Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: August 2nd, 2016
This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.
Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six-years-old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.
Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.
As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth…and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I'm a sucker for dual timeline novels! This format has become one of my favorites and, when done right, can immerse me even deeper into the lives and situations presented and, in doing so, make me care for the characters more than I might have expected. Some of my favorite novels are told in this style and I can't get enough of how the separate timelines twist together and reveal secrets about the other. So probably needless to say I was really excited to start reading Secrets of Nanreath Hall. It promised to include so many of the things I love in historical fiction: the dual timelines, both set during the World Wars (which I love reading about), secrets hidden that promise to be revealed, the grit and grime of battle against the fading yet still real glamour and aloofness of a stately English home. So much to love! I'm happy to say that Nanreath Hall lived up to its promises and completely drew me in from the very first page.
Now, whenever I read a dual timeline novel I always seem to enjoy one of the timelines more than the other. The same is true in this case, with me enjoying Anna's story more than Katherine's. This is for a number of reasons, mainly because I absolutely just loved Anna's character and I felt the author spent more time developing her against the backdrop of WWII then Katherine and her timeline. Anna is an amazing character, being determined and strong yet vulnerable and damaged all at the same time, presenting as a multifaceted person I could easily envision and appreciate for the struggles she endured. Anna's timeline also spent more time showing the effects of war - from her cousin, Hugh, losing his leg and trying to come to terms with his disfigurement to Anna's PTSD and struggle to shut off the horrors she's seen so she can just cope day to day to everyone's continued worry and fear that bombs could (and did!) drop down on their heads at any moment - and I for one couldn't get enough of all of these aspects as well as the detail spent on Nanreath Hall as both a hospital and a stately home. The descriptions drew me in and I was easily transported to see, hear, smell, and feel all that these characters did.
This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy Katherine's story, I did. I liked Katharine as a character, she having many of the same attributes I appreciated in Anna, except when it came to one thing: Simon Halliday. The fact that she gave up everything - and I mean everything! - for him without even much of a backward glance just felt strange to me. I could appreciate her wanting to become a painter and have freedom beyond what she would have as the daughter of an Earl, but giving it all up for that combined with this young man who I found to be a total cad just didn't sit well with me. Those who enjoy romance-and-passion-above-all-else sorts of stories with probably love her storyline, but I've never really enjoyed that sort of thing so couldn't love her as much as I loved Anna or what she went through. There wasn't as much attention placed on what was happening during the war Katherine lived through either (WWI), which is part of what I enjoyed so much in the other timeline.
All this being said, I think what I enjoyed the very most is the over-arching theme that family isn't necessarily who you share blood with but who you keep in your heart, and those that keep you in there's. This presents itself at a few different points in the book, and these points really stuck out for me. I also enjoyed the fact that, while many of the "secrets of Nanreath Hall" were somewhat easy to see coming given the hints dropped throughout the story, one secret in particular (namely what ultimately came between Katherine and Simon) actually surprised me and I always enjoy being taken by surprise.
I recommend Secrets of Nanreath Hall to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially that which takes place during the World Wars. There's much to enjoy here, and I'll be thinking about a number of these characters and how their stories might have proceeded after the last page was turned for awhile.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I LOVE IT!! I think it perfectly captures the story (at least Katharine's portion). Showing a bored/tired/dissatisfied young woman, elegantly dressed and in what appears to me upper-crust surroundings, completely fits Katherine. The woman even kind of resembles what Katharine is described as looking like, minus the flaming red hair. Regardless I love this cover and would pick it up to read the description any time.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of Secrets of Nanreath Hall in exchange for an honest review! Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the blog tour!
About the Author
novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.
Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.
Buy the Book
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one copy of Secrets of Nanreath Hall for giveaway (US only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
Please Note: When verifying the extra entries I've noticed that some people are saying they following me in certain ways that they, in fact, do not. I want to give extra entries to those that are actually taking the time to follow my blog, so please double check that you are in fact following me before saying you do. This verification is becoming a time consuming process so I will begin to remove all extra entries for those that I find are cheating.
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on August 16th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Secrets of Nanreath Hall Blog Tour
Thursday, August 4th: Bibliotica
Friday, August 5th: Let Them Read Books
Monday, August 8th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, August 9th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, August 10th: Broken Teepee
Monday, August 15th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, August 16th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, August 17th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, August 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques