"Riley's engaging and mezmerizing story of self-discovery and love...can be perfectly read as a standalone. This book will appeal to readers of Edwardian novels and Jane Austen-style fiction." —Library Journal (starred review)
“[Lucinda Riley] is a master of plotting... This substantial book is a surprisingly quick and easy read, with engaging characters, a tantalizing glimpse of Edwardian society, and dual storylines that are inventive and intriguing.”—Historical Novel Society
In this spellbinding novel, two independent women—separated by a hundred years but linked by forces larger than themselves—discover the secrets of their birth in the spellbinding third book of an epic series by New York Times bestselling author Lucinda Riley.
Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, and Star’s clue leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a new journey.
A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter. But when circumstances carry her to London, and into the home of one of Edwardian England’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel, she finds herself a pawn in a larger game; forced to choose between passionate love and duty to her family. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman reveals answers Flora has been searching for...
Star’s voyage of discovery takes her deep into Flora’s remarkable story, and into her own past. But the more she uncovers, the more Star begins to question herself, and her place in the world.
Ideal for fans of Downton Abbey and the historical fiction of Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah, The Shadow Sister is the “perfect curl-up-in-an-armchair read” (Daily Mail) for anyone who wants to travel through the lush English countryside and explore the lives and loves of the British aristocracy.
About the Author
Lucinda Riley is a New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels, including The Orchid House and The Seven Sisters series. Her books have sold more than eight million copies in thirty languages globally. She was born in Ireland and divides her time between England and West Cork with her husband and four children. Visit her online at LucindaRiley.com and learn more about The Seven Sisters series at TheSevenSistersSeries.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Shadow Sister
I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that my father had died . . .”
With my pen still suspended above the sheet of paper, I looked up at the July sun—or, at least, the small ray of it that had managed to trickle between the window and the red-brick wall a few yards in front of me. All of the windows in our tiny apartment looked onto its blandness, and despite today’s beautiful weather, it was dark inside. So very different from my childhood home, Atlantis, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
I realized I had been seated exactly where I was now when CeCe had come into our miserable little sitting room to tell me that Pa Salt was dead.
I put down the pen and went to pour myself a glass of water from the tap. It was clammy and airless in the sticky heat and I drank thirstily as I contemplated the fact that I didn’t need to do this—to put myself through the pain of remembering. It was Tiggy, my younger sister, who, when I’d seen her at Atlantis just after Pa died, had suggested the idea.
“Darling Star,” she’d said, when some of us sisters had gone out onto the lake to sail, simply trying to distract ourselves from our grief, “I know you find it hard to speak about how you feel. I also know you’re full of pain. Why don’t you write your thoughts down?”
On the plane home from Atlantis two weeks ago, I’d thought about what Tiggy had said. And this morning, that’s what I had endeavored to do.
I stared at the brick wall, thinking wryly that it was a perfect metaphor for my life just now, which at least made me smile. And the smile carried me back to the scarred wooden table that our shady landlord must have picked up for nothing in a junk shop. I sat back down and again picked up the elegant ink pen Pa Salt had given me for my twenty-first birthday.
“I will not start with Pa’s death,” I said out loud. “I will start when we arrived here in London—”
The crash of the front door closing startled me and I knew it was my sister CeCe. Everything she did was loud. It seemed beyond her to put a cup of coffee down without banging it onto the surface and slopping its contents everywhere. She had also never grasped the concept of an “indoor voice” and shouted her words to the point where, when we were small, Ma was once worried enough to get her hearing tested. Of course, there was nothing wrong with it. In fact, it was the opposite—CeCe’s hearing was overdeveloped. There was nothing wrong with me either when a year later Ma took me to a speech therapist, concerned at my lack of chatter.
“She has words there, she just prefers not to use them,” the therapist had explained. “She will when she’s ready.”
At home, in an attempt to communicate with me, Ma had taught me the basics of French sign language.
“So whenever you want or need something,” she’d said to me, “you can use it to tell me how you feel. And this is how I feel about you right now.” She’d pointed at herself, crossed her palms over her heart, then pointed at me. “I—love—you.”
