A mysterious connection between a modern English Literature scholar and historian with one of the greats of English writing, Jane Austen, leads to a quest turning what is known about that famous author’s life on it’s ear. A locket with secrets, a cryptic clue, dangerous adversaries, a roguish treasure hunter, and a determine woman made this an incredible journey to the truth and no life is left unchanged as a result. It’s a dark, bittersweet fantastical tale that grabbed my attention from the beginning.
Violet Desmond learns on the death of her grandmother that her whole life has been a lie and that the last words the woman speaks and the gift of a locket lead Violet on a quest led by none other than Jane Austen herself. Violet is a practical sort, but even she must concede to the evidence that the night time dreams, voices in her head and day light visions of Jane Austen’s past may mean that she will go mad if she doesn’t find the truth for Jane. Strange happenings and coincidences, dangerous near death experiences and the timely introduction to people leave her not knowing who she can trust. Is the powerful Lord of Aerendgast Hollows merely a concerned godfather or a man who won’t stop at murder to get what he wants? Against her better judgment, she takes on a treasure hunter as her partner as they try to beat their adversaries to the clues that will fulfill Jane’s quest and lead them to incredible finds.
Peter Knighton made a mistake that cost him dearly. He is a treasure seeker and now has been blackballed by those who would send him on his hunts, but one stupendous find would restore him in the eyes of the antiquities community. One glimpse of Violet’s locket and the clue hidden within tells him that he’s onto a huge find. It’s not long after he gains Violet’s trust that he realizes that breaking it when he seizes the locket and any other artifacts discovered in her quest might not be so easy. He has come to care for the strong-willed prickly woman and wishes to protect her from the others who would see her and the secrets she seeks remain long buried.
This story is an incredible ‘what if’ regarding the life of Jane Austen. What if she fell in love, secretly married and had a child? This alternate past sets a series of events in motion with ramifications that affect people two hundred years later. It was like getting a story within a story as there is Violet and Peter’s life in the present and Jane and Edward’s lives in the past. I was utterly fascinated by a conspiracy theory type story that also included a tragic love story and a modern one.
The story has the feel of an early effort- not entirely polished. Transitions between scenes and even dialogue took some adjustment. There is also a passive feel once in a while that caused distance and didn’t always allow me to fully engage with the characters and plot. Some scenes that would have been really intense if teased out a bit were summarized or glossed over. This is not to say that I couldn’t engage with the story at all because trust me I teared up a few times, laughed and flipped pages hard and fast during some really intense moments, but I felt that it could have been even better.
The characters were drawn well and I liked how there was a sense that every character around the heroine other than her old school chums were suspect. The twists and turns of the plot had me switching opinions often. I will say that I struggled to understand Edward, Jane’s love interest. The author wrote him well, but I learned to feel such disappointment in him. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for others, but his actions were pivotal particularly when he failed to act. He was in such stark contrast to Violet’s Peter. Peter started out a rogue who was struggling when everything he felt that defined him was taken away and he wanted that back at any cost- at first. Then he realized that some things would cost to much and he started to develop and grow as he worked alongside Violet. Peter slowly restored Violet’s faith in relationships and trust along the way.
The end was exciting and the denouement offered yet one more twist that left me laughing. It also left things open-ended. I couldn’t tell if it was the sort of tantalizing finish that was meant to leave the reader wondering or if it was left that way because there is more to come. Either way would be brilliant.
All in all, I had a fantastic time reading this book and would recommend it to those who would enjoy an alternative history for one of their favorite authors. There are many references to people, places and scenes from Jane Austen’s books to hook the Austen lover, but the overall story would be of interest to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense with a paranormal twist.
My thanks to Meryton Press and Leathensberry Tours for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.