libby starts to grow, it is obvious that things are not as they should be with her.  She will not do her school work nor will she stay off the grounds of the Manor as requested by the owners.  Her happiness is found in watching and later, painting, butterflies.  I guess she is what someone might then have called a fey child.  However, today, we would know that she has a form of autism.  She soon gains the attention of the son of the Manor and a relationship develops.  When she becomes pregnant by him, her family hides the pregnancy and she gives birth to a girl she names Heather.  Even though Libby nurses the baby, her attention span is not good enough to care for Heather properly, so Maggie says she is Heather's mother. The story then jumps to Heather who is a divorced woman living in Portland Oregon and the mother of a girl who has just gotten married.  When after the death of her parents Heather arrives at their home to clean it out to prepare it for sale, many secrets come to light that have been hidden for many years.  She meets up with a man she once loved when she was a girl and their relationship soon rekindles. There are so many secrets and twists and turns in this novel that the reader will not want to put it down.  I was completely enthralled and enjoyed it immensely.