CeCe had learned it quickly too, and the two of us had adopted and expanded what had begun as a means of communication with Ma to form our own private language—a mixture of signs and made-up words—using it when people were around and we needed to talk. We’d both enjoyed the baffled looks on our sisters’ faces as I’d sign a sly comment across the breakfast table and we’d both dissolve into helpless giggles.
Looking back, I could see that CeCe and I became the antithesis of each other as we were growing up: the less I spoke, the louder and more often she talked for me. And the more she did, the less I needed to. Our personalities had simply become exaggerated. It hadn’t seemed to matter when we were children, squashed into the middle of our six-sister family—we’d had each other to turn to.
The problem was, it mattered now . . .
“Guess what? I’ve found it!” CeCe burst into the sitting room. “And in a few weeks’ time we can move in. The developer’s still got some finishing off to do, but it’ll be incredible when it’s done. God, it’s hot in here. I can’t wait to leave this place.”
CeCe went to the kitchen and I heard the whoosh of the tap being turned on full blast, knowing that the water had most likely spattered all over the worktops I had painstakingly wiped down earlier.
“Want some water, Sia?”
“No thanks.” Although CeCe only used it when we were alone, I mentally chided myself for being irritated by the pet name she had coined for me when we were little. It came from a book Pa Salt had given me for Christmas, The Story of Anastasia, about a young girl who lived in the woods in Russia and discovered she was a princess.
“She looks like you, Star,” five-year-old CeCe had said as we’d stared at the pictures in the storybook. “Perhaps you’re a princess too—you’re pretty enough to be one, with your golden hair and blue eyes. So, I will call you ‘Sia.’ And it goes perfectly with ‘Cee’! Cee and Sia—the twins!” She’d clapped her hands in delight.
It was only later, when I’d learned the real history of the Russian royal family, that I understood what had happened to Anastasia Romanova and her siblings. It hadn’t been a fairy tale at all.
And nor was I a child any longer, but a grown woman of twenty-seven.
“I just know you’re going to love the apartment.” CeCe reappeared in the sitting room and flopped onto the scuffed leather sofa. “I’ve booked an appointment for us to see it tomorrow morning. It’s a shedload of money, but I can afford it now, especially as the agent told me the City is in turmoil. The usual suspects aren’t queuing up to buy right now, so we agreed on a knockdown price. It’s time we got ourselves a proper home.”
It’s time I got myself a proper life, I thought.
“You’re buying it?” I said.
“Yes. Or at least, I will if you like it.”
I was so astonished, I didn’t know what to say.
“You all right, Sia? You look tired. Didn’t you sleep well last night?”
“No.” Despite my best efforts, tears came to my eyes as I thought of the long, sleepless hours bleeding toward dawn, when I’d mourned my beloved father, still unable to believe he was gone.
“You’re still in shock, that’s the problem. It only happened a couple of weeks ago, after all. You will feel better, I swear, especially when you’ve seen our new apartment tomorrow. It’s this crap place that’s depressing you. It sure as hell depresses me,” she added. “Have you e-mailed the guy about the cookery course yet?”
“And when does it start?”
“Good. That gives us time to start choosing some furniture for our new home.” CeCe came over to me and gave me a spontaneous hug. “I can’t wait to show it to you.”
“Isn’t it incredible?”
CeCe opened her arms wide to embrace the cavernous space, her voice echoing off the walls as she walked to the expanse of glass frontage and slid open one of the panels.
“And look, this balcony is for you,” she said, as she beckoned me to follow her. We stepped outside. “Balcony” was too humble a word to describe what we were standing on. It was more like a long and beautiful terrace suspended in the air above the river Thames. “You can fill it with all your herbs and those flowers you liked fiddling around with at Atlantis,” CeCe added as she walked to the railing and surveyed the gray water far below us. “Isn’t it spectacular?”
I nodded, but she was already on her way back inside so I drifted after her.
