The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Pearl Sister is the fourth book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series based loosely on the mythology of the Pleiades (or ‘seven sisters’) star cluster. There will eventually be seven novels each telling the story of one of the adopted daughters of a mysterious millionaire known as Pa Salt.

The girls, who are all from very different backgrounds and who grew up together in Switzerland on Pa Salt’s Lake Geneva estate, are named after the stars in the cluster – Maia, Alycone (Ally), Asterope (Star), Celaeno (CeCe), Taygete (Tiggy) and Electra D’Aplièse. There should have been a seventh sister, whose name would have been Merope, but for some reason which has not yet been revealed only six girls were adopted rather than seven. Pa Salt dies at the beginning of the series, leaving each sister some clues to help them trace their real parents, if they wish to do so.

The books could be read in any order as they all work as standalones, with only a small amount of overlap. The first book in the series, The Seven Sisters, tells Maia’s story, the second, The Storm Sister, tells Ally’s, and the third, The Shadow Sister, concentrates on Star. This time it’s CeCe’s turn. CeCe and Star are nearly the same age, being adopted as babies just a few months apart, and have always had a very close relationship. In the previous novel we saw the shy, quiet Star stepping out from CeCe’s shadow to build a life of her own, while The Pearl Sister begins with CeCe feeling rejected and left behind as Star moves on.

Pa Salt has left CeCe the name of an Australian pioneer and a black and white photograph to point her on her way, so she sets off for Australia, stopping in Thailand for a few weeks first. Following a trail which she hopes will lead to her own birth family, CeCe makes some discoveries which help her to understand who she really is.

CeCe’s story is set in the modern day, but we also follow the story of another woman and this one takes place in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s 1906 and Kitty McBride has left her home in Edinburgh to travel to Australia as a lady’s companion. Here she meets the Mercer family, who own both a pearl business and a cattle station, and becomes entangled with twin brothers Drummond and Andrew Mercer. When it becomes obvious that both of them are hoping to marry Kitty, she will have a big decision to make. Her choice will affect not only her own life but the lives of future generations as well.

Having read most of Lucinda Riley’s novels now, I think she deals with multiple time periods very well, spending long enough in each one for us to become fully immersed in the story before switching to the other. I enjoyed both of the storylines, but Kitty’s was more dramatic, filled with plot twists and surprises (as well as one or two coincidences which I thought stretched things a bit too far, although that wasn’t a big problem). I loved reading about Kitty’s involvement in the pearl industry and about her friendship with another strong and courageous woman, her maid Camira. CeCe’s storyline kept me turning the pages too. There’s a subplot involving a man she meets in Thailand which feels slightly disconnected from the rest of the story, but once she leaves Thailand and arrives in Australia things become more interesting.

Until I read this book, CeCe was one of my least favourites of the sisters; because of the way she behaved whenever we saw her together with Star, I thought she was a bossy and controlling person, but it seems I had misjudged her. In this novel, we see a very different side of CeCe and discover just how dependent she had been on Star. She has a lot of insecurities as a result of her dyslexia and her appearance – she is convinced that her sisters are all much prettier than she is – and after a bad experience at art college she has even lost confidence in her abilities as an artist. As she gets closer to discovering her roots, CeCe begins to grow as a person; she finds some independence, makes new friends and enters into new relationships. The CeCe we leave behind at the end of the book seems a much happier person than the one we met at the start!

Earlier this week I said that I wanted to incorporate more books set outside my own country into my reading this year. The Pearl Sister takes place in two: Thailand and Australia. I particularly enjoyed the Australian settings – Broome and then Alice Springs – and I was as interested as Kitty and CeCe in learning about the history and culture of the Aboriginal people.

Having had the chance to get to know four of the D’Aplièse sisters now, I’m looking forward to the next two books on Tiggy and Electra.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.

12 thoughts on “The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

  1. Margaret says:

    This sounds fascinating. I have The Shadow Sister, so it’s good to know the books in the series can be read as standalones. But it must have more meaning to read them in order as you get to know the sisters and see their relationships develop.

    • Helen says:

      I do think it’s best to read them in order if possible, but as each book concentrates on a different sister it doesn’t matter too much. The Shadow Sister is probably my favourite so far – I hope you like it.

