By: Lucinda Riley
This is a pleasant surprise! It runs the gamut of emotions; happiness, sadness, terror, love, hate, empathy, remorse, deception, courage and a cast of characters that learn lessons and play many roles in order to survive the terrors of the Nazi invasion of France.
Emilie de la Martinieres, the last of this great family has taken on the restoration of their Gassin chateau near the Cote d'Azur with the help of Gerard Flavier, the family notaire. She lost her father Edouardo, a rare book collector, as a young girl and now at age 25 she has lost her socialite (not so motherly) mother Valerie. The sale of her mother's Paris apartment and jewels will pay for the renovations but it is all quite emotional for her.
A 'chance' meeting introduces her to the charasmatic Sebastian Carruthers who very quickly engratiates himself to her sadness and overwhelming list of decisions. (*Reviewer's note: I have yet to understand/accept the young girls of the pre-war era 1) allowing a man to take them home alone and 2) allowing them to use terms of endearment or touch them within the first day of knowing them...especially when they have not been properly introduced by someone they know and trust...but on with it.) He says he owns an art gallery in London. It does not take long for her to fall in love with and marry him. Then his demeanor changes and he is spending more time in London and on business trips, that she is not allowed to attend, and then he begins the abuser's mantra; turning what is said to his benefit.
The biggest lie is that his paraplegic twin brother, Alex, lives in a seperate wing of Blackmoor. Sebastian tries to make her think he is caring for his brother and he is addicted to drugs and alcohol, which makes him unpredictable and mean. But she soon learns he is self-sufficient and very intelligent, and he owns half of Blackmoor. He has spent a lifetime being bullied, manipulated and abused by his brother.
She goes to visit the life long vintner at her chateau and he tells her the exciting, horriffic and emotional story of Constance Carruthers, the boy's grandmother. When her husband went off to war and she was working as a clerk at MI-5, she was recruited to work within occupied France. Her initial contacts did not meet her and she was forced to go to a non-Section F name given her. Edouard de la Martinieres, a high ranking, clandestine, DeGaulle operative. He took Constance into his home as his cousin where she stayed for the war under the watchful and scrutinizing eyes of the Nazi's.
Colonel Falk von Wehndorf took an especial interest in her much to her disgust. He, also, had a twin brother, Fredrick who falls in love with Edouard's blind sister, Sophia de la Martinieres