This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kay Brooks
In 1960s London, Cressida Fellbridge is beginning to wonder whether love is as exciting as she was led to believe. Being courted by a friend of her brother’s is almost monotonous. Then she meets struggling artist, Ralph Few and she suddenly understands. When her controlling father pays for her portrait to be painted by Few, Cressida is convinced that he is the one. The only thing standing in her way is his wife, Catherine Few, who is always so welcoming and seems to want Cressida to be part of their lives as much as Ralph does.
Over 50 years later, Emily Conway is facing a crisis. Her once perfect life has been torn apart on the night her husband reveals he’s lost their family fortune. His subsequent actions nearly destroy everything she holds dear. Emily is given the rare opportunity for a second chance when she is left an isolated house in Cumbria by a woman unknown to her: Catherine Few. While Emily has to rebuild her broken life for the sake of her children, she is drawn into the mystery of her legacy.
Having read The Winter Folly by Lulu Taylor, I expected a heavily evocated past along with plenty of dramatic twists and I wasn’t disappointed. Emily appears to be in an impossible situation. She has no money, thanks to her husband’s bad business decisions, no home and little support from family. It seems only her brother, Tom, is going to be there to help through this difficult time and then she is left the beautiful but bleak December House: a sprawling, un-modernised building in the middle of nowhere. Emily is quickly drawn in to the mystery of why a woman she didn’t have any links to would specifically leave the house to her. The story of the love triangle between Ralph, Catherine and Cressida is then revealed in chapters set between those dealing with Emily’s current situation. I loved the fluid movement between the two eras. It made putting the book down difficult as I had to read a chapter about Emily to find out what happened next with Cressida and vice versa.The first chapter had me absolutely gripped. Emily’s character is revealed through her thought processes and she is instantly likeable as a caring mother and a wife desperate to support her withdrawing husband. There are times when the tragedy within the first chapter seems completely insurmountable and I wondered how Emily had the strength to carry on, but this made me want happiness and closure for her even more. The setting is suitably cold and inhospitable at times, fitting with the storyline.
This is a modern gothic mystery with a enough disturbing elements to have you pulling the bed-covers up just a little higher!