Choosing what to read next is like choosing from a menu. I run my fingers down the literary à la carte and make my choice according to what takes my fancy; something long, not too difficult, a bit romantic and slightly fairy-story. After the seriousness of my last read, I opted for Lucinda Riley; Enid Blyton for grown-ups. And I don’t consider that to be an insult. Like many of my generation, I cut my bookish teeth on Mallory Towers and St Clare’s. Stories to get lost in. I’ve only recently forgiven my mother for not letting me go to boarding school.
Dumped by her American lover when he discovers she is a Windmill girl, Greta Simpson is forced to leave London when she realises she is pregnant. Luckily, her friend ‘Taffy’ (David) offers her sanctuary at a small cottage on his family’s Welsh estate, and so Greta is drawn in to Marchmont. After a disastrous marriage and haunted by grief, Greta takes her daughter back to London to try and re-build their lives.
‘The Angel Tree‘ follows the life of Greta, revealed through flashbacks from Christmas 1985 when she has re-joined her family at Marchmont Hall. As well as her grand-daughter, Ava, Greta is also accompanied by her David, now a lifelong friend. David is hoping that re-visiting Marchmont will help Greta to recover her memory, which was lost when she was involved in an accident. Throughout Greta’s unsettled life, David is the one constant. But will they ever declare their love for one another?
All in all, this is a pretty awful book. The characters are wooden, they are stereo-typed and make terrible choices. There is a very dubious portayal of mental illness in Cheska’s character and Greta seems to lie without compunction. The plot is predictable and uninspiring and the whole thing could have done with being edited down to about two-thirds of its final length. I also spotted more than a few jarring grammatical errors (yes, I am a punctuation pedant).
But did I care? Not a jot. There is room in my reading life for Lucinda Riley as well as Lionel Shriver, I just allowed myself to drift along. The words slip through my mind like sand in an egg-timer, almost imperceptibly and requiring very little effort. Continuing my earlier culinary references ‘The Angel Tree‘ is a bit like the literary equivalent of a Chinese takeaway – it’s quite satisfying at the time, but an hour later you’ll have forgotten all about it and will be hungry again!
Lucinda Riley spins a cracking good yarn. Her books are never going to change the world, but for a few days of engrossing reading, I find them unbeatable. I read and reviewed ‘The Midnight Rose‘ last year and I enjoyed ‘The Light Behind the Window‘ just as much.
When her mother dies, Emillie inherits a large fortune, including a house in Paris and a country château. Unmarried and with no other immediate family, she feels overwhelmed by the decisions and choices she has to make regarding the estate. When Sebastian, an English arts dealer, sweeps her off her feet, she is reassured by his competence. The couple discover that they have a common link, as Seb’s grandmother (Connie) spent much of World War 2 in France and was acquainted with Emillie’s father, Edouard de Martinières. Once married to Sebastian, Emillie divides her time between France and her husband’s family home, a large but shabby house in Yorkshire. As the renovations to the château begin, Emillie unearths secrets which reveal she may not be as alone in the world as she believes.
The novel is told in alternate timeframes, Connie’s and Emillie’s. Their characters are not deeply developed as the story is moved along largely through the plot, which has a great many twists and turns. Although the WW2 elements of the book clearly have some basis in fact, there are a number of unlikely coincidences; but I didn’t care. This is like Enid Blyton for grown-ups and, every once in a while, a fairy tale is just the escape from reality I need.
A perfect beach holiday calls for a perfect beach read. ‘The Midnight Rose’ ticked all the boxes and it does seem a bit churlish to relegate the book to the lazy days section of my bookshelf.
Lucinda Riley’s saga sweeps across England and India, from the 1920’s onwards, following the lives of Anahita Chavan and Rebecca Bradley. The two women have little or no connection until Rebecca, a successful American actress, is cast to appear in a period drama film to be shot at Astbury Hall on Dartmoor. Anahita, an aristocratic and educated Indian woman, had spent some time at the Hall with her son, Moh, many years before. When Anahita dies in India, she leaves a written account of her life to her great-grandson, Ari, in the hope that he will be able to discover the truth about what happened to Moh. Ari’s quest takes him to England, where he crosses paths with Rebecca and unravels the mysteries of Anahita’s life.
It’s a full-blown romance, with a touch of intrigue and some beautiful touches of character. Anahita, known throughout as Anni, is a respected and trusted Ayurvedic healer and trained nurse. Her strength provides a sense of gravitas to the story, which is clearly well-researched despite its fictional plot. There are elements of the supernatural, together with a strong message that each and every one of us should trust our instincts to guide our lives.The human connections and relationships within the story are complex, the ending bringing a couple of startling revelations! Kept me guessing right to the last paragraph.
This book is over 600 pages long and I was so desperate to know what happens, I read it in 2 days! Sure, I was on a sun-bed and had time to devote to its pages, but I don’t recommend you wait until your next holiday to read ‘The Midnight Rose’ – grab a copy and give yourself a holiday from reality by reading it now!