Splendour Falls

Splendour Falls

by Susanna Kearsley

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Overview

"I've loved every one of Susanna's books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly's delicate touch with characters—sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won't let go!"— DIANA GABALDON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

An Ancient Castle, a Tragic Love, and a Web of Secrets Begins to Unravel...

Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears—well, that's Harry for you.

As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price." And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.

Other bestselling books by Susanna Kearsley:
The Winter Sea
A Desperate Fortune
The Firebird

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402258619
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/14/2014
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 138,853
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and RITA award winner, Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers' Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers' Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

...when all was lost or seem'd as lost...

The first night had been the worst. They had come on so violently, and without warning. One moment she'd been peacefully at prayer within the chapel, and the next the captain of her guard was pounding at the door, with orders she should seek in haste the safety of her chamber. And then someone had whispered "siege"...

It had been dreadful, that first night-the darkness and the shrieking of the wind and the fires burning everywhere, it seemed, upon the plain below. But daylight came, and still the castle held. Of course it held, thought Isabelle. This was Chinon. Like the Plantagenet kings it sheltered, Chinon Castle had a will of iron. It bowed before no man.

At first, she had not wanted to believe that Guillaume des Roches could be so bold, so callous, as to try to hold her hostage. He'd been an ally of the king her husband, and in return he had been used most fairly. Had John not made des Roches warden of Chinon? And yet she'd seen the evidence with her own eyes, she'd seen des Roches himself among the men, striding freely through their ranks as though such treason were a thing to make him proud.

If John were here, she thought, he'd teach the traitor otherwise. If John were here...

She drew the velvet robe more tightly round her shivering body and looked again toward the west. The sun had slipped much lower, now. Already it had flattened on the purple haze of hills, spilling its brilliance into the darkly flowing river. Soon, she knew, there would be only darkness left. Four nights now she had stood here in this high and lonely tower, watching while the dying sun sank weakly in the western sky. This time she found herself looking for the fires, her own eyes seeking out the places where the rebels kept their camps.

"They are quite close, tonight," she said aloud, and one of her women stirred beside the hearth.

"My lady?"

Isabelle glanced round, her long hair tangling on the crimson velvet. "I said the fires are close, tonight."

"Yes, my lady."

"It must be very cold..." She looked away again, thinking on the madness that might drive a man to leave the comfort of his own warm hearth in this, the depth of winter.

Her women were watching her, she could feel their eyes. Her calmness, she knew, surprised them. They thought her still a child, as she had come to them three years ago, when John had brought her here, to Chinon, for the wedding. He'd scandalized the court that summer-she had heard the whispers. A man past thirty marrying a girl of twelve...

But even then, she had not been a child. She had already been betrothed to Hugh of Lusignan when John had met her first at Angoulême. No matter. As in the game of chess, a king outranked a knight, and Isabelle had known from their first meeting how the game would end. Some said that she yet wanted Hugh, but they were fools who thought so. In all her fifteen years, she had loved one man only-a quiet man, a caring man, with midnight eyes that smiled for her alone. And had it been her choice to make, three years ago, she would have chosen John.

He was not like his brothers, not like Richard. She'd met the fabled Lionheart-an armored giant with a beard of gold. The image of his father, people said, the image of the Lion himself, King Henry, that raging intellect who, with indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, had bred a line of princes unparalleled in time.

It was, thought Isabelle, the strangest family. They loved and hated one another, wept and warred and plotted, moving always in a weird diagonal between deceit and truth. It had left scars on all of them, especially John. He did not speak of it, but many times she'd seen him standing silent in the chapel here at Chinon, brooding on the very spot where old King Henry, sick at heart, had finally died.

'Twas rumored it was John's fault that the Lion ceased to roar-John's fault because he had been Henry's favorite, and because the king had seen John's name upon a list of those who stood against him. But Henry's heart was not so weak, thought Isabelle. He'd fought his sons before, unflinching. He'd dungeoned up his wife. He'd played John and betrayed him until no one could with any certainty say how his feelings lay. And yet John loved him. When he stood so sad and solemn in the chapel, Isabelle had but to look upon her husband's face to know whose heart had broken there those many years ago.

Still, people would persist in rumors. They whispered now about young Arthur of Brittany, held captive in Rouen for laying siege to the old queen at Mirabeau. John had once been fond of Arthur, his brother Geoffrey's only son, and Geoffrey, who died young, had been of all the brothers closest in both looks and age to John. But Arthur was not Geoffrey. Where his father had been cunning, Arthur failed to think at all, and his rash behavior left John with no option but to take him prisoner.

