by Mary Stewart
Amazon / Goodreads
Plot Summary:Bryony Ashley knows that Ashley Court, the grand estate, is both hell and paradise -- once elegant and beautiful, yet shrouded in shadow. After the tragic death of her father, Bryony returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Her family's estate with its load of debt is no longer her worry. Still, her father's final, dire warning about a terrible family curse haunts her days and her dreams. And there is something odd about her father's sudden death...
Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Devastated, she believes, that the mysterious stranger is her destiny... the lover-to-be who waits for her now at Ashley Court. Now she is determined to find him. But passion is not all that will greet Bryony upon her return -- for the crumbling walls of the old mansion guard dark secrets, tragic memories... and inescapable peril.
Review:I generally enjoy Mary Stewart's brand of romantic suspense - especially when it's set in English manor homes - but this book was a very slow starter for me. It became very intriguing around the midway point, and then tapered off until a nail-bitingly suspenseful finale. Unfortunately, that was not enough to make me love this book.
The voice of this story is very English - although from the 1970s. This book is contemporary with that time, so it makes sense, and I found that aspect to be pretty delightful. The way the characters spoke and carried themselves seemed so quaint and nostalgic somehow, and I appreciated how much this book seemed like a time capsule of that time.
Byrony is faced with many dilemmas throughout the narrative, but her approach to dealing with it was so drawn out and lackadaisical that I found the pace to be painfully slow at times. There's more than one mystery brewing though and the focus is much more on the characters involved and how much Byrony really knows about her cousins so I felt this was a well constructed story. The suspense, slow as it was to build, was the best part of the story however, as the romance really fell flat for me. Starting with the fact that some of the characters involved are cousins and it's strange to me that a relationship between them seems fine in the 1970s. There's also the matter of Byrony knowing the person she's in love with all her life because of the Ashley 'gift' and yet she doesn't know his exact identity. Which seems pretty hard to believe.
The story's finale really made up for a lot of my dulling interest in the book however, because it was a bit shocking in a way and fraught with danger. Yes, it was somewhat predictable, but I still was eager to know how it would all turn out. However, this was not one of Mary Stewart's best books for me, but a suspense story with an intriguing idea that took a long time to develop.