REVIEW: In the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
The Cotswolds, 1947
A relentless winter holds post-war Britain in its deadly grip, and Eleanor Phillips rides out from her beleaguered Cotswold farm to rescue a stranger lost in the storm. But the near-dead man is no stranger and when she recognises Matthew Croft, the old ties of a failed romance tug deeply. Her sweetheart has returned from the war.
Suspicion, the police and the panicked flight of a desperate man beat a path to her door. With a wanted man hidden in her home and stealing back into her heart, Eleanor must be on her guard – for the net is closing in on them both and enemies are all around…
Dear Ms. Gray,
After this book was listed as a Daily Deal, I decided to check it out. 1940s post war England with a dash of Mary Stewart-ism and an intriguing cover? I’m in. Though what the cover of this book actually has to do with the plot escapes me as there is no mention of a suitcase and if the heroine had worn that outfit, she’d have frozen.
Okay so there is a lot of comparison to Mary Stewart and with good cause. The writing style is such that careful attention must be paid to sentences, given the number of phrases and commas, and a lot is said gentle outlines and pencil sketches instead of using a heavy hand to spell it all out. It’s very intelligent writing with care paid to characterization and description. There is also Obviously Something Awful going on – well the buckshot in Matthew’s shoulder ought to be a giveaway – but Matthew’s just as plainly not going to tell Eleanor about it in that manly 1940s way.
The time frame is a part of the story, that being immediate post World War II Britain still in the depths of rationing and in the throws of a horrible winter. Isolation is as much a character as are Eleanor, Matthew, Freddy and the others with much of the action taking part on Eleanor’s farm, far from the village and with everything buried under drifts of snow or slicked with ice.
We as much as Eleanor are in the dark about what is really going on and only gradually is the situation revealed. A murder has taken place and everyone is convinced that a man with whom Eleanor had a relationship before the war is the killer. But even when the mystery begins to be explained, it’s quickly evident that there is still much to be uncovered and pieced together before the danger is past. Everyone is positive that Matthew is a killer but something keeps Ellie from following along with the crowd and she enters the game by keeping Matthew hidden and aiding his quest for justice.
While everyone has been speculating on Matthew and Ellie’s relationship – or lack of one – little hints get dropped fairly early on and along the way that Matthew has certainly been thinking of it and wants to revive it. If he can. Ellie, well, she’s not so sure. They were close to the point of marriage before the war until Matthew called off the relationship and after years of mending her heart and surviving on her own, she isn’t exactly thrilled to risk it again.
The villain was actually fairly obvious with only the involvement of a few others being in question. But I still wanted to discover exactly what he was up to and how it was all discovered. Unfortunately this is revealed by means of not one but two long exposition scenes. The denouement is far too long and drawn out and is followed by a fight scene that is also way too long which ends in the villain’s downfall in a manner germane to the story. I will award points for that.
I think Jane mentioned that some reviews had said that the story focuses more on the romance than the suspense and I will agree with that. But still it isn’t in a “let’s have sex on the run” fashion so much as a “use this to show how the hero and heroine really feel about each other” way. If only the ending hadn’t spun out of control like a car in a skid my grade would be higher. B-