Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley
Atria Books
June 2013
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Source: Publicist

An aristocratic French family, a legendary château, and buried secrets with the power to destroy two generations torn between duty and desire. 

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.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Lucinda Riley and I was captivated from the beginning. I enjoy reading stories set during WWII and find with each one that I learn something new. In this case, it was about how the Resistance force used anyone they felt to be qualified to work as spies, including women.

Utilizing what is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways of telling a story, Lucinda Riley takes two stories in two different time periods and weaves them together. The modern-day story line focuses on Emilie, who is dealing with the aftermath of her mother's death. Coming from a wealthy family, she is trying to figure out what to do with her inheritance - a chateau and vineyard, along with a ton of debt. During a trip to the chateau and the small town where it's located, she runs into Sebastian, whom we come to find out has a connection to the family home. His grandmother, Constance, stayed at the chateau during the war.

Constance is the focus of the story set in the past - during 1944 to be exact. With her husband away at war, she fills her time working in the war office in England and is soon tapped to become a spy in France. Trained with a motley group, it is quite clear she has an aptitude for this and is quickly sent to begin work. Unfortunately, her contacts have been discovered and she is forced to become enmeshed in a rather prominent family - who is none other than Emilie's father. 

Seamlessly moving back and forth between both time periods, secrets and connections are revealed as to why things are the way they are. Along the way, we see romances blossom, alliances formed, a mystery solved and family relationships revealed. It's easy to become captivated by both main female characters and to be mistrusting of other character when it comes to some of the relationships the develop.

Every once in a while, an author creates a character that you just causes you to question his or her motives. There is such a character in this book and not wanting to give anything away, I'll refrain from revealing who. Suffice it to say, my gut reaction to this character was spot on in the end!

I love reading about the history of old houses and families, and the way the wars affected the every day people. This book does so in such a way that you find yourself completely wrapped up in what's going on. Every time it switched from one story to the other, I was left wanting more and couldn't wait for it to switch back.

How do you feel about dual-time narratives?



  1. Thanks for your great review. I've been curious about this book and have it on my to read list.

    1. It was a great read. Have you read anything else by her?

  2. This sounds so lovely. And of course, I adore lavender. Wonderful review!

  3. I love loved that book! I love dual-time narratives, Kate Morton uses it all the time

  4. Sounds good and I do so like the cover and the title!

  5. I've also started to really like narrative with two time periods like this. It's so fun to see how the two stories will connect :)


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