The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley

This is the sixth book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series inspired by the mythology of the star cluster known as the Pleiades or ‘the seven sisters’. Each novel tells the story of one of the adopted daughters of a mysterious billionaire known as Pa Salt who dies at the beginning of the series, leaving each sister some clues to help them trace their biological parents.

The girls all grew up together at Atlantis, Pa Salt’s estate by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, but they were born in different countries and came from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds. They are each named after one of the stars in the cluster – Maia, Alycone (Ally), Asterope (Star), Celaeno (CeCe), Taygete (Tiggy) and Electra. There should have been a seventh sister, whose name would have been Merope, but for some reason which hasn’t yet been revealed, only six girls were actually brought home to Atlantis by Pa Salt.

In the previous books in the series, we have heard Maia’s story, Ally’s, Star’s, CeCe’s and Tiggy’s. This latest novel, The Sun Sister, tells the story of Electra, and I will admit that I was not particularly looking forward to this one. Whenever Electra briefly appeared in one of the other sisters’ books, she came across as a very unattractive personality and I wasn’t really relishing the thought of following her throughout an entire novel. On the other hand, I had initially felt the same about CeCe and ended up liking her once I had read The Pearl Sister, so I hoped the same would happen here.

At the beginning of The Sun Sister, which opens in 2008, shortly after Pa Salt’s death, Electra is living in New York City, where she has built a successful career for herself as a model. Yet despite her beauty, fame and wealth, we quickly discover that Electra is not a very happy young woman. For a while now, she has been relying on drugs and alcohol to get through the day and the loss of her adoptive father, whom she feels was disappointed in her, has left her struggling to cope. To make things worse, she is aware that all five of her older sisters have by now traced their own origins and come to terms with who they really are. Then, just as she is reaching her absolute lowest ebb, she is visited by Stella Jackson, the grandmother she didn’t know she had – and the story Stella tells her will literally help to save her life.

Stella’s story involves another of Electra’s ancestors – Cecily Huntley-Morgan, a young American woman who, in the 1930s, goes to stay with her godmother in Kenya after having her heart broken not once but twice. Living amongst the notorious Happy Valley set, by the shores of Lake Naivasha, Cecily falls in love with the landscape and the way of life. She ends up staying in Kenya for much longer than she had planned, until she meets a troubled Maasai girl and agrees to help her – a decision that will change the course of Cecily’s life once again.

The two storylines alternate with each other throughout the book, but each section is long enough that we can become fully immersed in one character’s story before moving on to the next. Of the two, Cecily’s was my favourite; in fact, it might even be my favourite of all the historical storylines in this series so far. I loved the descriptions of Kenya and the way some of the real incidents and people from the Happy Valley society were woven into the story. Although I didn’t agree with all of Cecily’s decisions (and I was disappointed in her treatment of a certain person in her life towards the end of the book), I did like her and sympathised with some of the situations she found herself in.

But I also enjoyed reading about Electra and despite my dislike of her at the beginning, I soon began to warm to her and to understand why she behaved the way she did. It was clear that Electra had always felt slightly out of place in her family, so it was good to see her bonding with her eldest sister, Maia, in this book. Now I hope she can resolve her differences with CeCe in the final book!

After not really looking forward to this book, it turned out to be one of the best in the series. Now I’m very curious about the seventh one, which is going to have to provide answers to all of the questions and mysteries raised in the previous six. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for it.

The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

It’s 2006 and Posy Montague has made the difficult decision to put her Suffolk home, Admiral House, up for sale. She doesn’t want to – it has belonged to her family for generations and holds lots of memories – but as she is approaching the age of seventy she has had to accept that the house is too big and too expensive to maintain. There is a chance that it could still be kept in the family, as her eldest son Sam is interested in acquiring the house for his new property development company, but Posy is not too hopeful as she knows that all of Sam’s previous business ventures have ended in failure. Then a face from her past reappears – Freddie – and gives Posy something else to think about. Why did Freddie break off their relationship without explanation so many years ago? Is it too late for them to try again?

