For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a soft spot for historical fiction novels. The intrigue and mystery of a foreign time period always draws me in and makes the plot of these novels that much better. Rachel Hore’s A Gathering Storm is no different, and I found myself incredibly immersed in this harrowing mystery.
Lucy Cardwell’s father has died. When looking through his papers, she finds that he started doing research on Rafe Ashton, a long-lost uncle. Determined to pick up the pieces of her father’s search, she sets out to find out more about this man, Lucy decides to visit her father’s childhood home, Carlyon Manor. While there, she is instructed to talk to an old woman by the name of Beatrice, who would most likely know the story of Carlyon Manor and its inhabitants. Beatrice tells her that she normally played with all the children of the Manor at that time (in the 1930’s), especially Angelina Wincanton, Lucy’s grandmother. Beatrice also tells Lucy that she and the others had some excitement one summer, as she rescued a man named Rafe Ashton from certain death as he was drowning in rough seas. After this daring rescue, Beatrice fell in love with Rafe, yet the impending second world war threw their plans into certain turmoil. Will Beatrice be able to give Lucy the information she was looking for, or will Lucy’s world be turned upside down with Beatrice’s long-buried secret?
The pacing of the novel could use a bit of work. The first third builds up fairly slowly. It’s a lot of character development, that while necessary could have been sped up slightly. When you reach the last third of the book the pace quickens rapidly and hooks you in until you finish. The weaving from the past to the present would have been of better use if Lucy had a more integral/interesting part to play in the plot. I understand her use in the development, but not much really happens with her side storyline. It seems that Hore lacked interest in developing her more. I would have liked to see an epilogue that took place six months/a year later. It would have given the reader a chance to see how she dealt with the big reveal.
As I started reading this novel, another kept popping in my mind, The House at Riverton. That novel, as well as A Gathering Storm, were both written with from the point of view of having a huge mystery looming over you the entire time. You know there are things that haven’t been said yet and secrets that have yet to come to light. You can tell that Hore is an incredibly gifted writer by the simple fact that you’re not bored by all of the back story leading up to the big reveal. Each piece of the story is meticulously planned out so as not to give anything away prematurely. As in any mystery you start guessing what the big secret is, but it’s not until the end that you find out how close your assumptions were. The ending leaves you completely breathless, gasping for air, amazed at the cruel nature of people. I’m still reeling from it.
All in all the facts are these: Hore is a gifted storyteller, giving us a fascinating look into World War II England and the behind-the-scenes people who never got the glory they so justly deserved. If you enjoy a good suspenseful mystery injected with tons of historical information this is definitely the book for you!
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my thirty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
This is my tenth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge