I wanted to find a cozy historical romance/ Outlander-esque read for the holidays and this one did the trick. This is definitely a “twinkle lights on, hot cup of tea, warm fleece blanket and PJs all day” approved title. Oh, and it’s Diana Gabaldon approved which is what put this on my radar to begin with.
The novel is set in Long Island and bounces between present day and 1759. The historical plot line centers on the Wilde family amidst the French and Indian War. Grieving the loss of their matriarch as well as the fiance of Lydia Wilde, the family is taxed with taking in two French officers as paroled prisoners of war. (This was an interesting bit of history that I did not know about. In a gentlemanly honors sort of thing, captured/surrendered officers of the French and Indian war were often billeted in the homes of their “enemy” until they could be sent back to Canada or France). With the eldest Wilde son Joseph suffering from this war’s equivalent to shell-shock, providing shelter and sustenance to French soldiers makes for a tense household.
The present day plot line focuses on Charley Van Hoek who has taken on the job as curator of the Wilde House museum. Grieving the loss of her brother, she takes the job to be nearer to her niece. However, the job puts her in the shadow of her Father’s estranged family as well as up against antagonistic museum board members.
While gathering information and artifacts for the museum, Charley begins to unravel the true story behind the town’s Wilde family ghost story. Did Lydia Wilde find solace with one of the French soldiers taken in by her family only to see him killed by her older brother? Or, is the resident museum ghost trying to set the record straight?
While the historical story was more interesting to me, the present day one grew on me as I read. The themes of grief, heartbreak and war in both of the stories tied them together without being too forced. It’s about the power that family has in shaping how we view ourselves and what course our lives take. It’s also about our stories and how they are altered by time.
I do have to say that it was slow going at first which I find tends to happen with epic historical fiction/romancey type books. Laying down the groundwork, introduction of characters and building up to the slow burn of developing romance can sometimes drag a bit. I am always willing to persevere through the initial lull to get to the swoon-y good parts that come from good character development and furtive across the room glances. This one paid off in spades.