The Lavender Garden
Author: Lucinda Riley
Paperback: 399 pages
Published date: June 2013
FTC: Received from Atria Galley Alley
When I saw The Lavender Garden offered on Atria's Galley Alley I eagerly snapped it up. Last year I reviewed her novel The Orchid House and thoroughly enjoyed her writing which mixes stories of the past and the present. This novel tells the story of present day Emilie, a French woman who's inherited her family's chateau, and Constance, a British woman who is dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France during WWII. If you like Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, or any story which weaves the past and present, you'll enjoy Lucinda Riley's novels.
Synopsis from GoodReads:
La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château 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 château 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.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed reading The Lavender Garden. But...ok there are a few buts. Since I've only read one other Riley novel it's hard not to compare the two. I didn't think the writing was as smooth in The Lavender Garden as The Orchid House. My main issue was the modern day story of Emilie. For growing up in a wealthy French family, Emilie is such a wallflower. It was hard for me to find her sympathetic or believable. She falls for a guy named Sebastian and the way he talks is so unrealistic and I immediately got that yuck feeling for him. For loving both modern and past stories in The Orchid House, I was a bit disappointed with the modern story in this novel. That said, Ms Riley can really describe her environment and I totally picture the French countryside with Emilie's chateau. I definitely did some armchair traveling.
The novel picks up quickly though with Constance's story. I'm such a sucker for WWII French Resistance stories. This is where the writing gets better, the characters are deeper and less annoying, and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book. My only complaint is that the bad guys in both time periods are just a little too evil bad. I like my evil characters to be a bit more realistic and human. Most people aren't just pure evil and I didn't completely buy their reasons for being bad guys.
While I didn't enjoy The Lavender Garden as much as The Orchid House, I'm still a fan of Lucinda Riley's novels and really want to pick up a copy of The Girl on the Cliff. I've read great reviews of that one. I think Lucinda Riley is fast becoming one of my go-to authors for curl up and read books.
In the UK this book is called The Light Behind the Window. I think it's a more appropriate title I even like the cover a bit more. What do you think?