“The kitchen is still to be fitted, but as soon as I’ve signed, you can have free rein to choose which cooker you’d like, which fridge, and so on. Now that you’re going to be a professional,” she said with a wink.
“Hardly, CeCe. I’m only doing a short course.”
“But you’re so talented, I’m sure you’ll get a job somewhere when they see what you can do. Anyway, I think it’s perfect for both of us, don’t you? I can use that end for my studio.” She pointed to an area sandwiched between the far wall and a spiral staircase. “The light is just fantastic. And you get your big kitchen and the outdoor space too. It’s the nearest thing to Atlantis I could find in the center of London.”
“Yes. It’s lovely, thank you.”
I could see how excited she was about her find, and admittedly, the apartment was impressive. I didn’t want to burst her bubble by telling her the truth: that living in what amounted to a vast, characterless glass box overlooking a murky river could not have been farther from Atlantis if it tried.
As CeCe and the agent talked about the blond-wood floors that were going to be laid, I shook my head at my negative thoughts. I knew that I was being desperately spoiled. After all, compared to the streets of Delhi, or the shantytowns I’d seen on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, a brand-new apartment in the city of London was not exactly a hardship.
But the point was that I would have actually preferred a tiny, basic hut—which would at least have had its foundations planted firmly in the ground—with a front door that led directly to a patch of earth outside.
I tuned in vaguely to CeCe’s chatter about a remote control that opened and closed the window blinds and another for the invisible surround-sound speakers. Behind the agent’s back, she signed “wide boy” to me and rolled her eyes. I managed a small smile in return, feeling desperately claustrophobic because I couldn’t open the door and just run . . . Cities stifled me; I found the noise, the smells, and the hordes of people overwhelming. But at least the apartment was open and airy . . .
“Sorry, Cee, what did you say?”
“Shall we go upstairs and see our bedroom?”
We walked up the spiral staircase into the room CeCe said we would share, despite there being a spare room. And I felt a shudder run through me even as I looked at the views, which were spectacular from up here. We then inspected the incredible en suite bathroom, and I knew that CeCe had done her absolute best to find something lovely that suited us both.
But the truth was, we weren’t married. We were sisters.
Afterward, CeCe insisted on dragging me to a furniture shop on King’s Road, then we took the bus back across the river, over Albert Bridge.
“This bridge is named after Queen Victoria’s husband,” I told her out of habit. “And there’s a memorial to him in Kensington—”
CeCe curtailed me by making the sign for “show-off” in my face. “Honestly, Star, don’t tell me you’re still lugging a guidebook around?”
“Yes,” I admitted, making our sign for “nerd.” I loved history.
We got off the bus near our apartment and CeCe turned to me. “Let’s get supper down the road. We should celebrate.”
“We haven’t got the money.” Or at least, I thought, I certainly haven’t.
“My treat,” CeCe reassured me.
We went to a local pub and CeCe ordered a bottle of beer for her and a small glass of wine for me. Neither of us drank much—CeCe in particular couldn’t handle her alcohol, something she’d learned the hard way after a particularly raucous teenage party. As she stood at the bar, I mused on the mysterious appearance of the funds that CeCe had suddenly come into the day after all of us sisters had been handed envelopes from Pa Salt by Georg Hoffman, Pa’s lawyer. CeCe had gone to see him in Geneva. She had begged Georg to let me come into the meeting with her, but he’d refused point-blank.
“Sadly, I have to follow my client’s instructions. Your father insisted that any meetings I might have with his daughters be conducted individually.”
So I’d waited in reception while she went in to see him. When she’d emerged, I could see that she was tense and excited.
“Sorry, Sia, but I had to sign some stupid privacy clause. Probably another of Pa’s little games. All I can tell you is that it’s good news.”
As far as I was aware, it was the only secret that CeCe had ever kept from me in our entire relationship, and I still had no idea where all this money had come from. Georg Hoffman had explained to us that Pa’s will made it clear that we would continue to receive only our very basic allowances. But also that we were free to go to him for extra money if necessary. So perhaps we simply needed to ask, just as CeCe presumably had.
