House of Shadows – Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin: Graydon House for providing an ARC for review.

img_8414They say not to judge a book by its cover, but the beautiful cover of House of Shadows immediately caught my attention, making me want this book in my hands. The image alone could sell the book without the interesting blurb or story inside! Upon flipping this book over, readers will learn it is set throughout the hills of Oxfordshire and partially in London, England. I don’t know about you, but I was sold! Since airfare is quite pricey to hop across the pond, I have to settle for being taken there by the hands of authors. Luckily, Nicola Cornick was up for the challenge and created stunning imagery through her writing, easily transporting me not only to another country but to multiple time periods.

Woven through three separate centuries, this tale begins with Elizabeth Stuart, The Winter Queen, warning her lover, William Craven, to destroy an ornate mirror which brings doom to greedy men. Her life has turned to shambles, she believes, due to the power the mirror possesses. A power many underestimate.

In the present day, Holly learns of the disappearance of her brother, Ben. She decides to leave her cozy life in London and help in the hunt to discover what could have possibly happened to her brother. Upon arriving, she learns Ben was researching the family line at their old Mill house in Ashdown, something he didn’t seem particularly interested in prior in his life – a mystery in itself. Holly soon discovers the handwritten journal of Latvinia Flyte among Ben’s things, telling of her scandalous 19th-century life. Shortly thereafter, Holly acquires a mysterious looking-glass deeply connected to the past and expanding the history Holly must sort through.

The story takes readers through time and history, connecting three different women’s lives in the modern era. One of my favorite things about Historical Fiction is being able to absorb the facts through an interesting tale, mixed with just enough fiction to keep the story exciting. This is one of my favorite ways to learn of the past because it keeps my interest, rather than the dull monotone life stories we often get through Non-Fiction. I had no knowledge of the life of Elizabeth Stuart, also known as The Queen of Bohemia prior to reading this novel which alternates between time periods. I was eager to fact check which parts of this story were real with the fiction within the pages, allowing me to further my knowledge of an incredibly interesting historical woman. I enjoyed being able to get to know Elizabeth as a living, breathing woman, rather than a fancy queen in a big dress, painted as a work of art.

Another great aspect of this tale was being able to learn of Latvinia through Holly’s reading of her diary. It added the third perspective in a unique way, allowing readers to experience both Holly in the present and Lavinia in the past simultaneously. Like Holly, I couldn’t help rooting for Lavinia and hoping her trials in life would turn into success. I was constantly on the edge of my seat hoping to learn more about her mysterious life and how she could possibly be connected to the story.

I found all three time periods within the pages to feature quite interesting storylines. When the setting would switch between chapters I was often so caught up in one perspective, I would be disappointed with the change and wanted to continue reading about the characters I was with at the moment. The changing perspectives were done so well by the author and was a great tactic in keeping the reader’s interest throughout the book. Only occasionally would I find the present storyline with Holly to be dragging and not quite as exciting as the past perspectives of Elizabeth and Lavinia. This was the sole reason I knocked a star off of my final rating, giving four stars instead of the full five. However, the addition of a love interest for Holly and being able to experience the unexpected tidbits of romance within her story was a pleasant surprise, allowing her viewpoint to be more of an experience, rather than the search for her brother being the only aspect of her story.

House of Shadows was an interesting story across the board — full of romance, mystery, history, superstition, and heartbreak. I highly recommend this unique and fully immersing novel. This will be one I reflect on for months to come.

The release date is set for October 17th, however, pre-ordering is available with the links below. This book will not only look lovely on your shelf but will keep you captivated until the very end.

Purchase on Amazon!


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