Over the past few years Susanna Kearsley has become one of my all-time favorite authors. She has this remarkable way of melding and twisting the past and present together, creating these unforgettable, well developed characters and settings and spicing it all up with a sweet dose of romance. My love for her stories is so strong that I went out and bought every book of hers I could find after reading the very first one. Whether it’s this high expectation or the story itself I am not sure, but The Splendour Falls fell somewhat flat for me.
It’s important to note that I received an audiobook version of The Splendour Falls, which could be part of the problem. The narrator’s voice was beautiful and the way she read through the descriptions of Chinon, France really helped immerse me in the setting, but it was hard to keep track of the various characters, their actions and their connections to the main character, Emily Braden, as the sound of their voices all meshed together. While I could flip back through a written copy of a book to clarify any confusion within the plot and characters I obviously couldn’t do that with the audiobook version and therefore I had moments where I couldn’t keep track of what was going on.
The story itself left much to be desired as well. The plot begins with Emily Braden agreeing to meet her cousin Harry in Chinon for a holiday away from her troubles. She seems inordinately affected by her parent’s divorce and appears to have put life and love on the backburner. When she arrives in Chinon Harry is nowhere to be found, but this doesn’t seem to bother Emily at all as Harry is described as incredibly unreliable. Emily stays in Chinon, exploring the beautiful town and becoming close with various other people staying at her hotel. While I understand this to be the author’s way of getting Emily to Chinon for her to discover the mysteries and secrets she begins to uncover it just didn’t seem very realistic. She is presented as so closed off and yet she is able to make friends and mingle in Chinon without knowing anyone. Then when she discovers that two murders have taken place and she meets up with the killer, they have a rather long conversation about why the murders took place. I just found this odd.
What I was most disappointed with, however, was the lack of any real immersion in the history. My favorite parts of her books are the time slips that give us the history through the eyes of those experiencing it and seeing how that history affects our present day storyline. While there were two separate historic storylines affecting and influencing Emily’s story – Queen Isabelle hiding her jewels during a 13th century siege on the castle in Chinon and a tragic love story between another Isabelle in Chinon and a German officer during WWII – these were barely shown from the viewpoint of those characters and mostly just referenced in Emily’s timeline. Both historic timelines had so much promise and could have added so much more to the story development but were instead just mentioned for how they affected what was going on with Emily and her friends.
If this were any other author’s novel I might have rated it higher as the scenic descriptions of Chinon are lovely and it is written with a lyrical and intoxicating style. However, being that I have read other books by Ms. Kearsley and they blew The Splendour Falls out of the water I cannot help but feel that this book was disappointing. This will in no way keep me from reading every book that Ms. Kearsley comes out with as I am hooked for life. However, I would recommend any reader new to the author start with one of her other novels.
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 Sourcebooks Landmark. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.