“Cheers!” CeCe clinked her beer bottle against my glass. “Here’s to our new life in London.”
“And here’s to Pa Salt,” I said, raising my glass.
“Yes,” she agreed. “You really loved him, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did, lots. He was . . . special.”
I watched CeCe as our food arrived and she ate hungrily, thinking that, even though we were both his daughters, his death felt like my sorrow alone, rather than ours.
“Do you think we should buy the apartment?”
“CeCe, it’s your decision. I’m not paying, so it’s not for me to comment.”
“Don’t be silly, you know what’s mine is yours, and vice versa. Besides, if you ever decide to open that envelope he left for you, there’s no telling what you might find out,” she encouraged.
She’d been on me ever since we’d been given the envelopes. She had torn hers open almost immediately afterward, expecting me to do the same.
“Come on, Sia, aren’t you going to open it?” she’d pressed me.
But I just couldn’t . . . because whatever lay inside it would mean accepting that Pa had gone. And I wasn’t prepared to let him go yet.
After we’d eaten, CeCe paid the bill and we went back to the apartment, where she telephoned her bank to have the deposit on the flat transferred. Then she settled herself in front of her laptop, complaining about the inconsistent broadband.
“Come and help me choose some sofas,” she called from the sitting room as I filled our yellowing tub with lukewarm water.
“I’m just having a bath,” I replied, locking the door.
I lay in the water and lowered my head so that my ears and hair were submerged. I listened to the gloopy sounds—Womb sounds, I thought—and decided that I had to get away before I went completely mad. None of this was CeCe’s fault and I certainly didn’t want to take it out on her. I loved her. She had been there for me every day of my life, but . . .
Twenty minutes later, having made a resolution, I wandered into the sitting room.
“Yes. CeCe . . .”
“Come and look at the sofas I’ve found.” She beckoned me toward her. I did as she asked and stared unseeingly at the different hues of cream.
“Which one do you think?”
“Whichever you like. Interior design is your thing, not mine.”
“How about that one?” CeCe pointed to the screen. “Obviously we’ll have to go and sit on it, because it can’t just be a thing of beauty. It’s got to be comfy as well.” She scribbled down the name and address of the stockist. “Perhaps we can do that tomorrow?”
I took a deep breath. “CeCe, would you mind if I went back to Atlantis for a couple of days?”
“If that’s what you want, Sia, of course. I’ll check out flights for us.”
“Actually, I was thinking I’d go alone. I mean . . .” I swallowed, steeling myself not to lose my impetus. “You’re very busy here now with the apartment and everything, and I know you have all sorts of art projects you’re eager to get going on.”
“Yes, but a couple of days out won’t hurt. And if it’s what you need to do, I understand.”
“Really,” I said firmly, “I think I’d prefer to go by myself.”
“Why?” CeCe turned to me, her almond-shaped eyes wide with surprise.
“Just because . . . I . . . would. That is, I want to sit in the garden I helped Pa Salt make and open my letter.”
“I see. Sure, fine,” she said with a shrug.
I sensed a layer of frost descending, but I would not give in to her this time. “I’m going to bed. I have a really bad headache,” I said.
“I’ll get you some painkillers. Do you want me to look up flights?”
“I’ve already taken some, and yes, that would be great, thanks. Night.” I leaned forward and kissed my sister on the top of her shiny dark head, her curly hair shorn into a boyish crop as always. Then I walked into the tiny broom cupboard of a twin room that we shared.
The bed was hard and narrow and the mattress thin. Though both of us had had the luxury of a privileged upbringing, we had spent the past six years traveling around the world and sleeping in dumps, neither of us prepared to ask Pa Salt for money even when we’d been really broke. CeCe in particular had always been too proud, which was why I was so surprised that she now seemed to be spending money like it was water, when it could only have come from him.
Perhaps I’d ask Ma if she knew anything more, but I was aware that discretion was her middle name when it came to spreading gossip among us sisters.
