The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Posted On 29 September 2014

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The Splendour Falls is my second Kearsley book and I confess it was an enjoyable and easy read.  A mystery story with (a little) romance.  This really falls outside my usual type of book ‘comfort zone’ but it was a good holiday read and I fancied a bit of a mystery.

The story starts as Emily sets off to France to join her, somewhat unreliable, cousin Harry in the town of Chignon.  Harry’s fascination with the plantagenets lead him to France where he wants to uncover the secret hidden treasure of Queen Isabelle.  He persuades his cousin to accompany him and promises faithfully to join her.  Of course, Harry is about as reliable as the British summer and so of course he doesn’t arrive.

As Emily arrives in Chignon alone she meets almost immediately with the other main characters of the book.  We have the local vineyard owner.  Handsome and sophisticated he seems to take a shine to Emily.  We have the divorced wife of a local man recently deceased.  She’s a very attractive young widow and is romantically linked to a number of other young men!  Two brothers, guests at the same hotel, immediately befriend Emily and take her under their wing she also makes the acquaintance of another more elderly couple staying at the hotel.  The other two relevant guests are a musician and artist.   Quite an eclectic and interesting bunch of characters.

The rumour mill is already running riot following the death of the local man whose funeral is about to take place.  Did he fall down the stairs or was he pushed??  It’s quite plausible, being something of a drunk, that he simply tumbled to his death however he was acting a little ‘oddly’ not long before his accident.  Along with this Emily becomes embroiled with a couple of would-be pursuers but not all is as rosy as it seems and it isn’t long before she beings to feel concern over her cousin’s none appearance.

I enjoyed this story.  It’s well written and easily calls the people and place to mind.  The plot is, whilst not exactly gripping, entertaining.  The romance is very mild which is how I prefer my romance novels and in terms of good holiday reads this one did work for me in terms of feeling almost like a ‘chill out’ read.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, some people may be disappointed with the ‘romance’ element but the minimalist approach worked for me.  The novel is a little wieldy in terms of the size and the amount of real ‘plot’ and it could certainly have been condensed a little.  Again, I didn’t mind this as I’ve never really found descriptive narratives difficult.  I think my main problem with this book was probably with Emily.  I certainly didn’t dislike her but I found her difficult to understand.  She comes across as quite cynical and yet upon reading this all seems to stem from the fact that her parents have divorced.  Okay, I’m not saying divorce is nice, or easy, but she was an adult when this happened and so I found it a stretch that all her cynicism stems from their parting ways.  I also would have liked a little more inclusion of the historical elements as these were only very brief and I think I went into this expecting something of a dual time line – which isn’t the case here.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book.  It was just exactly the type of book I wanted to read at the particular time I picked it up.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t have a few niggles here and there and so if you want a book a bit more punchy, faster paced, less wordy or more forthcoming on the historical front or even a bit more romantically involved then this might not be the book you’re looking for.  If you want something of a mystery, a number of threads coming together over the course of the novel with interesting back stories and a lovely French setting then give this a whirl.

I received a copy from the publisher through Net Galley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

So, just finished reading The Winter Sea.  This is a story within a story told by Carrie McLelland.  Carrie is an author writing an historical novel focusing on events that took place around 1708 (concerning James Stewart).  Experiencing writer’s block Carrie visits her agent in Scotland following which she changes not only the focus of her novel but also her own writing base (renting a house close to Slain’s castle).   The novel is partly the story of Carrie and the developing romance between her and her new landlord’s son and Sophia who has become the main focus of the story that Carrie is actually writing.

I can’t remember how I came to pick this book up and I confess that I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to like it so I was pleasantly surprised. I thought this was a very enjoyable and almost sweet read.  I can’t comment about how accurate the historical content actually is, but I was intrigued to read about the events of 1708 and would be interested to read more on the subject.  I loved the setting (as I do enjoy the Scottish location) and on top of this there are two romances (so if you like romances it’s a must win!).

On the whole I thought this was a lovely combination of history and romance, I thought the writing was good and the characters likable and, importantly I liked the way the information was introduced, mainly through dialogue, rather than huge info dumps that break the story up.

In terms of criticisms – and be aware that the next paragraph will contain a plot spoiler – I read a lot of books that require you to suspend your disbelief but, for me, I found the whole idea of genetic memory a bit too odd.  I would have just preferred if Carrie undertook her research and then wrote her novel as a work of fiction based around the facts she’d uncovered, or maybe it could have been treated more like a haunting – not this revisiting of memories.  Also, I think the romances, both of them, could have maybe used a bit more tension to set the pulse racing.  It felt as though both of the romances were a bit too easy (and, I will say, if you’re looking for a bodice ripper this is not the book for you).  Also, I found the ending predictable, but in a good way.

Criticisms aside however I would definitely recommend this book – it would be a great beach read.

Rating -A

The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea