There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.
Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.
Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.
For 350+ years, the ruins of Ashdown House has been a source of speculation, mystery, and perhaps the greatest and saddest love story in the whole of the country.
In centuries past, there lived a woman known as the Winter Queen, a woman born and bred to rule, but not allowed to so because of circumstances beyond her control. She was a Queen without a kingdom, wed to a man incapable of restoring her to her destiny. Through it all was one man, a man unequal to her in social standing, but certainly worthy of her strength and love. As an act of his love and devotion, he built his Winter Queen Ashdown House, a site she never visited as she could never publicly acknowledge her ties to and love for this man.
One short century later, another destined-for-tragedy woman, Lavinia Flyte moves into Ashdown House, a place she hopes will change her fortunes forever. Her fortunes are indeed changed, but not at all in the way she imaged. Lavinia, like her predecessor the Winter Queen was a strong and intelligent woman who was a victim of the circumstances she was born into. Looking to improve her circumstances and her station in life, Lavinia ties herself to a man who is both selfish and cruel. Like the Winter Queen, Lavinia finds a measure of happiness with another, but her happiness is short-lived.
By the twenty-first century, Ashdown House is nothing but a memory, a legend, a place steeped in mystery and tragedy, a place that has claimed yet another victim and that is why Holly Ansell has come to town. In the wake of her brother’s disappearance, Holly has taken up the investigation into his circumstances which leads her to the history of Ashdown House and one of the greatest unsolved mysteries associated with the site. As Holly’s search progresses, she learns of the tragic lives of the Winter Queen and Lavinia Flyte and how Ashdown House is responsible for the fate of both women and her brother. Unlike the two women who came before her, Holly is determined to find the light at the end of the tunnel and by the time she’s done, she’ll have laid to rest a great mystery.
The Bottom Line: I am, historically speaking, a big fan of past meets present reads and House of Shadows is no exception to that rule. All three women, all tied to Ashdown House are linked through tragedy, but Holly Ansell is not so much a victim of her circumstances, but a woman of action interested in changing her fate. Though this story does, ultimately, have a happy ending, it is largely a sad read. Overall, I found this book to be intricately woven together, smartly plotted, and interesting. There is just enough at the end of each chapter, that little tidbit, that made me want to keep going and not put the book down until I got to the last page.
Pre-order for the October 17, 2017 release: Amazon
Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog. She also loves hearing from her readers and chatting to them on her blog at www.nicolacornick.co.uk She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @NicolaCornick