To find the answers, we have to go back in time to the 1940s, when Posy is a child growing up at Admiral House. She shares a close bond with her father, a butterfly collector who instils in her a lifelong love of nature, but when he goes away to fly a Spitfire in the war, Posy’s idyllic childhood is destroyed. Exploring the gardens one day, she enters her father’s private ‘butterfly’ room in the Folly, where she makes the upsetting discovery that he has not been setting his specimens free as she believed, but preserving them behind glass. But does Admiral House hide an even darker secret – and if so, what is it?

Like most of Lucinda Riley’s novels, The Butterfly Room moves between two time periods, so that the story unfolding in the past sheds light on the story taking place in the present. Usually I would prefer the one set in the past, but in this case I felt that it existed mainly to provide some background for the characters rather than being an interesting historical storyline in its own right unlike, for example, the wartime espionage thread in The Light Behind the Window.

Surprisingly for me, then, it was the modern day narrative that I found myself drawn into more fully. I was particularly interested in the story of Amy, trapped in an unhappy and abusive marriage to Posy’s son Sam, and not sure how to get herself and her children out of it. Meanwhile, Tammy, the girlfriend of Posy’s other son, Nick, is also having doubts about her relationship, but for a different reason: she’s convinced that Nick is hiding something from her. It’s obvious to the reader what his secret is (or at least, it was obvious to this reader) and that was my main problem with this book – that too much of the plot was predictable. However, the revelation of Freddie’s secret came as a surprise to me, which I was pleased about; I’d had a few guesses but didn’t get it completely right!

This is not a favourite Lucinda Riley novel – apart from the points I’ve mentioned above, I thought the book was too long for the story that was being told – but in general it kept me entertained and was a change from her Seven Sisters books. I have the next book in that series, The Sun Sister, waiting to be read soon.

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

This is the fifth book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series based loosely on the mythology of the star cluster known as Pleiades or ‘the seven sisters’. Each novel tells the story of one of the adopted daughters of a mysterious millionaire known as Pa Salt.

The girls come from different cultures and backgrounds, but all grew up together on Pa Salt’s estate in Switzerland. They are each named after one of the stars in the cluster – Maia, Alycone (Ally), Asterope (Star), Celaeno (CeCe), Taygete (Tiggy) and Electra D’Aplièse. You may have noticed that there are only six sisters; for some reason, which we don’t yet know, a seventh was never adopted. This is one of many mysteries running throughout the series.

At the beginning of the first novel, The Seven Sisters, Pa Salt died, leaving each sister some clues to help them trace their biological parents. So far we have heard Maia’s story, Ally’s, Star’s and CeCe’s; now, in The Moon Sister, it’s the turn of Tiggy. All of the books in the series work as standalones and it’s not essential to read them in order, but this book does overlap with one or two of the others and advances some of the storylines begun earlier in the series.

The Moon Sister follows Tiggy as she begins a new job in the Scottish Highlands, where she has been employed by Charlie Kinnaird to establish a colony of wildcats on his estate. With her degree in zoology and her love of nature, Tiggy is perfect for the job and quickly settles in, getting to know the animals on the Kinnaird estate and forming a close friendship with Cal, the man whose cottage she shares. The peace is disturbed, however, when Charlie arrives with his troubled teenage daughter and his spiteful, vindictive wife.

Away from the problems in the Kinnaird household, Tiggy meets Chilly, an elderly gypsy who lives alone on the estate. It seems that fate must have brought them together, because Chilly is the one person who knows the truth of Tiggy’s origins and can point her in the direction of her birth family. From Chilly, Tiggy learns of her ancestor, Lucia Albaycin, a famous Spanish flamenco dancer. But Chilly doesn’t know everything, so to discover the rest of her family’s story, Tiggy must travel to Spain and visit the gypsy community in the caves of Sacromonte.

Like the others in the series, this book is divided between the modern day storyline and the historical one. We spend a decent amount of time with each character before switching to the other, which means we can become absorbed in both stories. Lucia’s story is fascinating – I can’t say that I liked her, as I found her very self-centred and driven by ambition at the expense of everything else – but she is certainly a strong character, whose power and passion as a person is matched by the power and passion of her dancing. It was interesting to watch as she (along with her equally selfish and irresponsible father) start from nothing to build a successful career in flamenco which takes them all over the world. Meanwhile, in Sacromonte near Granada, we follow the sad story of how the lives of the other gitanos (Spanish gypsies) are affected by first the Spanish Civil War and then the onset of the Second World War, leaving their community changed beyond recognition.

