Historical fiction is by far my favorite genre, particularly stories that take place in war-torn Europe, so I immediately jumped at the opportunity to receive an advanced reading copy (ARC) of “Secrets of Nanreath Hall” by Alix Rickloff. In her debut historical novel, Alix depicts the lives of two strong women – a mother and daughter – living through WWI and WWII, respectively.
Lady Katherine, who’s story begins in 1913 before the first world war, struggles with society’s pressures of being prim and proper and eventually breaks free from her family to follow her heart and ambitions. Meanwhile, Katherine’s daughter Anna, whose story takes place during WWII, grapples with finding her place and herself after losing the only family she’s ever known – a couple who raised her after Lady Katherine’s death.
The novel stays true to its times, depicting the demands and tensions of society especially for women growing up striving to be more than a trophy wife, married for wealth and station. Taken through each woman’s life parallel, Katherine’s unfolds as Anna works to uncover the secrets of her family’s past.
While having an illegitimate child was a major scandal in the early 20th century, everyone knew that Katherine was “a fallen woman” from the moment she left her parents’ home to run away with Simon, the love of her life. Although it was scandalous and isolated Anna, it wasn’t really a secret that she had an unconventional upbringing. As Anna sets off to mother’s childhood home on a military assignment, the book implies that there are major secrets lurking in the corridors of Nanreath Hall. While the narrative was interesting and compelling, I was disappointed by the lack of bombshells uncovered. Granted, at the time, all of the secrets eventually discovered would have been major upsets for the family, as a reader I felt like they weren’t very shocking having already been alluded to throughout the story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ALIX RICKLOFF
Critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance, Alix Rickloff’s family tree includes a knight who fought during the Wars of the Roses (his brass rubbing hangs in her dining room) and a soldier who sided with Charles I during the English Civil War (hence the family’s hasty emigration to America).
Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket). Her latest historical, SECRETS OF NANREATH HALL (William Morrow), is set to release in the Summer of 2016.
“Secrets of Nanreath Hall” Book Description: This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.
Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six years old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.
Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.
As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth…and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.
*I received this ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.