by Barbara Wood
Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Reviewer's purchased copy.
After her mother’s death in 1857, Leyla’s only links with her heritage and family are a letter and her last name—Pemberton. Resolved to seek out her past, she travels from London to the brooding countryside mansion of Pemberton Hurst. Leyla longs to find a loving family, but more importantly, she needs to uncover the truth of her past.
But the Pembertons seem strangely reluctant to discuss family history, and the house feels smothered by the weight of untold secrets. Increasingly torn between the safety of life with her sophisticated fiancé in London and a new, dangerous love, Leyla is no longer sure where to turn and whom to trust.
Then terror strikes. A murderer roams the corridors of Pemberton Hurst, and Leyla is suddenly thrown into a maelstrom of deceit, madness, and horror. With her life in jeopardy, Leyla must uncover the truth of her past before it destroys her.
Leyla Pemberton returns home to Pemberton Hurst after the death of her mother and a twenty year absence. She remembers little of the time she spent her first five years of life there, save for the fact that she was severely traumatised by witnessing the death of her father and brother and has no memory of the incident.
Her relatives are strangers to her, a grandmother who rules the house with an iron fist from her room, nervous Aunt Anna, sickly uncle Henry, eccentric cousin Martha, boorish cousin Colin and Theo, her eldest cousin who is the only one to welcome her.
What are they hiding?
Shocked by Leyla's return, the residents of Pemberton Hurst have no choice but to give up their secret. All the Pembertons are cursed...
Leyla doesn't believe it and sets out on her own investigation into her father and brother's deaths. Her enquiries are fraught with danger, because there is someone who doesn't want her to remember that fateful day, but who?
This is a well paced and plotted novel, a real page turner. The historical detail is very accurate, but without detracting from the story so that it reads like a novel rather than a history lesson. Leyla is a very likeable character, and I could almost see cousin Martha sitting everywhere, her knitting needles clicking away.
My one gripe would be the spelling. It is written in the first person, supposedly by Leyla, a young Victorian English lady, but her spelling was American. It distracted from the story when supposedly reading about an English girl going to "the center of the coppice." She would have spelled it "centre."
Despite the American spelling, (which is really just a personal opinion) it was a good read, something to curl up with on a rainy day and let the outside world disappear...
Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of The Prince's Guard.