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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

Title:  The Midnight Rose
Author: Lucinda Riley
Publisher:  Published March 18 2014 by Atria Books
ASIN: 9781476703572
Pages:   496 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: women’s fiction, historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 2.5 crowns

In the heyday of the British Raj, eleven-year-old Anahita, from a noble but impoverished family, forms a lifelong friendship with the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of Indian royalty. As the princess's official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of WorldWar I. There, she meets young Donald Astbury, reluctant heir to the magnificent, remote Astbury, and his scheming mother.

Ninety years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. But when her turbulent relationship with her equally famous boyfriend takes an unexpected turn, she's relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to a distant corner of the English countryside. Shortly after filming begins at the now-crumbling Astbury Hall, Ari Malik, Anahita's great-grandson, arrives unexpectedly, on a quest for his family's past. What he and Rebecca discover begins to unravel the dark secrets that haunt the Astbury dynasty. . .

My thoughts:

I found this to be a bit of a frustrating read. Dual timelines can be very tricky to execute well, and unfortunately, I don’t feel this author was able to carry it off successfully. The book is very slow to start and doesn’t really pick up interest until the past story begins to be explored. Anahita is an appealing and interesting character, and the story of her life and travels from India to England, France, and eventually back home, is compelling and poignant. The descriptions of India are especially lush and evocative.

The modern-day story, however, is much thinner, overly drawn out and repetitive, with little substantial content. This portion of the novel is not nearly as well-written, with flat and rather stereotypical characters, and the dialogue, in particular, feels terribly stilted and unnatural. The resolution of this storyline combines elements of the 'over-the-top' bizarre with the utterly predictable, and ultimately I found it to be unbelievable and extremely disappointing. Partway through the book I began to simply skim these sections in order to return to Anni’s story, because sadly, they failed to touch me or to resonate in the same way her story did.

"(Her) platitudes fell on me like ineffectual raindrops in a drought, not touching my inner core which was so in need of redemption."

Had the author eliminated the contemporary storyline altogether and instead focused the entire book on Ahahita’s tale, I feel this could have been quite an engaging piece of historical fiction. As it stands, however, the modern-day elements distract and detract from the overall appeal and effectiveness of the narrative and extend the book unnecessarily. Still, if one can overlook the shortcomings, this is a worthwhile, if somewhat long, read due to the strength of the historical tale alone.

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