A collection of 18th century books offers Jude an opportunity to combine work and a visit to her family in Norfolk. She works as a valuer at a London auction house, and it has been a while since she went home.
This is the opening for an engaging story about the links between past and present.
Hore quickly establishes Jude as a likeable character - a warm, caring woman dealing with some real sadness. Her husband Mark died suddenly in an accident a few years ago. Jude is successful in her job and has a boyfriend, but is the relationship with Caspar going anywhere?
Starbrough Hall turns out to be a grand old house with an interesting history. As well as the collection of 18th century astrology books she is valuing, which belonged to a man called Anthony Wickham, Jude finds a diary written by a girl who was brought up as Wickham's daughter. She has learned all about astrology and other subjects considered useful to help with this study. Then, though, events described in her writings take a darker turn.
Jude is also visiting family, staying with her sister Claire and Claire's young daughter, Summer, and spending time with her grandmother. Jude and Claire have a lot of affection for each other but there is also some tension in their relationship, as Jude comes to be aware that Claire has some secrets, and perhaps some jealousy. There is also the charming Euan, who writes books about natural history and seems really interested in Jude's discoveries.
All this material comes together in a very pleasant and entertaining read - a hint of modern day romance, an interesting historical story to uncover, and it later turns out, lots of surprising revelations and coincidences. The characters were appealing enough that I was happy to believe the way the various strands of the story all conveniently came together. There were also plenty of issues to be resolved to bring dramatic tension to both past and present strands of the story and make this a real page turner.
This book is not very original and the story is sometimes rather predictable. There is some heavy handed foreshadowing at the start of the book, including this ludicrous sentence in Chapter 1: "It was at that moment that the Hand of Destiny struck". However, I didn't notice these lapses into bad writing too much when I was reading on to find out what happened next, and I really enjoyed A Place of Secrets and look forward to reading Rachel Hore's previous 3 novels.
A Place of Secrets is one of many books using grand old houses as a starting point for stories about the links between past and present.
This is a slightly different version of the review I originally wrote for www.thebookbag.co.uk
This book has a cover price of £6.99 but is currently widely available much cheaper as it has been chosen as a Richard and Judy Club read - Amazon's price is £3.15.
Format: Paperback 456 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books July 2010