18 July 2017

Review #627: Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

----Søren Kierkegaard

Alix Rickloff, a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance, has penned a heart touching historical fiction called, Secrets of Nanreath Hall that revolves around two women, in two different timelines, searching for their own identities, one is looking for her biological mother's family and her forgotten background, while the other leaves everything behind for love. Both the stories, narrated in alternative chapters, are not only endearing but are also intriguing enough to keep the readers on their edges.


This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.

Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six years old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.

Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.

As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth…and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.

Anna Trenowyth, the Red Cross nurse, serving the wounded soldiers and civilians in England during the WWII, gets an once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to serve for her country with her new posting at her biological mother's home called, Nanreath Hall. Now Anna has a chance to dig up the buried past and unravel the untold past stories about a mother she barely remember and a father whom she never met. But can Anna accept the brutal honesty of her past as well as its ugly secrets? Most above all, will she be accepted with open arms in a family who never accepted her or her mother after the affair.

Lady Katherine Trenowyth, a young and very beautiful daughter of an Earl, falls for the wrong guy and tragedy happens, when she decides to leave behind the comfort and safety of her home in England during the WWI time to pursue her owns dreams of becoming an artist and living with the man she loves. But then she falls pregnant and is left alone both by her lover as well as by her own family. Can Katherine survive herself and protect her own daughter in the difficult times of war and death?

The debut book of the author will touch the souls of its readers and will also enlighten the minds of its readers about the world war time periods that are penned so strikingly. The back drop of the story line centers around both the world wars, and each timeline has been depicted with honesty. The horrors and the violence, everything have been captured and arrested into this book very vividly. The readers will be able to visualize the scenes and the graphic ferocity while reading this book. And not only that, the societal indifferences and the shortcomings have also been strikingly portrayed through the story line, making it highly realistic. The timeline resonates strongly with the story line. Also Cornwall is vividly portrayed through the pages of this book.

The author's writing style is eloquent and is laced with enough emotions to move the readers deeply. The dialogues are free flowing and will help the readers to contemplate with the story line. And with a smooth pace and enough tension, the readers will be glued to the pages of this book till the very end. The author explores lots of layers about the then history, society, people, lifestyle and many other things magnificently. Although at times, the pace slowed down once in a while, and the story often dragged for a while, otherwise this story is engrossing to its very core.

The characters are well developed and painted them with a realistic demeanor, so that the readers can comprehend with their plight. The first primary character, Anna, is an inspiring young lady, whose soul endearing journey to her roots where the situation is very messy after her birth mother left that home , yet Anna bravely decides to reconnect with her lost relatives. Anna is strong and is very thoughtful and mature. Whereas the second primary character, Katherine, is extremely rebellious yet independent enough to fight for own love and her dreams, even though she is aware that life can be difficult outside the comfort of her palatial home. Both these women are a strong contrast to their diverse personalities, yet their loving heart and their mother-daughter connection, makes them look very interesting in the eyes of the readers. I believe, Katherine's character and her back story could have been explored with much more depth, hence I could not feel any sympathy towards Katherine's troubles.

In a nutshell, this book is enjoyable and a perfect cozy and a poignant read for all those who are looking for a gripping historical fiction.

Verdict: Strongly recommended for historical fiction lovers.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Alix Rickloff, for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance, Alix Rickloff’s family tree includes a knight who fought during the Wars of the Roses (his brass rubbing hangs in her dining room), and a soldier who sided with Charles I during the English Civil War (hence the family's hasty emigration to America).
Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket). Her latest historical, SECRETS OF NANREATH HALL (William Morrow), is set to release in August 2016.
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