The fifth volume in Riley’s (The Pearl Sister, 2018, etc.) series about adopted sisters named after the Pleiades.
Pa Salt, the late adoptive father of the six D’Aplièse sisters, left instructions for each daughter to track her origins to distant lands, thereby providing material for a thick novel about each. This installment concerns Taygete, aka Tiggy, who is an animal whisperer and wildlife conservation expert. Tiggy has been putting off her Pa-dictated origin quest; however, while employed as a wildcat wrangler on Kinnaird, a Scottish estate, she meets Chilly, an elderly Romani man who, it turns out, is a distant cousin. His directive, to travel to Spain, aligns with Pa Salt’s. Following the formula laid out in earlier novels, large swathes of flashback cover the stories of Tiggy’s gitano ancestors, the Albaycíns, following them from 1912 through the post–World War II era. Inhabitants of the Sacromonte district in Granada, Tiggy’s forebears are musicians and flamenco dancers. A few are healers and clairvoyants, proclivities which Chilly will, years later, spot in Tiggy. Her great-grandmother, the long-suffering María, and María’s lothario husband, José, though dwelling in caves, bring up daughter Lucía to become a world-famous flamenco star. The challenges facing the gitanos, an oppressed minority living on the margins of payo, or non-Romani, Spanish culture, are exhaustively detailed, as are the intricacies of flamenco as a dance form. The flight of Lucía and her family during the Spanish Civil War adds tension, as does Lucía’s all-consuming narcissism. As is typical, so far, of this series, the ancestor story overwhelms the present narrative, which here mostly involves Tiggy’s difficulties with men: Zed, a billionaire guest at Kinnaird, is a sexual harasser, and the unhappily married Charlie, Kinnaird’s laird, is not only dangerously attractive, but attracted to Tiggy. Zed has history with three other D’Aplièse sisters and may know more than he lets on about Pa Salt’s fate. The three narrative threads—this novel’s present and past and the linkages affecting the series—turn the book into a doorstop, but Riley fans will not be deterred.
An absorbing drama replete with decades-spanning lessons in girl power.