Friday, March 13, 2015

Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

"Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil here like spilt blood. If you listen closely enough, you can almost hear what's gone before, particularly on the stillest days. Sometimes the very air seems to hum with anticipation. At other times it's as though a collective breath has been drawn in and held. It waits, or so it seems to me." Opening Paragraph


Synopsis:  In this haunting and richly imagined dual-narrative tale that echoes the eerie mystery of Rebecca and The Little Stranger, two women of very different eras are united by the secrets hidden within the walls of an English manor house.
In 1933, naive twenty-two year-old Alice—pregnant and unmarried—is in disgrace. Her mother banishes her from London to secluded Fiercombe Manor in rural Gloucestershire, where she can hide under the watchful eye of her mother’s old friend, the housekeeper Mrs. Jelphs. The manor’s owners, the Stantons, live abroad, and with her cover story of a recently-deceased husband Alice can have her baby there before giving it up for adoption and returning home. But as Alice endures the long, hot summer at Fiercombe awaiting the baby’s birth, she senses that something is amiss with the house and its absentee owners.
Thirty years earlier, pregnant Lady Elizabeth Stanton desperately hopes for the heir her husband desires. Tormented by the memory of what happened after the birth of her first child, a daughter, she grows increasingly terrified that history will repeat itself, with devastating consequences.
After meeting Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice becomes determined to uncover the clan’s tragic past and exorcise the ghosts of this idyllic, isolated house. But nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Soon it is her turn to fear: can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley . . .

Fiercombe Manor, a quaint home nestled away from the beaten path, becomes a new temporary residence for Alice, who has turned up pregnant and unwed, a place to wait out her pregnancy until the child is born and can be given away for adoption. Under the watchful eye of the long time housekeeper, Alice entertains herself, and stumbles upon the fascinating history of the previous grand dame of the manor, a woman named Lady Elizabeth Stanton. What she uncovers is a tale of lies and secrets, long buried. 

I cannot express how much I enjoyed reading this novel. First, there is a touch of the gothic sprinkled with a fascinating mystery. Damaged relationships, forgiveness, and healing, are all underlying themes. Old letters, secret places, and closed off rooms, add to the atmosphere. Then there is a touch of romance, and of course, finally, the reconciling of past and present. Every page, from start to finish, captured my imagination. The story held me enthralled until the most satisfying ending. The author did a wonderful job of describing furnishings, secret hiding places, and tantalizing the reader by keeping the mystery slow to unravel. It is the kind of book you will clutch to your chest, and breath a heavy sigh of satisfaction when the last page is read. One of my favourite books, for sure!

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