When Emilie de la Martinieres’s mother dies she is left with a very difficult decision to make. As she is the only heir to the great de la Martinieres fortune, her mother’s death leaves her rich and in the possession of her family’s historic chateau and vineyard which is in need of much time and repair to bring it back to the grandeur it deserves. Having been ignored and neglected by a mother who put wealth, glamour and society above her only daughter, Emilie shunned her family’s money and history after her beloved father’s death for a more ordinary, and less demanding, life as a veterinarian. Now she must decide between the relatively solitary but safe life she has established for herself and a new life that, while secure monetarily, will demand of Emilie her time, heart and openness to discover the truth of her family’s past and to make the best decisions for what remains of her legacy. With all of this now suddenly on her plate she isn’t even sure where to begin.
Her prayers seem to be answered when she meets a charming art dealer from England named Sebastian Carruthers and he not only helps begin the process of setting her life on track and getting the work begun on restoring the chateau but thoroughly steals her heart. When Sebastian relates that his late grandmother, Constance Carruthers, actually lived at the chateau for a time during WWII but never really discussed how or why, Emilie’s interest is peaked by this seeming coincidence and she sets out to discover the details of the two families’ connections.
Interspersed with Emilie’s story is that of Constance, a British office clerk turned Special Operations Executive sent undercover into France to aid the Resistance during WWII, and how she ended up living in the home of Edouard de la Martinieres, Emilie’s father, a prominent Frenchman who is also working to thwart the German enemy who has occupied his beloved country. As both story lines progress both women will have to use their hearts and their heads to determine who to trust and what they must do as life’s endless difficulties continue to assault them, sometimes with devastating consequences.
The Lavender Garden is a perfect example of the kind of novel I have come to love in the last few years, one that blends the past and the present together, slowly revealing shocking information and the various connections between story lines until the final revelations and resolutions are neatly laid before the reader. Both Emilie and Constance’s stories are exciting, shocking and touching in turns and don’t fail to twist around and keep the reader guessing. While certain aspects where somewhat predictable, the big secrets remained just that until the end and the author artfully left integral plot points hanging at the switch between story lines, keeping me unable to stop turning the pages so I could finally figure out what was really going on. I don’t want to give too much away because the characters and their struggles are captivating and quite sad at times but I will say that the ending was wrapped up very well and left me feeling satisfied and happy for the journey.
Just about anyone can find something to enjoy in The Lavender Garden. There’s history, war, love, loss and even a modern story line full of mystery and conflict. I am now a firm fan of Lucinda Riley.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.