It’s time for privileged but uncertain Frenchwoman Emilie to find herself, but to do so, she must first fall impulsively in love, uncover her family’s wartime history and come to grips with the neglected chateau she has inherited.
Riley’s (The Girl on the Cliff, 2012, etc.) multiple storylines offer the reader a narrative combo in this tale of self-confidence–lacking, only-child Emilie de la Martinières, whose mother’s recent death has left her with sole responsibility for the family’s Provençal estate. The house story soon morphs into a romance as Englishman Sebastian Carruthers enters Emilie’s life, offering conveniently valuable help in dealing with the overwhelming responsibilities now facing her. But is Sebastian up to no good? Things turn a little gothic after Emilie’s marriage to Sebastian and temporary move to his remote, cold home in England, which is shared with Sebastian’s smarter but misunderstood brother, Alex, a man with a complicated history who is now confined to a wheelchair after an accident. But there’s more. Sebastian and Alex’s grandmother knew Emilie’s father; in fact, both served in the French Resistance, and their story emerges episodically as Riley deftly, if flatly, juggles her plot strands to reach a surprisingly anticlimactic conclusion.
A value-for-money saga, solid but lifeless and missing a lavender garden.