It was good to get to know Tiggy better too – and she is much easier to like than Lucia. The other d’Aplieses think of her as the sensitive, spiritual sister…the sort of person who wants to help everyone around her, whether human or animal, and who cares deeply about nature and the environment, trying hard to resist temptation and stick to her vegan diet! Of all her sisters, Tiggy is particularly close to Ally, whom we met in The Storm Sister, and it was lovely to see her again in this book. The one part of Tiggy’s story that didn’t really work for me was the romance. I felt that she and the man concerned hadn’t spent enough time together for their love for each other to develop, so I didn’t become as emotionally invested in their relationship as I would have liked.

The next book is going to tell Electra’s story and I have to admit I’m very apprehensive about that one. From the little we’ve seen and heard of Electra so far, her personality strikes me as very unappealing. However, we are given lots of intriguing clues in The Moon Sister regarding Pa Salt, his death and some strange occurrences at his home, Atlantis, so I’m hoping Electra will fill in some more of the gaps for us. I’m also curious about the rich businessman Zed, who keeps popping up throughout the series, trying to worm his way into the lives of first Maia, then Tiggy and now, it seems, Electra. For those reasons, I will be looking out for the next book, which I’m hoping will be published later this year.

The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley

I have been enjoying following Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series over the last few years and am looking forward to starting the newest book, The Moon Sister, which is due to be published later this year. The Love Letter is not part of that series, though – it’s a reissue of one of her earlier novels, first published in 2000 as Seeing Double under the name of Lucinda Edmonds. As explained in the brief Author’s Note which opens the novel, Seeing Double was not a success on its original release, probably because of poor timing – it wasn’t long since the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and the plot involves a scandal within a fictional British royal family. Lucinda and her publisher obviously feel that enough time has now passed to give the book a second chance and a new look and title.

The Love Letter is set in 1996 and begins with young journalist Joanna Haslam reporting on the funeral of Sir James Harrison, one of the most famous actors of his generation, who has died at the age of ninety-five. The funeral is a star-studded affair, attended by celebrities including Harrison’s granddaughter Zoe, a successful actress in her own right, and his film-producer grandson Marcus. The service has only just begun when Rose, an elderly woman sitting beside Joanna, is suddenly taken ill. Joanna offers to accompany the old lady home in a taxi, unaware that by doing so she is taking the first step in a sequence of events that could destroy the British establishment. Within days Rose is dead, but not before sending Joanna a letter, the contents of which hold clues to a shocking secret that some very powerful people will stop at nothing to keep concealed.

This is a very different sort of book from Lucinda Riley…a combination of spy thriller, mystery and romance. I have to admit, I found the plot a bit far-fetched and not always very plausible, but it’s certainly a page-turner – it was difficult to stop reading until I had found out what the letter meant and what the secret was. I did manage to work some of it out for myself (especially as we are told in the Author’s Note before we even start reading that the story is going to involve members of the royal family), but not all of it, because new pieces of the puzzle are being revealed right up to the end of the novel. For a book with six hundred pages, it’s a quicker read than you might expect and a lot of fun to read too, with some surprising plot twists and characters who aren’t quite what they seem.

Unlike the Seven Sisters novels with their dual timeline stories, The Love Letter is set entirely in the modern day (although events from the past provide the answers to the mystery). Having said that, I suppose 1996 is not exactly the ‘modern day’ anymore and the absence of recent technology from the characters’ lives does set the story firmly in its time period. As for the implications for the royal family, I don’t think people would be too bothered by a novel like this today, but I can see why it might have been controversial on publication eighteen years ago.

I think one of Lucinda Riley’s strengths as a writer is in creating characters the reader can really care about and like – and there are several of those in this novel. I loved Joanna from the beginning; she’s such an ordinary, down-to-earth person with the sort of hopes, ambitions and problems that are easy to identify with. I also liked Zoe, who is embroiled in a secret and possibly dangerous love affair, and I became very fond of her brother Marcus too. The only one of the main characters I didn’t warm to was Simon, Joanna’s best friend, although I did have some sympathy with the internal conflicts he faced in trying to choose between his job and his friendships.

