Author: Lucinda Riley
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
My Rating: 4 Crowns
Synopsis: An aristocratic French family, a legendary chateau, and buried secrets with the power to destroy two generations torn between duty and desire...
La Cote d'Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinieres, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent chateau and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt - and almost as many questions...
Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill's Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance's most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.
As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the chateau itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world's most beloved storytellers.
*Synopsis taken from the book jacket
My Review: The Lavender Garden is a touching and interesting story of two families coming together, in the past and semi-present, with heroics in one generation and a mystery in the other. We go back and forth from the present to the past in alternating sections, watching Emilie's journey of growing up as she learns about the activities of her family in France during World War II. Despite being from an important family, Emilie doesn't know much about her history, and it turns out, herself either.
Constance, on the other hand, is caught up in the war, separated from her husband and sent off to a foreign country on a very dangerous mission. Almost as soon as she makes it into France, she meets Edouard de la Martinieres, and while her mission is taken off course, her desire to fight for her country and end the war stay with her. Connie is an amazing woman, the sort I wish I knew and had the opportunity to be friends with at some point in my life.
I spent much of the novel wanting to shake some sense into Emilie - whether it's that I've seen too many movies, or I'm just not as trusting of a person as she is, I felt like I could see trouble coming for her and I couldn't do anything about it. She is pretty naive at the beginning of the novel, and I couldn't help but be frustrated as I read some of what she was going through.
Consequently, the flash back segments set during the war were much more interesting to me. I felt like I was able to get a reasonably realistic view into the war in Europe - or realistic for me, at least. Although I know that WWII occurred, and who the major players were, I feel relatively separated from it, both by generation and locale. The danger these characters were in was so palpable, I felt at times that I was in an air raid, at risk in a safe house, or stuck in a cellar somewhere. These scenes were all beautiful, heartbreaking, and I wish there had been more of them.
At the end of it all, while I didn't want to participate in Emilie's life much, I do want to read more novels about this time period in Europe, as well as visit a vineyard or five in France.
I highly encourage fans of historical fiction to pick this one up, it was lovely!
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