When Xanthe Westlake and her mother, Flora—who's been blindsided by a nasty divorce—leave London to purchase an antiques shop in Marlborough, a 17th-century silver key belt, or chatelaine, begins to sing to Xanthe, pulling her into a time-traveling mission to save a wrongly accused servant girl.
Xanthe, gifted with psychometry, sometimes feels an emotional tug from the antiques she and Flora sell. Yet no artifact has sung so loudly and insistently as the chatelaine. As Xanthe clears the gardens behind their store, she discovers that the chatelaine’s energy increases the closer she moves toward a strange, rounded building, which turns out to be a blind house, a jail for suspected criminals awaiting trial. Local legend says the blind house sits at the intersection of two powerful ley lines. Although Xanthe is curious about the ley lines, the overwhelming sense of anguish in the blind house concerns her until she begins to be harassed by the ghost of Margaret Merton, a woman burned at the stake for Catholic beliefs. Mistress Merton desperately needs Xanthe to use the chatelaine and blind house to travel back in time to save the life of Alice, a maidservant accused of theft. Once she falls back in time, however, Xanthe’s task is complicated by the difficult machinations of a legal system that undercuts the poor, not to mention the possibilities of love with Samuel Appleby, a talented architect drawn to Xanthe’s unconventional ways. Attentive to historical detail as well as beautifully delineated scenes, Brackston (The Return of the Witch, 2016, etc.) has crafted rich characters with plausible concerns: Xanthe is not simply a time-traveling woman in search of love; she has wrongfully suffered jail time herself because of her no-good, drug-addicted ex-boyfriend and worries for her feisty yet arthritic mother, saddled with frozen bank accounts. Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander collection will delight in Brackston’s new series and eagerly await its second installment.
A bewitching tale of love across centuries.