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A Place of SECRETS: A Novel

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | A Place of SECRETS: A Novel.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Rachel Hore(Author)

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A runaway bestseller in Britain with over 100,000 copies sold, a riveting historical mystery in the tradition of Kate Morton

Auction house appraiser Jude leaves London for her dream job at Starbrough Hall, an estate in the countryside, examining and pricing the manuscripts and instruments of an eighteenth-century astronomer. She is welcomed by Chantal Wickham and Jude feels close to the old woman at once: they have both lost their husbands. Hard times have forced the Wickham family to sell the astronomer's work, their land and with it, the timeworn tower that lies nearby. The tower was built as an observatory for astronomer Anthony Wickham and his daughter Esther, and it served as the setting for their most incredible discoveries.

Though Jude is far away from her life in London, her arrival at Starbrough Hall brings a host of childhood memories. She meets Euan, a famed writer and naturalist who lives in the gamekeeper's cottage at the foot of the tower, where Jude's grandfather once lived. And a nightmare begins to haunt her six-year-old niece, the same nightmare Jude herself had years ago. Is it possible that the dreams are passed down from one generation to the next? What secrets does the tower hold? And will Jude unearth them before it's too late?

Antiquarian book appraiser Jude Gower takes an assignment in Norfolk to evaluate the collection of eighteenth-century astronomer Anthony Wickham. Hore embellishes the tale with the familiar elements of the genre—family secrets, a blending of romance and suspense, and, of course, the requisite family mansion, this time a slightly eerie manor house called Starbrough Hall. Jude, whose family is from Norfolk, discovers a connection between her grandmother and a gypsy girl who played in the crumbling folly tower on the Starbrough property. A frightening dream has haunted Jude for a long time, and now, with the help of the handsome artist Euan, she begins to connect the puzzle of Gran’s memories, her own dreams, the gypsies, and Wickham’s folly. This romantic suspenser is rescued from cliché by the story’s momentum and the affectionate and compelling characters. It’s compulsively readable and highly entertaining. Readers who long for the old-fashioned gothic romance of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Barbara Michaels will rejoice in the U.S. debut of this popular English author, and fans of Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton (2008)and Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea (2009) will be delighted. --Jen Baker “Sumptuous prose, deft plotting, lush settings, troubling personal histories, tragedy, heady romance and even a smattering of 18th century scientific wonderment mark Hore's fourth novel as her most accomplished and enthralling yet.” ―Daily Mirror“Hore once again shows her gift for bringing the past to life: her understanding of memory, stories and craft is as strong here as in The Memory Garden.” ―Waterstone's Books Quarterly“Rachel Hore's intriguing Richard and Judy recommended read, which is layered with a series of mysteries, some more supernatural than others.” ―Independent

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Book details

  • PDF | 384 pages
  • Rachel Hore(Author)
  • Henry Holt (January 31, 2012)
  • English
  • 3
  • Romance

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Review Text

  • By Ellen Rudd on January 7, 2013

    This book will appeal to people who believe in the paranormal. It would bore people who don't. The story gets cluttered with too many characters at the very end, but everyone is tied together neatly and my brief confusion was resolved within a few pages. It is the story of 3 families tied together in the mid-1700s, but the how and why is not discovered until 2008 when one family, formerly wealthy landed gentry, must sell cherished heirlooms to keep the family home after the UK's notoriously crippling death taxes will require selling the entire property if the current head of household, who inherits after his father's death, doesn't make the devastating decision to sell the cherished heirlooms rather than lose the home. Large tracts of land have been sold after the deaths of 2 prior generations. The home is called Starbrough Hall and stars are the background of the story. When the owner contacts a small London auction house to manage the sale, the job of cataloging and managing the auction is given to Jude, whose grandmother's father was the gamekeeper for the estate when she was a child hence she lived in the gamekeeper's cottage as a child and still lives in the area. The cottage and some associated land has since been sold. The other primary claim to fame, one of England's famous follies, has also been sold to pay prior death taxes and it is falling into dangerous disrepair although it is a "listed" property. The current owner doesn't recognize it's historical value and is in process of trying to get permission to turn that parcel into a mini-resort. As Jude catalogs the books and artifacts being given up for auction, she discovers private journals of the owner and his adopted daughter in the mid-1700s. He was an amateur astronomer who trained his adopted daughter, Esther, to follow him. He necessarily must die suddenly and inconveniently before the will leaving the estate to Esther is solidified and the bulk of the book is told through her eyes in a journal she leaves behind, well hidden, but discovered by Jude. The story unfolds between these journals and the nightmarish dreams of Jude's niece, which eerily replicate dreams Jude had at the same age. To tell more of the plot would ruin the thrill of reading each new discovery unfold. In the end, the mysterious identity of Esther, the abandoned toddler adopted by the astronomer, is revealed which brings in a third aristocratic family. It was at this point the story became briefly confusing by the introduction of another family tree, but all the mysteries are ultimately solved, and Jude, whose husband had died a few years earlier, falls in love with the new owner of the gamekeeper's cottage, so all is well that ends well. A book like this has to end "tidy", but getting there has to have enough challenges to get to the goal post to be entertaining. I was thoroughly charmed by this story, was surprised by how well written it is, and hope I can find another paranormal story that is almost believable for my next ebook read.

