1 November 2010

Review: A PLACE OF SECRETS by Rachel Hore ****

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again ...
Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her.
A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she's asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.
As Jude untangles Wickham's tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer's nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky?
With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?
I've come across Ms Hore's books before and I always thought they sounded interesting, but I haven't read any, although I've always wanted to! Then I got the chance to review this and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with this author's work. I expected this book to be good and I certainly wasn't disappointed - but not really blown away either. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very enjoyable read!

I like a good mystery and enjoy stories with the past and present narrative so this book was just my cup of tea! It's the story of a young widow Jude, who works for an auction house and travels to the countryside to value the collection of books from the 18th century at Starbrough Hall. The job couldn't be more perfect: the owners of the house are lovely, the work is fascinating, she gets to spend more time with her beloved niece and she also meets the charming naturalist Euan.
The collection she is valuing belongs to an astronomer from the 18th century, Antony Wickham. While inspecting the collection, Jude also comes across a diary, which apparently belongs to Esther, Wickham's adopted daughter. The strange thing is that there is no record of her anywhere - no clues about where she came from and what happened to her. It appears like she never existed - if it wasn't for the diary entries, which eventually uncover a rather fascinating story about her astronomical discoveries with her father and her own life story ...

The main story takes place now, but it's interspersed with Esther's diary entries from the late 18th century. I quite liked this format - thus the mystery was gradually revealed and I found myself eager to know more about Esther's life, work and her strange disappearance into history. The ending didn't disappoint and I thought her story came to a marvelous conclusion! The only complaint I have is that perhaps there were perhaps just a tad too many coincidences and everything connected maybe just a bit too easily, in my opinion. But hey, this is fiction so that is to be expected! Other than that, the book proved to be a rather absorbing read with a lovely main story and an interesting mystery at heart.

I can't fault the writing or the characters either. I thought the book was well written and the characters were believable and warm (well, most of them) and they felt real. The novel itself is nice too, but I think a picture of the folly and perhaps a starry sky would be far more fitting. I suppose the publishers choose this look to bring the book to the attention of Kate Morton fans? The covers *are* rather similar in design, after all ...

Which bring me to my last point - the Kate Morton comparisons. The author must be fed up of them, but they just can't be avoided as there seem to be quite a few similarities between the books by these two authors. Personally, I've only read one Rachel Hore book as opposed to three Kate Morton books (all of which I *adored*), and thus I'm not the most fair judge. Well, in my opinion, Kate Morton is the absolute Queen of this sort of historical fiction, but Rachel Hore seems to be a good replacement for when you're waiting for the next Kate Morton book, hehe! So if you're a Ms Morton fan, definitely give Ms Hore a chance - or pick up the book if you're just looking for a good story, you won't be disappointed!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5

7 comments:

One More Page said...

I've been tempted to get this one and I think I might give it a go now. I've also been tempted by Kate Morton's books but not read any of them yet either but you've convinced me I need to read them too :)

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Doesn't sound like it's for me but I liked your review and I love the cover. It's SO Secret Garden.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I must admit that when I first saw the cover of this one, I instantly thought of Kate Morton! I do like the sound of this one too though, so I'll get round to reading it at some point for sure!

Dot said...

Great review, I have read so many good things about this book. I love Kate Morton's writing so it is good to know that there is another author with a similar style.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wonderful review! I also love books that juxtapose the present and the past and as you know, I am a huge Morton fan too, so this is definitely a read for me and it's going on my wishlist.

You said you adored all of Morton's books - so you've read The Distant Hours? Cause if you have, I'm super excited and want to hear about it!:)

josbookjourney said...

I am looking forward to reading this book - and you review means I want to read it quicker!

Katie Edwards said...

I enjoyed this when I read it, but agreed with you about there being too many coincidences. Still, a nice story that has a bit of everything in it.

I loved The House at Riverton and Forgotten Garden but haven't read the latest yet, and I agree with you - they are similar in style but wish the cover designer had been a bit more subtle/original rather than recreating the same picture.

Post a Comment