When you have lost your husband, and he was all you lived for along with your three sons, it seems that nothing can get any worse for Antoinette. Her husband, George was a risk taker and lived life on the edge it is also how he dies.
Then you meet someone who has a past.
Someone who has a connection to not your past but your husbands.
And you know nothing about them.
Neither do your three sons, David, Joshua and Tom. But this someone has something about them.
Antoinette and her sons meet Phaedra. It means that everything they thought they knew about their husband and their father is turned on its head.
What builds is a story which is rather slow and not as captivating in terms of plot as previous Santa Montefiore novels I have read. However the characters and the descriptions of the landscape, the scenery and the house where the family live is certainly one of Montefiore’s strengths when it comes to writing.
Phaedra has connected to this family in many ways just by one meeting and she suddenly brings the wisdom of youth to the family home as she somehow gets under the skin of everyone.
Antoinette thinks she has now got a daughter she never had. Margaret, Antoinette’s mother in law is taken with her honesty and views and Phaedra permeates the rather bitter and gruff exterior she has put up around herself. David has the spark of something he thinks could be attraction after being alone for so long. Tom just seems to be taking it all in his stride and thinks that he has simply found another drinking buddy and Joshua or more his pushy wife, Roberta thinks there is an ulterior motive and moves to unmask the real Phaedra.
Although I do not rate this book compared to some of her others, I had to keep reading because I wanted to see exactly where Phaedra was going to take us and how she was going to fit in to this group of people. I had my suspicions, I was right and I was wrong. I was worried it was going to take me down a road I really did not want to read about, it did not and I breathed a sigh of relief. I will say the author handled it all with a touch of grace and subtlety.
As the book reaches it conclusion, there is a sense that Phaedra has actually come into their lives for a reason, to heal and resolve love both in the past, present and ultimately the future. If you are a fan of Santa Montefiore then you will undoubtedly enjoy this novel, but it is not one of her strongest.
What I failed to mention in this review is the house where Antoinette lives. This was partly through choice and the fact that I have left writing the review too long from finishing the book. (Note to self – I really should jot notes down once I have finished a book if I am not going to review it straight away.).
I felt the house was integral part of the story but part of me wondered, if it was cashing in on the whole “Downton” world that we have fallen in love with. Although this story was set in the present and not the past, although there was a faithful butler looking after everyone. We had the Dower House with the over powering matriarch of a mother in law who put the fear into her daughter in law as she strides across to the ‘big’ house. Whether it was intentional and the jacket quote from Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton) was all coincidence we will never know, but the sceptic in me wonders…….