  • By Diana Faillace Von Behren on September 22, 2012

    The only thing dislikable about "A Place of Secrets," the intricately woven novel by Rachel Hore, is its nebulous title, which unfortunately calls to mind nondescript Gothics from the 70s when Victoria Holt, Phyliss Whitney, Dorothy Eden, Susan Howatch and Barbara Michaels dominated the scene. To the pleasant contrary, Hore's story that could have ended quite satisfactorily at the beginning of its third part, reminds one in tone and style of the great Mary Stewart (albeit Hore's prose is a bit more chatty) who certainly knows a thing or two about writing a good plot combined with a great cast of characters (past and present) set in a marvelously depicted place that in itself becomes indelibly an integral part of the tale. Perhaps, "The Stargazer's Secret," "The Necklace of Stars," or "The Astronomer's Library"--forgive these feeble attempts--would be more appropriate to convey some hint as to the story's strength, rather than the generic "Place of Secrets" which connotes nothing but an umbrellaed catch all that tries to connect all the plot lines.And there are many in Hore's story. The main character, from whose perspective the reader understands the novel's goings-on, Jude Gower is a young widow who works at a small auction house, assessing estate treasures. Her love for her deceased husband prevents her from moving forward with regard to her need for companionship--the feelings wrought here excellently cue the character Charity Shelbourne from Stewart's classic "Madam, Will You Talk?" rendering Jude with flesh and blood emotions that touch the heart. Commissioned to tally and price out Starbrough Hall's collection of astronomy books, charts and journals by the Wickham family, she stumbles upon the account of one Esther Wickham, the adopted daughter of an 18th century stargazer and telescope aficionado, who seems to be aborted from the Wickham family tree.As Jude successfully progresses in her undertaking, uncovering fascinating information regarding the past Ms Wickham, she is plunged into her immediate family dynamics that prove to be just as entangling as the Wickham mystery. Her grandmother, Jessie, requests that she locate a school friend of hers with whom she lost touch way before Jude was even born. Apparently a long past misdeed weighs heavily on Jess's conscience and only a reunion with this schoolmate will lessen her guilt.In addition, Jude's relationship with her sister, Clare seems clogged in a mire of misunderstanding. Jude wonders at Clare's misplaced anger regarding her, softened only by their mutual concern for Clare's young daughter Summer who is plagued by nightmares that oddly run in the family and pointedly exacerbated by both women's interest in the young naturalist Euan who resides in their grandmother's old home on the Starbrough Estate.Hore meshes the modern tale with the discoveries uncovered by Jude as she researches the shadowy history of Esther. Readers, prepare for a story of long twists and turns in the vein of Rosamunde Pilcher, some of which are satisfyingly anticipated and others which remain slightly ensconced in too much speculation and happenstance. Hore doggedly attempts to tie up all the lose ends as best she can without disappointing those romantically inclined members of her audience that would swoon with disapproval without that pivotal moment in the lives of her lovers. In this reviewer's opinion, she troops back a bit too far, relating a back story that is of trivial importance when weighed against the more intriguing mystery of the gypsy girl's connection to the rest of the story and the paranormal interaction with the family dream.Hore writes in the quintessential British style, where many characters convene at a moment's notice and manners and protocol prevail in the most modern sense. Some of Hore's plot contrivances and coincidence will definitely take on Dickensian proportions, but as "A Place of Secrets" is most definitely a pleasure read, kick back and enjoy the tale that she has so painstakingly wrought. If you can listen to this novel in audio book format; Jilly Bond does a nice job of providing nuanced performances that resonate each character.Bottom line? "A Place of Secrets," although terribly titled, is a delightful read that is sure to please any reader who enjoys the modern British Gothic. Old cottages, manors, forests and towers straight out of fairy tales abound with fresh characters that refract real emotion while instilling a modern take--environmental concerns etc--on the romantic suspense genre built upon so well by the 50s-60s Mary Stewart. Recommended as fun and entertaining.Diana Faillace Von Behren"reneofc"


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