Whilst researching her family history, Katie Smith falls in love with Kingsley House, the crumbling former home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. To her surprise, when the house appears on the market, her husband is very keen to purchase it. As he doesn’t share her love of genealogy, Katie decides to keep her connection to the building secret. This subterfuge ends, however, when a terrible discovery is made and Katie must come to terms with the fact that her family is harbouring a dark secret.
The story is told from the perspectives of two people – Katie in the twenty-first century, and Bartholomew St. Clair in the nineteenth century. Despite being almost 200 years apart, the two stories collide as we discover the truth about Bartholomew, his young wife Georgia Holland and her trusted lady’s maid, Agnes Cutter. Without giving too much away, it is quite apparent early on in the book that Agnes is going to play a larger role than that of just a servant but the extreme measures she takes to secure her needs were a bit of a surprise!
Like Kathleen McGurl’s latest book, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, there are similarities in the stories that are being told in the past and the present, namely that of disfunctional families and the secrecy surrounding them. It is interesting to see, however, how society has changed in that time and how an indiscretion that happened in the past would be dealt with differently nowadays.
Although the ending does not give complete closure to the story, it is real-life as it is acknowledged that not every genealogical mystery can have a complete conclusion. Enough clues are given, however, to infer that Katie has her own suspicions and I would like to think that she carried on to discover what really happened.
After receiving an advance copy of The Daughters of Red Hill Hall from Net Galley, I was keen to read other books by Kathleen McGurl and I am pleased to say that this one lived up to my expectations. Superbly written with great characterisation, I am looking forward to reading The Pearl Locket next!