The developments towards the end of the book became a bit too dramatic for me, but I was happy with the final few twists which led to the conclusion I’d been hoping for. I’m looking forward to getting back to the Seven Sisters – I have a copy of The Moon Sister which I’m planning to read soon – but The Love Letter made an interesting change.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing a copy of this book for review.

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.

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

the-shadow-sister-lucinda-rileyThis is the third 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 an enigmatic 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. 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.

The first book in the series, The Seven Sisters, tells Maia’s story, while the second, The Storm Sister, tells Ally’s. In The Shadow Sister, we get to know more about the third sister, Star. This novel works as a standalone, but it also follows a similar pattern to the first two, beginning just after the sisters learn of Pa Salt’s death and each receive a set of clues which he has left behind to help them discover the secrets of their origins. Star’s clues include a black panther figurine and the address of a bookshop in London. As fate would have it, she is about to move into a new London apartment with her sister CeCe, who is due to begin an art course at college. Star, who is a shy, quiet person, would prefer to live a simple life in the countryside, but she and CeCe have always done everything together – which usually means doing whatever CeCe wants.

In London, it’s not long before Star’s curiosity gets the better of her and she finds herself pushing open the door to Arthur Morston Books ready to take the first step towards uncovering the truth about her past. As Star begins to investigate, she learns of a possible connection with Flora MacNichol who grew up at Esthwaite Hall in England’s Lake District in the early 20th century and became a friend of the children’s author Beatrix Potter. With the help of Orlando Forbes, the eccentric owner of Arthur Morston Books, and his brother, the intriguingly named Mouse, Star attempts to piece Flora’s story together and in the process finds the courage to step out of CeCe’s shadow and take control of her own destiny.

I have enjoyed all three books in this series so far, but I think this one is my favourite. How could I not love a book that’s set (at least partly) in a bookshop? The characters Star meets on her journey of discovery are wonderful too – they are all so well drawn, from the melodramatic Orlando and the troubled Mouse to their artist cousin Marguerite and her little boy, Rory, who loves Superman and making chocolate brownies. I couldn’t work out, at first, exactly how Star could be linked to these people, but I wanted, desperately, for her to find a place within this family – and the relationships do all become clear eventually, with a few surprises along the way!

Flora’s story is a fascinating one too, filled with love, betrayal and deception and encompassing some of the most prominent figures in Edwardian society, including King Edward VII himself, and his mistress, Alice Keppel. I was as engrossed in Flora’s storyline as I was in Star’s; usually when a novel is set in more than one time period I find that I prefer one over the other, but with this book I enjoyed reading about both periods equally.

I was sorry that we saw nothing of Maia, Tiggy or Electra in The Shadow Sister, but it was nice to see a few appearances from Ally, the heroine of the previous novel, and to briefly pick up some of the threads from her story again. The title of book four will be The Pearl Sister and it will focus on CeCe. I was intrigued by CeCe’s character in this book – while I initially found her bossy and controlling, I can see now that there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye and I’m looking forward to getting to know her.

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

My Commonplace Book: August 2016

A summary of this month’s reading, in words and pictures.

commonplace book
Definition:
noun
a notebook in which quotations, poems, remarks, etc, that catch the owner’s attention are entered

Collins English Dictionary

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Margaret Beaufort

She could have asked, of course, but she would not get any answers. She thought of all the words that went unspoken in the world, throughout time: what happened to them, where did they go? What would happen if they were all spoken? How different would the world be then?

Succession by Livi Michael (2014)

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“Molly, I cannot have you speaking so to Lady Harriet,” said Mrs. Gibson, as soon as she was left alone with her stepdaughter. “You would never have known her at all if it had not been for me, and don’t be always putting yourself into our conversation.”

“But I must speak if she asks me questions,” pleaded Molly.

“Well! if you must, you must, I acknowledge. I’m candid about that at any rate. But there’s no need for you to set up to have an opinion at your age.”

