Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Forgotten Room

Authors: Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin Group Berkley
First Published: January 19, 2016
First Line: "New York City June 1944 - Kate -- The patter of rain against the blacked-out stained glass dome above where I sat numbed me like a hypnotist's gold watch."

Book Description from GoodReadsNew York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig present a masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century....

1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

My Review: There are not many fictional novels that I've come across that have multiple authors, let alone three contributing authors, which is why this book caught my eye.  Add in the description of a historical fiction mystery within three generations of the same family and I knew this was a book for me.

From the description on the cover this book seems to be a historical mystery, but the romance aspect takes centre stage for most of the book.  It follows the lives of three women from three generations of the same family all with a link to an old New York City mansion.  There is Olive in 1892, her daughter Lucy in the 1920's and Lucy's daughter Kate, a doctor in 1944.  Also included are a hidden room, a ruby necklace and loads of familial secrets that bind these women's stories together.

The reason I love historical fiction is that the author draws vivid descriptions of an era long gone that I can picture in my mind as I read.  While I did get a taste of New York City in three different eras it wasn't nearly as detailed as I was hoping.  Instead the focus is on the three young women and their romances with the mystery aspect not picking up until closer to the end of the book (with some rather good twists, I might add).

For the most part I enjoyed this book. Sure, it felt a little unbelievable and contrived that these three women, from the same family, would all have such a strong connection to one room within the same building in New York City.   But it held my attention and was a good romp through the minefield that are familial secrets.  I will admit though that at the beginning of the book, and even continuing on towards the middle, I had a hard time keeping the three women and their stories straight in my head.  It was a little frustrating trying to keep these women's personalities, stories and love interests straight as the story jumped back and forth between them fairly quickly.  Eventually their stories stuck in my head but it took a bit before I got to that point.

The book came together well in the end as the various missing pieces are put into place - some of which I'm happy to say surprised me.  For a co-authored book I feel that it was written well and the writing styles were quite unified making the book feel like one person wrote the whole book with one exception.  For some reason, Kate's story is told in the first person while Olive and Lucy's stories are told in the third person.  Perhaps it was for that reason that I felt much more of a connection and interest in Kate's story than the other two.

In the end, this is a light, women's fiction read with a heavy dose of romance and a good mystery thrown in for good measure.  While the relationships were quite predictable and the story a little contrived I did enjoy the twists that the authors threw in later in the story. 

My Rating: 3.5 stars

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

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