Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Midnight Rose

Author: Lucinda Riley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
First Line: "I am a hundred years old today."

Book Description from GoodReadsSpanning four generations, The Midnight Rose sweeps from the glittering palaces of the great maharajas of India to the majestic stately homes of England, following the extraordinary life of a remarkable girl, Anahita Chaval, from 1911 to the present day . . .

In the heyday of the British Raj, eleven-year-old Anahita, from a noble but impoverished family, forms a lifelong friendship with the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of Indian royalty. As the princess's official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of World War I. There, she meets young Donald Astbury;reluctant heir to the magnificent, remote Astbury Estate; and his scheming mother.

Ninety years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. But when her turbulent relationship with her equally famous boyfriend takes an unexpected turn, she's relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to a distant corner of the English countryside. Shortly after filming begins at the now-crumbling Astbury Hall, Ari Malik, Anahita's great-grandson, arrives unexpectedly, on a quest for his family's past. What he and Rebecca discover begins to unravel the dark secrets that haunt the Astbury dynasty . . .

A multilayered, heartbreaking tale filled with unforgettable characters caught in the sweep of history, The Midnight Rose is Lucinda Riley at her most captivating and unforgettable.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  This sweeping saga follows Anahita's life, from her days as a young girl in India in the early 1900's until present day. The reader is taken from the exotic maharajas of India to the aristocracy in England as it follows the twists and turns, the passions and the losses of Anahita. 

This is definitely a large book (the paper version is upwards of 500 pages for the paperback).  It had a lot of wonderful historical detail but didn't fall into the trap of being bogged down in too many descriptions.  We're talking about piecing together the life of a one hundred year old woman so there are many places, eras and people involved and yet Ms Riley does an excellent job of keeping the reader on track.  The protagonists as well as the secondary cast of characters (for the most part anyway) were colourful, intriguing and I quickly got to know them.  It was a totally absorbing read that I had a hard time putting down.

The main reason why I loved this book is due to Anahita's character.  I was thoroughly engaged by the writing and riveted to Anahita's story from the beginning.  Seeing several periods in her life, from a young girl to a very elderly woman, helped to make her a very genuine character for me and one that I could easily root for.  Being given the knowledge that Anahita lives to be an old woman didn't detract from me being utterly captivated by her story either.  If anything it made me wonder how Anahita became the woman she was in her final years.

Rebecca's side of the story was interesting too but I found her story to be a little more superficial and I tended to look forward to getting back to Anahita's viewpoint as I was reading Rebecca's side of things.  I think a lot of this issue had to do with Rebecca's love life.  Her boyfriend came off as a stereotypical cad, bully and manipulator and it was fairly obvious where their relationship was heading.

Lucinda Riley is a 'new to me' author and I am very eager to pick up some of her earlier works.  She definitely has a passion and skill for storytelling as well as a knack for being able to keep the reader's attention on two main characters in two very distinct eras and cultures.  These are no small feats by any measure and I applaud her. 

While this is a big book it is also the perfect escapist read and so easy to get wrapped up in.  It has romantic elements and a dark mystery.  It also deals with enduring friendships, the importance of family, has interesting characters and a dual narrative which kept the pace high at all times.  Anahita's story will pull you in as the mystery surrounding her son begins to unfold and the pieces of her life begin to fit together.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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