I need to begin by saying Wuthering Heights is one of my top five favorite books of all time. It is one of the few books I can read multiple times and love more with each reading. So, when I read the synopsis of Solsbury Hill and saw it stated right on the cover that it was “a novel of Wuthering Heights” with the impressive tag line “The story continues…” I jumped at the chance to read and review it. How could I not love a continuation of one of my favorite stories, one that placed a modern American woman back on the wild, windswept English moors struggling to choose between two very different men? Well, unfortunately, Solsbury Hill just didn’t live up to the classic it compares itself to.
The story line itself has a lot of potential. Eleanor Abbott’s life seems to be going perfectly: her clothing line has just been bought by Barney’s and she is happy in her relationship with her childhood friend-turned-lover Miles. Since both of her parents died when she was young Miles has been her only family. But everything falls apart when Eleanor receives a call from the partner of an aunt she barely knows, telling her her aunt is dying in England and is desperate to have Eleanor come see her before she dies. The same night she receives this call she is devastated to discover Miles has betrayed her and Eleanor jumps on a plane for England. Meeting her aunt and the other inhabitants of Trent Hall – including the brooding yet poetic Mead Macleod and a few friendly ghosts – puts Eleanor’s mind and emotions into a terrible tangle. Will she be able to forgive Miles? When her aunt dies and she inherits Trent Hall will she stay behind in England or go back to her old life in New York? And what to make of her growing feelings for Mead? Against the untamable backdrop of the moors surrounding her Eleanor will discover the many secrets surrounding her family, uncover a mystery involving Emily Bronte and learn to trust her own heart.
My main problem with the story is that, unlike the grand passions and emotions that run through Wuthering Heights, the relationships in Solsbury Hill fall somewhat flat. The situations infer intimate relationships between the characters, whether romantic or familial, but the actual dialogue and feel of the interactions doesn’t go very far below the surface. I didn’t feel the connections and found the responses to situations that should evoke grand emotions – your lifelong love betraying you, your newly discovered aunt dying before she can tell you all she needed to – lacked any real passion. The dialogue was also very stunted and jumbled at times and there was a lot of repetition of descriptions and statements for such a short story.
What saved the story for me and kept me turning the pages when I wasn’t altogether sure I wanted to were the description of the gently deteriorating Trent Hall and the surrounding landscape. The moors were really their own character and by far my favorite. The author did a superb job of describing the varying terrain and the ever changing elements that make the moors of England the awe inspiring place it is. There is also this wonderful strangeness going on when you aren’t always sure if the people Eleanor are encountering are alive or ghosts and this added a delightful chill. There is one ghost in particular who leads Eleanor on a grand yet abbreviated adventure that I really enjoyed and would have loved expanded.
Turning the last page of Solsbury Hill I was left somewhat confused about whether I enjoyed the book or not. I loved the descriptions of the setting as well as the haunting elements. However, these very elements as well as the characters and their relationships needed more development and what was discussed felt rushed. I think the story would be better served either expanded with more development or concentrating on one component (for example I would have loved if the story centered solely around Eleanor’s search for Emily Bronte’s secrets or concentrated on her struggle to choose between Miles or Mead). I also think trying to compare this story to Wuthering Heights does not do Solsbury Hill any justice. It just doesn’t match up.
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 Riverhead Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.