3 May 2016

Review #417: House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A house with old furniture has no need of ghosts to be haunted.”

----Hope Mirrlees

Nicola Cornick, an English international best-selling writer, pens her new deeply touching yet intriguing historical fiction, House of Shadows, that unfolds two stories layered over one another centered around an old house with three women from three different timeline connected by an antique mirror, an old diary and with their same-pattern of love stories. This is the perfect kind of tale which demands a readers to get lost into its elegance, beauty and evocative history on a sunny afternoon.


London, 1662:
There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

Present day: Holly is in search of his brother, Ben, who disappears while researching his family tree in the Ashdown House in Oxfordshire. That is when Holly stumbles upon Lavinia's diary that takes the story back in the 1800s as Lavinia narrates her story of life along with two precious yet cursed possessions that claimed the lives of many in the past as well as in her time too, and from there the story moves back to the 1600s to the winter Queen and the cursed objects that she desperately needs to get rid off.

This is the kind of novel which can exclusively enjoyed by a historical fiction buff, as three stories are laced with family history, family artifacts with a tang of love stories that are expressively depicted. Well, as for me, i enjoyed this novel thoroughly and was transported to the Ashdown Houses and along with the shifting timeline, I too moved along with it. The book cover image is taken by the author herself when she was working in the Ashdown Houses ans researching its history. And just one look at that book cover, is bound to elude the readers inside the very core of the story.

The author's writing style is exquisite and is laced with deep, heart-felt emotions that has a power to make the readers move deeply. The narrative is equally enthralling and will keep the readers glued to the very heart of the story. The story is addictive from the very first page itself even though the author has narrated her story with so many layers those are peeled away page-by-page. The pacing is quite fast despite the fact that the author has penned the story with in-depth details that will make the readers experience the story with their very own eyes.

The author captures an old house that stores heritage, lost stories, with the atmospheric feel that anyone gets when they enter an old house. Through the story the author also vividly arrests that how an old piece of heritage becomes an antique and how hold so many stories passed down from one generation.

The characters a re very much inspired from the real-life characters who were once a part of the Ashdown House. The three main and central women of the stories go through a lot of pain and aspire for one thing that binds the three women tightly with a knot is love, an old mirror and a cursed pearl. The demeanor of each and every character a re quite strikingly and the author has etched out her characters with lots of realism into them.

In a nutshell, this compelling yet poignant and at times frightening story calls out to every historical fiction lovers out there to read it and enjoy its glory forever.

Verdict: Historians are going to adore this book and as for regular readers, they are going to treasure this masterpiece.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Nicola Cornick, for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
International bestselling author Nicola Cornick writes romantic historical mysteries and witty and passionate Regency romance. She studied History at London and Oxford and was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on historical heroes. It was a tough study but someone had to do it. Nicola has a “double life” as a writer and guide at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown House.
Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog.
Visit her here

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