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
Fort Stirling is, from the outside, a decadent and beautiful Dorset castle, but desirable exteriors can hide a variety of secrets and sins. In 1965, Alexandra Crewe marries the man chosen for her by her perpetually disapproving father. Eager to please, she ignores the glaring lack of love between them, until she bumps into the fun-loving, passionate Nicky Stirling, an old friend from her childhood. Choosing to sacrifice her loveless marriage and reputation, she moves with Nicky to Fort Stirling, where tragedy follows, leaving Alexandra to make the hardest decision possible to prevent further heartache.
When, years later, Delilah moves to Fort Stirling with her new husband, John Stirling, she finds herself stifled by the sad atmosphere that haunts the building. Determined to fill the castle’s walls with life and happiness, Delilah must address John’s past, find out why he detests the old folly on the hill and discover why his mother chose to vanish from his life.
Flitting between different eras, The Winter Folly explores the events of two different generations of women tied to Fort Stirling by their love of the Stirling men. Taylor’s characters are easy to relate to and I found myself understanding their frustration and empathising with their difficult roles. The sixties are effectively brought to life through Nicky – along with his rebellious friends – and Alexandra, determined to fit in with high society, thus giving two perspectives of the period.Seeing how the role of living within a large estate had changed from the 1960s to the current day was fascinating. The setting intwines country life with Delilah’s career as a fashion shoot director. The differing time-spans and many locations varying from Dorset to a Grecian island made me feel as though I had travelled a long way when I finally put the novel down.
The book is full of mystery and intrigue, successfully keeping me guessing until the very end, which was not at all what I had anticipated. My only criticism of the novel would be that it is very long. Sometimes many pages can be a real positive and I find myself lamenting the end of a shorter novel, where I would have liked to have gotten to know the characters better or known more about their fates. But, in this case, there were parts that I felt didn’t really hold any relevance to the storyline and could have been shortened or completely omitted. This meant I had to consciously force myself not to skim read areas, where I had become disengaged with the storyline, and remind myself of the unanswered questions that would probably drive me insane if I did not learn the answers to.
An evocative read, full of dramatic secrets that will make the reader gasp as they are unpicked by the determined Delilah Stirling.