“I don’t know how to help it,” said Molly.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1865)

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I know very little about my mother, and have no family to help me fill in the gaps. I am an only child and my father’s two elder sisters died several years ago. I am intrigued by this photograph and would like to find out more about the people in it…I hope you don’t mind me asking all these questions. Any information you could offer would mean a great deal to me.

The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern (2011)

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Penny dreadful

Since cheap magazines were traded on street corners, in playgrounds and factory yards, each issue could have many readers. Penny fiction was Britain’s first taste of mass-produced popular culture for the young, and was often held responsible for the decay of literature and of morality.

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale (2016)

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It can’t have been much of a life, can it? for a woman of over seventy, living alone in lodgings, in debt to her landlady, wearing our cast-off clothes, trotting round after jobs that never materialised, writing articles that nobody would publish, and eating bread and margarine for supper. There really was something rather pathetic about that awful room of hers – crowded with papers full of impossible schemes…I don’t suppose there can ever have been anyone whose life was much less important, or who had less influence on anybody else.

Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby (1931)

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It was something he’d learned in the war: only think about what is directly in front of you. No, that wasn’t quite right. He’d had to plan ahead all the time…but not to feel ahead. For a man of Giles’s far-seeing, intricate temperament that had been a hard lesson. But Simon, he could see, knew it by instinct.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore (2016)

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Red Cocker Spaniel

Hers was the pale worn face of an invalid, cut off from air, light, freedom. His was the warm ruddy face of a young animal; instinct with health and energy. Broken asunder, yet made in the same mould, could it be that each completed what was dormant in the other? She might have been — all that; and he — But no. Between them lay the widest gulf that can separate one being from another. She spoke. He was dumb. She was woman; he was dog. Thus closely united, thus immensely divided, they gazed at each other.

Flush by Virginia Woolf (1933)

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“I play,” he once said to me, “for the best musician in the world – he may not be there, but I play as if he were”. I thought to myself that he was always there when Sebastian was playing, but I did not say so, for that was the kind of thing which did not please him.

The Little Chronicle of Magdalena Bach by Esther Meynell (1925)

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It is quite beautiful, a metaphoric triumph over adversity, with every millimetre of its gnarled trunk proudly displaying its struggle.
I wonder now why humans hate the map of their life that appears on their own bodies, when a tree like this, or a faded painting, or a near-derelict uninhabited building is lauded for its antiquity.

The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley (2016)

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I cannot say – I had misjudged him before – yet I do think, in that moment, he had his battle to fight – one fierce as his fiercest charge. Cosmas waited, devouring him with his eyes. And I waited; a sudden, amazing sense springing up in me, that if he yielded, as I had so desired him to yield, this King who might be would never be the Prince whom I had served and loved.

Rupert, by the Grace of God by Dora Greenwell McChesney (1899)

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louisedelavalliere

“Life, monsieur,” said Planchet, laughing, “is capital which a man ought to invest as sensibly as he possibly can.”

Louise de la Vallière by Alexandre Dumas (1850)

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Hélène wondered whether the lady was protesting a bit too much in order to convince her, or to convince herself. Could she start a new life at her age? You can start a new game of cards or redecorate the living room, but life itself, can you do that again?

The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat (2013)

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And now? Overseas in England, his brethren in the faith were fighting, were dying, to achieve the freedom which he had sought. Before his eyes rose the grey, thronged sea-port town he knew, the richer fields, the narrower skies; and yet here, in this strenuous bleakness, he had found his soul.

Cornet Strong of Ireton’s Horse by Dora Greenwell McChesney (1903)

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Love for her was to be a slow, ripening process, the fruit of many meetings and mutual interests. She had never believed in love at first sight. That surely, she told herself, was an invention of novelists, whose business it was to make everything slightly larger than life.

The Jewelled Snuff Box by Alice Chetwynd Ley (1959)

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Fountains Abbey 1

The queen responded a week later. “We are sending a young gentleman up to Yorkshire to resolve the matter. We do not wish to hear from you again.”

It was a measure of Mr Aislabie’s poor standing at court that I was the young gentleman in question.

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson (2016)

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Favourite books this month: Wives and Daughters, Flush and Exposure