Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Book & Audio Review: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley


Susanna Kearsley
Narrator: Tim Campbell, Megan Tusing & Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Publication: Sourcebooks Landmark (August 7, 2018); Audible Studios (November 6, 2018)
Length: 452 p.; 13 hours and 38 minutes

 Secrets aren't such easy things to keep: It's late summer in 1759, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French-Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest.

As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to Lydia, the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde discovers that Jean-Philippe is a true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined.

Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind reveal the true story.

Susanna Kearsley's books combine the magic of Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy, the remarkable women of Lucinda Riley's Seven Sisters Series, and the intrigue of books by Simone St. James.

Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley's latest masterpiece will draw you in and never let you go, even long after you've turned the last page.

My Thoughts: Charley Van Hoek has come to Long Island to offer support to her niece after the sudden death of her father, Charley's brother Niels. Van Hoek is a famous name in the area. Her grandmother still lives there though Charley has never met her. Charley's father was opposed to the Vietnam War and left to live in Canada which caused a major rift in the family. 

Charley has taken a job as a museum curator at Wilde House, most famous for being the home of Benjamin Wilde a patriot during the Revolutionary War. But Charley becomes more fascinated with a ghost story she is told by one of the board, himself a descendent of the Wildes. It seems that during the French and Indian War the Wildes took in a couple of French officers who had given their paroles. Legend says that the daughter of the house Lydia fell in love with one of them who was murdered by Lydia's brother. Then Lydia herself died at age twenty-one. It is said that the French soldier wanders the woods lighting the way for Lydia to follow so that they could run away together. Charley would like to try to prove the story and add it to the story that the museum is to tell, but a few of the board members are quite opposed.

The story is told from three points of view. Charley has the present time and we watch her investigate the mystery, deal with her grief and her niece's, and fall in love with the contractor restoring the house. 

The second point of view is Lydia's. She tells of her life at the end of the French and Indian War as she deals with grief at the loss of her fiancĂ© and tries to help her brother Joseph heal from the mental damage done to him by being caught in one of the battles. She also finds herself dealing with the growing unrest in the colonies rising from the British Empire's unfair treatment. 

The final point of view is that of Jean-Philippe who is one of the two French lieutenants quartered with the Wildes. Jean-Baptiste is French-Canadian. He is an officer in the Troupes de la Marine and spent a year with the Seneca when he was ten. He is loyal to his King, brave, and kind. He also speaks no English and the Wildes no French. While the second officer there with him does speak English and can translate, Jean-Philippe gets most of his clues about his situation by observation. 

The story is filled with wonderful characters both in the past and in the present. It also shines a light on some things the history books often miss. I wasn't really aware that slavery was a fact in both the Northern United States and in Canada. And while I had heard about the Acadians, I didn't know that any of them went to New York. I knew little about the French and Indian War and little about the build-up to the American Revolution. While being completely engaged in the stories in the present and the past, I still learned a lot about history while reading this story.

I loved the romances and the parallels between the two time periods as Lydia gradually comes to love Jean-Philippe while Charley falls in love with Sam. 

This was another excellent story by Kearsley and it was well-narrated by Tim Campbell, Megan Tusing and Sarah Mollo-Christensen.

Favorite Quote:
"If life has taught me one thing only, it is never to look back. Be happy where you are. Grow roots where you are standing. If you have the ones you love, then you have everything."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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