    • Jorie says:

      I definitely found the series to be wickedly delightful moving from the first novel into Pearl – as I was on the publisher’s blog tour. I hadn’t had the proper chance to read this series previously and getting the three prior books from my library was wonderful! I quite literally *devoured!* all four novels in five days! (technically I read 5 novels of 500+ pages in 5 days) I want to re-read Pearl sometimes as I missed some of the crucial bits in the past (noted on my review; ARC issue) — however, if you can spare the time, I do encourage you take the fuller journey… you’ll truly be left bewitched by the breadth of the series, the continuity and the wondrous way in which Ms Riley has writ this series!

  2. Jo says:

    I still haven’t read it yet! I know if I do, nothing else will get done. I also think there is that element of anticipation of not wanting to start because it will inevitably end. Daft when it’s only a book!

    • Helen says:

      I understand how you feel…I also have books on my shelf that I don’t want to start because I know I won’t want them to end! Looking forward to a book is part of the fun, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one when you do eventually read it.

  3. Jorie says:

    Hallo, Hallo Helen,

    As you might have inferred by my first note, I truly loved being mesmorised by the writings and scope of the #SevenSistersSeries by Ms Riley! The series entered my life at just the right moment, too! Even though at the time I thought five days to read all the books felt like a proper challenge I might not be able to handle — as I truly pushed my reading hours over the edge (lots of all-nighters and micro-blogging on Twitter!) — but ooh! The end result was so very cleansing as it was the first series I attempted to read after a 4wk virus which I never felt would end! This series was so stirring of my imagination and pulled me emotionally so deeply into the lives of the sisters themselves,… I felt it rounded out how I healed from the virus.

    I do admit, if your in a pinch, sometimes series can be read out of sequence, as I had to make that hard choice recently when I started reading the #SamuelCraddock series — I had to pick three out of six to read as I didn’t have the time I needed to seek all of them by ILL’ing (inter-library loaning). Blessedly it worked – as I must have intuited just the right ones to give me a baseline of the continuity – it was so impressive seeing how that worked out as I read the stories, too! We sometimes surprise ourselves, eh?

    Hmmm… I keep finding this in reader reactions about CeCe’s time in Thailand… and yet, for me that was one of the most pivotal moments of her coming to acceptance with her sexuality, her maturity as a woman and her self-confidence being separated from Star. She truly started to come into her own in Thailand… where she had a reprieve to simply be ‘CeCe’ without any preconceptions about what she had to do or whom she had to be,… which of course carried into her adventures in Australia. I felt it was a time for self-healing and self-exploration of who she was as a person and intuitive learner.

    I had a feeling there was more ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak with Star and CeCe; I held back judgement until I learn their fuller back-stories… as each of them had a lot of personal growth to undertake to embetter themselves but also, to learn that sometimes despite being as close as twins, it is healthy to walk alone as individuals, too. I’ll have to re-visit with you and read your thoughts on the rest of the series this week. Maybe you can visit with me as well – we can cross-share our reactions, thoughts, etc.

    Indeed! I am as well! I can’t wait for Tiggy’s story! I know the last novel will be the one we all breathe in a moment of ‘ahh and awe’ when we realise the final connection amongst the sisters and Pa Salt. Going through this literary journey is a blessing… so glad I found it and can start to find other readers who love it as much as I do! Cheers to us all for embracing Ms Riley’s vision!

    • Helen says:

      Hi Jorie, thanks for commenting. I’m glad you love the Seven Sisters series too – I’m impressed that you managed to read all of the books in five days, especially as they are all so long! I do sometimes read a series out of sequence but if possible I prefer to start at the beginning and read the books in order. I have been following the Seven Sisters since the first novel on Maia was published and there has been one book a year since then, so I’m envious that you could read them all at once without having to wait.

      I understand what you mean about CeCe’s time in Thailand. Yes, it was an important part of her personal development. I suppose I was just more interested in her experiences in Australia as they were more directly linked with Kitty’s story. It’s good that you had tried not to judge CeCe – I didn’t like her much at all in the earlier books, although towards the end of The Shadow Sister I could tell that there was much more to CeCe than met the eye. I will be interested to learn more about Electra as she is the other sister I have struggled to like so far. First, though, there is Tiggy’s book to look forward to!

      I will definitely come and visit your blog soon so I can read your thoughts on the series. 🙂

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