“Atlantis,” I murmured. Freedom . . .
And that night, I fell asleep almost immediately.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved all three books.... hope there are more to come
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings The third in the Seven Sisters series and as I said yesterday, I would highly recommend starting at book one. Although the stories are self contained with each sister getting a book, they completely build on each other and its nice to have background knowledge of the sisters before going into the next book. I will be reviewing the latest release, book four - The Pearl Sister tomorrow. I loved that this story took place at the same time as The Storm Sister and that there were hints at the timeline in a few spots. Ally's story was highlighted in this book, so I am so glad I had the historical knowledge of her full story to see the peeks into it through this story.
This is the third novel in the Seven Sister series, but one doesn't have to read the books in order to understand the backstory as each book can stand alone. There are six sisters who were adopted from different parts of the world by a billionaire father. When he passes away, he sets each daughter on a journey of discovery to find her roots. The premise is fascinating, and I suspect the last sister will be revealed at the end of the series. This is the hook that will keep me reading each installment. Star's story weaves back and forth in time with a woman of 100 years earlier. As the story unfolds, Star develops into a character of great strength. Although the first part of the novel is a tad slow, persevere a little and then the story will really take hold. A great little gem of a read! Looking forward to the next novel in the series.
I have enjoyed each book in the series - and look forward to those to come in the future. I love the way the author has picked different parts of the world and history to weave into each story. I truly enjoy getting to know the characters of each story. Wonderful concept; wonderful books.
It was great and I could hardly put it down. It was as interesting and entertaining as the first two. Certainly worth the wait. Release date for CeCe's story?
5 - "It was written in the stars..." Stars! The third book in Lucinda Riley's Seven Sisters series brings the reader Star D’Aplièse’s story. The title sums her up pretty well actually, as so far in the previous books she has really been The Shadow Sister. This is a series that as a reader I would class as one that requires commitment, none of the books so far have been what I would call quick read, and all require a certain level of investment in time and concentration. I love that the author takes any given story and draws the reader back in time, and then mixes historical fact with pure escapist fiction. "At some point you must do what’s right for you." Star’s journey to understanding more about herself and her past takes the reader back to London of the early twentieth century, where her ancestor Flora MacNichol, has a series of adventures that include the likes of the then Kings Mistress Alice Keppel, to Beatrix Potter. Her story is long and involved and Star discovers it in a series of journals that she discovers in the possession of brothers Orlando and Mouse Forbes. "Change comes whether we wish for it or not." As I said there is a certain amount of investment as a reader when dipping into a book from this series, the author weaves such elegant and complex story-lines that you need to be paying attention to what is happening whether it be with the characters from the past, or the story playing out in the current. I was interested to see what Star would get up to as she had up to this point very much let her sister CeCe, steer the ship that they were on. It was good to see her step out of the Shadow that CeCe cast over her, and see her come into her own, through the telling of Flora’s story and the discoveries about her own paternal family that came with it. I literally got lost in this book, it took my imagination away to London through the ages, to the farm and fields of Beatrix Potters domain, and an old but loved house in the countryside of the now as well as the secrets from the past that it is keeping. The characters were endearing and unique, as was the story told around them. The author has such skill to be able to weave everything together so seamlessly that you almost feel that everything you have been witness to be the truth. I loved seeing Star gain some confidence and step away from the loving but ultimately stifling relationship that she and CeCe had fallen into. "Whatever has been and whatever may come, I am glad that I at least spent some time with him…" Fortunately we are given a little taste of CeCe’s state of mind and where her travels may take her (and the reader) in the next book The Pearl Sister, (due for release November 2017) at the end of Star’s story. I cannot wait to visit Thailand and Australia with her in the now, and then Australia of a hundred years ago to see where her origins derive and who the author manages to pull into the story from the history-books to keep things interesting. This is a series well worth your time and attention if you are looking for something totally different from the norm, with a wealth of characters to get to know, and a plethora of places to discover as their stories are told, I cannot recommend it highly enough.