And so the rumors shifted, day to day. Arthur of Brittany was free... he was in fetters... he was planning his escape... he was too weak to raise his head... he had been moved in secrecy from Rouen... Some said-she'd heard it only yesterday-that Arthur was already dead, that John had had him killed. What foolishness, thought Isabelle. John could not kill the boy.

She might have told that to the men camped now around the walls of Chinon Castle, if they had been like to listen, since it was for Arthur's sake that they had come. They thought to hold her hostage for the freedom of the reckless young pretender. Fools, she thought. They knew John not at all.

The wind struck chill through the high narrow window. It had a voice, that wind-half human and half demon, that numbed the soul and turned the heart to stone. Isabelle turned slowly from the dimming view and crossed the great round room to where a smaller window gazed upon the north. The northern sky was deepest blue and full of cloud, without a star to pierce the gloom. Did they have stars, she wondered, at Le Mans? Her message would, by now, have surely reached him. Le Mans was not so very far away. She had but to hold out a few more days, and help would be at hand. Isabelle smiled faintly in the firelight. Even if John had loved her not at all, she knew he would not lose his precious Treasury. Indeed, she might have thought he loved his Treasury above all else, had it not been for the day she'd teased him about it and he'd caught her to him, there in front of everyone, and told her: "You are my treasure." She could still taste his kiss upon her lips...

Her hand moved, unthinkingly, to the gold and pearl pendant at her throat, and she frowned. "Alice," she said quietly, over her shoulder, "I would have my jewel casket."

"Yes, my lady." The woman by the fire rose obediently.

"And Alice..."

"Yes, my lady?"

"Which of the servants knows the tunnels best?"

They did not need to ask which tunnels she was speaking of. Chinon Castle was riddled with them. John often said it was a mystery that the walls did not collapse.

"Old Thomas, my lady," came the answer, finally. "He works in the kitchens."

"Then I would have him brought to me," said Isabelle, "without delay. I have need of him."

The women stared at her, and murmured, but they knew better than to question her wishes. For all her youth, this waif-like figure by the window was yet Isabelle of Angoulême; she was their queen, and she would be obeyed. Old Thomas would be fetched with haste.

Content, Isabelle turned back to the small window and the fires burning brightly on the blackened plain below. She did not hear the door behind her close, nor hear the footsteps of the women ringing down the cold stone passage. She only heard the wind. She was still standing motionless, her eyes upon the northern hills, when Alice came to set the small jewel casket down beside the bed.

Alice was the oldest of her women, and her gaze fell very gentle on the sad-eyed little queen. "He will come, my lady," she said softly, and they both knew it was not Old Thomas that she meant.

Isabelle nodded, without words, and blamed the stinging winter wind for the sudden trail of dampness on her face...

