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REVIEW: The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

splendour-falls

Emily Braden couldn’t resist the invitation to join her charming but unreliable cousin, Harry, on a visit to the town of Chinon—where, according to legend, Queen Isabelle hid her treasured jewels during a
siege in the 13th century. But when Harry vanishes and Emily begins to search for him, she uncovers the mystery of a different Isabelle. A mystery that dates back to the German occupation during the Second
World War. As Emily explores the city, with its labyrinthine tunnels and ancient history, she’s drawn ever closer to the mysterious Isabelles and their long-kept secrets…

Dear Ms. Kearsley,

I know I’ve mentioned before how much your novels remind me – in a good way – of Mary Stewart’s mysteries of the 50s and 60s but they do and this one in particular did. English heroine goes on supposed care-free holiday in a foreign country only to find herself in the midst of something wrong that she can’t quite put her finger on. There might be a romance, or there might not depending on how the men of the novel are presented on any given page. Then Events Escalate and she finds herself battling for justice and perhaps even her life. Yep, it reminded me of those Stewart books.

I love how everything is there. The clues and hints needed to solve what is going on are provided as the story proceeds. As one character says, you only need to look at them from the right angle and – voice – everything slots into place and makes perfect sense. Of course one must arrange them correctly, and view them properly and understand them …. But at the end of the book all the pieces to the puzzle are there for which I thank you.

The details of Chinon are a delight to read. I can see myself wandering down the streets to the river, looking over the steep drop of the chateau wall, watching the sun rise and make the golden, white walls glow over the blue roofed town. I would especially enjoy a trip to the Chapelle of St Radegonde. How does one get permission to have the keys? And I would never make the mistake of complaining about the fact that people speak so much French there! Heaven help you but I hope you didn’t actually run into any Garland Whitakers during your time there. But a nice, leisurely 3 hour lunch in a quiet restaurant with a charming Frenchman? That I could do.

Since this is primarily a romance book site, I know readers will want to know, “But does Emily find romance?” Well, there were times I wondered that as I was reading the book. There are several potential men scattered along the way and I wavered back and forth about which one could or would be romantic interest and who was actually trying to kill her. Congratulations for keeping me guessing until almost the end of the novel. I would love to have got a bit more payoff at the end but the way Emily’s Special Someone charges to her rescue does say a lot for him.

This is a delightful, modern gothic mystery with a romance. It’s evocative of the time and place and people and filled with fascinating characters who come to life off the page. And a great cat. B

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

9 Comments

  1. Sally W.
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 09:40:49

    I love The Winter Sea. How does this book measure up?

  2. Jayne
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 10:06:24

    @Sally W.: Sorry, I don’t know as I’ve never read that one. Maybe Sunita can tell us.

  3. Barb in Maryland
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 10:31:06

    @Sally–This is a reissue of one of Kearsley’s earlier books (Originally published in 1995, I think). So factor that in. I love everything she’s done and it was fun to encounter one of her earlier efforts. The polish and skill are already there, so it will be just a case of which particular time period you are happiest reading about. If one one the things you loved about ‘The Winter Sea’ was the Scotland setting and the Jacobite plotting, then this one may not quite measure up for you. I have always been Plantagenet crazy, so I was quite happy and enjoyed it immensely.

  4. Jayne
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 10:51:41

    @Barb in Maryland: Thanks for helping to answer that question. I have a big backlist of Kearsley novels to work through.

  5. Christine
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 12:35:05

    I have all of Susanna Kearsley’s novels (except for a couple of very old ones she doesn’t really recommend herself). I bought this one right after “The Shadowy Horses” came out and I wanted to read whatever I could find of hers. For some reason this is the one book of hers I remember reading but don’t remember any of the details from it. I remember enjoying it at the time but I guess I wasn’t as wowed by it as I was by her other books. I’ve re-read all her other works but never seemed to pick this one up again. If you can find a copy I really enjoyed “Named Of The Dragon” but should mention there is no time travel like some of the others and the “romance” has no physicality (but I really enjoyed the potential relationship and the characters’ connection)

  6. DS
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 20:28:22

    I bought this on Audible so it’s available for audio book lovers. Haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet though because work has been so busy.

  7. Marianne McA
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 08:29:10

    I’ve only read this once, and some time ago, but it wasn’t a favourite of mine. From memory, what I liked about it (as well as the title: I loved that poem as a small child) was the way she wrote the setting – despite the time that has passed I still have a vivid recollection of the place. Given the opportunity, I’d love to visit Chinon. And I enjoyed the history she wove into the story. However, while I liked not being sure who the romantic interest would be, I think the romance was the part of the book that didn’t work for me. Unhelpfully, I can’t remember exactly why.

    So I’m glad I read it, and I think even a middling grade Kearsley is better, and more memorable, than the vast majority of books – but amongst her books, it’s not my favourite.

  8. Donna Thorland
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 08:33:29

    This is one I’ve been trying to track down for a long time. Can’t wait!

  9. Kerry D.
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 02:20:45

    In reply to Christine @ #5: I bought Named of the Dragon as an ebook last year. It may have been a UK edition as buying kindle books from Amazon from outside the US can be very confusing due to geographic restrictions. But if it’s out in one place, hopefully it will turn up in others.

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