Sunday, 1 April 2018

Bellewether


Author: Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 414
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada

First Published: April 24, 2018
First Line: "Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets."

Book Description from GoodReadsSome houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Bellewether is a blend of historical details, a fantastical element and romance.  It was a quietly compelling read that unearthed new-to-me historical information surrounding the Seven Years War.

What I love the most about Kearsley's books are the historical elements. I can trust that this author, a former museum curator and passionate historian, has done her due diligence about the history behind the story. In Bellewether, she weaves part of her own family's history into this fictional tale that includes real historical figures and important issues, past and present. These issues include slavery, illegal trading, draft dodging, the horrors of Canadian residential schools and the misperceptions different cultures had about each other.

The story is based in two different eras (modern day and late 18th century) and is told by three different characters - Charley, Jean-Phillipe and Lydia. Truth be told, I was more drawn to the modern-day story involving Charley, a museum curator. I had more of a connection with her and enjoyed seeing her piece together the historical mystery surrounding Lydia and Jean-Phillippe, one of the French lieutenants who were captured during the Seven Years War and housed within Lydia's family's home.

Where this book loses some marks for me is with the simplicity of its plot. This is a quiet story that focuses on the relationships of the characters more than an intricate plot. And, while there were some intriguing revelations between the two eras, I wanted a bit more action and opportunity to see the connection between Lydia and Jean-Phillippe.

I enjoyed this book and I'm grateful that Kearsley has brought to light many historical elements that may have been glossed over (or forgotten) from school history classes. Susanna Kearsley is one of my favourite storytellers and her latest book is a sweet romance with a dash of mystery and engaging history that will hopefully leave readers eager to learn more about the era and the issues raised.

Note: I highly recommend reading the author's notes at the end of the book for a better understanding of the characters and historical elements.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

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