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Splendour Falls 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Justpeachy1 More than 1 year ago
Originally published outside the United States in 1995, Susanna Kearsley's novel, The Splendour Falls will now be available in the U.S. Readers will be enchanted by Kearsley's ability to flow smoothly between the past and the present using time/shift and paranormal elements at will. This is a novel about a long lost love, a missing treasure and how a woman from the present uncovers the dark secrets surrounding it. Part romance, part mystery, this novel will appeal to readers of both genre's. With a strong sense of setting and unparalleled attention to detail, this is one readers won't soon forget.  What I liked: The tone of this book from the very beginning is magical. From the beautiful setting of Chinon, France to the emotionally charged relationships, there is a feeling of enchantment, almost like a fairy tale of sorts. That atmosphere permeated the book giving it a mystical quality that will captivate the reader. Kearsley writing in this book is similar to Susan Erskine who uses paranormal elements and time/shift in her books as well to create a strong sense of time standing still. Kearsley's attention to detail is remarkable in this book. It is really a feast for the senses. Readers will be able to see the magical beauty of Chinon through Kearsley's words, they will be able to almost touch the face of another character. It is the little things like that, that make a book like this one, enjoyable and different from the norm. I thought Kearsley did a fantastic job of describing Chinon and it's famous castle both in the past and the present. It gives the reader a feeling of nostalgia, like perhaps they visited this place in another life. Quite a feat! The historical aspects of the book were also a joy to read. From Queen Isabella in the thirteenth century to the second Isabella, each historical figure was drawn with a strong sense of who they were, in history and as characters in the book and the meshed so well it was hard to tell where history ended and fiction began. Being a former history major myself, I enjoyed Kearsley tidbits of information on the times and customs and what was going on in the world in contrast to the present.  I also enjoyed the relationships between the main character, Emily and Paul and Neil. I was really unsure which one of these men she would end up with, but in the end I was satisfied with her choice and how things played out. Kearsley did a great job of showing the pros and cons for each and how Emily struggled with love due to the divorce of her parents. Emily was a very well written main character and her choices were always governed by the way Kearsley wrote her, she didn't do uncharacteristic things or stray from who she was written to be, another hallmark of a good author. What I didn't like: There were a few moments when I felt like Kearsley was rambling or trying to fill in time in some particular scene or the other. It wasn't completely distracting, but it did give me a few moments where I wished things would speed up and get to the good part. The pacing was just a tick off here and there. Bottom Line: I enjoyed this book very much. It was different from my normal read and I felt like the attention to detail made all the difference in the world. Now, I want to go to Chinon, France and have my own adventure. Can't get a much better endorsement than that.
JKW24 More than 1 year ago
The way Ms. Kearsley goes back in time and melds it with the present is unique and different. She has a sense of that era. The main character, Emily, vacations in a medieval French town, wherein she had once lived for a short time as a child. As an only child and single, her cousin suggests a vacation.  Emily travels to meet him, but he doesn’t show up for awhile. She doesn’t worry at first.  There are two famous historical stories about two separate treasures. This causes much of the intrigue and a murder before she arrived. The people she meets at the hotel and their involved is a work of genius by Ms. Kearsley.  As Emily wanders around the town and outskirts walking everywhere she sees and hears things that leave her a bit perplexed. We see an eye view of the surroundings, the ambiance and the people including gypsies.  There is romance, murder and mayhem and three very eligible gorgeous men.  We find out the endings to all their stories and wonder to the end who is the murderer. They all seem to fit the crime, including her cousin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't often posts reviews. I have enjoyed many books by this author previously. This book was nothing like any previous. A few words I would use to describe it: drudgery, boring, tiresome, verbose without purpose, waste of time money and energy. If you would like to spend hours in a B, 1920s, european cloak and dagger type, spy story you may have found your haven. Otherwise steer clear!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as I have all of Susanna Kearsley's others. Her stories, characters, and the fascinating history leave me breathless and longing for the next story.. Many thanks to this very talented writer.
Readingmaterial More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. I just did not care about any of the characters in this book. More than 200 pages into it I was still waiting for something to happen. Weak story.
Malta-chan765 More than 1 year ago
This became one of my top favorite books only moments after I picked it up. I could not put it down and was left in tears by its conclusion.
Janak More than 1 year ago
I love Susanna Kearsley's books, so was disappointed I did not love this book too. I had a really hard time staying connected with the story and found it did not captivate me at all.
JacksonvilleReader More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed reading Susanna Kearsley's books for several years. While "Splendour Falls" is well written as her other books, the plot is slow and weak. In reading the dedication, it appears this is her first book just re-released. That may explain the plodding first 250 or so pages. I felt like I was being taken back over again and again the same ground without knowing what the real story was about. I still haven't figured out where the title of the book came from.
RunningShoeGirl More than 1 year ago
Great story with overlapping storylines and timelines.  This novel is a bit of a whodunit and when the pieces all come together at the end, I was surprised I hadn't followed that particular possibility.  This has less timeslip and paranormal than most of the authors books that I have read, but that doesn't detract from the story.  The mystery elements are much stronger than the romance or supernatural elements but it's a lovely book.
LavaGoddess More than 1 year ago
I liked the set up of this novel but I think it would have been better suited if it had been more in Kearsley's romantic history style with more flashbacks. The synopsis makes you think that the focus is going to be on the history of the two Isabelles with equal time shared between the past and the present. However this strives to be more of a mystery/suspense novel and the tension just wasn't there for me.
Possomholler More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement and mystery of it. I read it in one setting, could not put it down. Get it and enjoy the mystery of it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe this is my 4th book by Kearsley. I was expecting another time traveler story and was pleasantly surprised with a mystery story instead. Well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good mystery with a twist at the end
KirstyHaining More than 1 year ago
A little different than some of her other books (not a time-slip story, and only brief hints of a paranormal aspect), but still a bit of history having impact on the present, an understated romance, a slow-building suspense that develops into an unexpected and heartbreaking murder... in short, even without the paranormal or the time-shifting, this is still very much what we expect of this author. Some bittersweet, but hope in the end. Perhaps not my favorite novel, but a solid story. (Regardless of the plot details, what I will remember from this book is the main character's grief-stricken tribute for her friend -- one of the most touching moments in a lifetime of reading.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept you guessing till the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Including library of congress subject and movie type rating. This book includes paranormal genre as well as several time lines which can be poorly written as it is here. Publishing dates help because books like fashions reflect their era often just within a year or two. right now that is a twenty year 1995 to 2015 difference in taste like your first green olive now extended to black greek dried in oil salted etc. M.a.@sparta
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a good story. I enjoyed it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I so love Susanna Kearsley novels, her characters are so believable and stories take you right in. Wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
an easy pleasant read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago