Nicola Cornick’s House of Shadows is one of those books that you won’t be able to put down- but wish would never end. Simultaneously riveting and an easy read, if you’re a fellow fan of historical fiction, I’d highly recommend getting your hands on this story the moment it becomes available on October 17, 2017.
House of Shadows entwines romance, history, and a hint of the supernatural as it weaves between the 17th century at the court of the Winter Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, the memoirs of an early 19th century courtesan, and a current missing persons investigation. Connecting them all are the mysteries of Ashdown House. This story of star-crossed lovers is laced with tragedy and reels you in with the need to “just read the next page to see what happens”- until you realise you’ve devoured chapters.
When professional glass engraver Holly Ansell receives a frantic, midnight phone call from her young niece, she learns her brother Ben has gone missing. Holly makes the drive from London to Oxfordshire, expecting to find her brother home and for it all to have been a misunderstanding, but when she arrives there’s no trace of him. She takes it upon herself to try to unravel the ever-knotting mysteries surrounding her brother’s disappearance, since the local police are less than inclined to devote resources to finding the whereabouts of a grown man whose wife suspects him of infidelities. The only concrete clues she can find lie in his sudden and uncharacteristic interest in the Ansell family history. Not knowing what else to do, Holly picks up Ben’s research from where he left off. Her search leads her deep into the lives of Elizabeth of Bohemia and courtesan Lavinia Flyte, and the supernaturally powerful artifacts connecting them. Soon the only thing clear is that Holly must uncover the mysteries of the past if she has any hope of revealing the truth behind her brother’s disappearance.
Not only does Cornick cater to fans of romance with the ups and downs of each respective, century-spanning love story, but House of Shadows is also very keen on the historical aspects. It delves into the lesser-known life of Queen Elizabeth, sister of King Charles the First, and her role as the wife of ill-fated Elector Palatine Frederick of Bohemia. It also explores her entanglement with the builder of Ashdown House, William the First Earl of Craven; while the character of Lavinia Flyte closely echoes that of Harriette Wilson, a Regency courtesan and memoirist. Despite what often happens in time-slip novels, all three stories are well-plotted and tie together nicely.