Due to time restraints while I work on my own novel, reviews on this site will now comprise a book blurb and a short response.
Readers will enjoy a piece of Australian gothic with Luke Devenish’s novel, The Secret Heiress. Here’s the blurb:
A fabled house. A fabulous fortune. Beautiful, identical twins … Dark shadows fall across the golden summer of 1886. Naive country girl Ida Garfield longs to escape the farm. When Miss Matilda Gregory, the elegant mistress of Summersby House, offers Ida employment as a housemaid, Ida leaps at the chance. Yet it’s not for her servant’s skills that she’s wanted.
It’s her inquisitiveness… But before Ida starts her first day, Miss Gregory is found dead. Fearing her one chance of bettering herself lost, Ida goes to the funeral, hoping that someone else from Summersby will still want her. Someone does. Handsome blond Englishman Mr Samuel Hackett is the late Miss Gregory’s fiancé. He expresses a keen need for a housemaid – and a friend.
But Miss Gregory’s will brings to light an extraordinary deception and a terrible wrong from the past. Summersby has a secret heiress, whose name is also Matilda Gregory… A strange, ethereal girl with an irrevocably broken memory. Who is this mysterious heiress, and why is Ida bound forever to the truth?
Secrets, mystery lies, betrayal, deception, an inheritance, a love triangle and a confounding mystery are at the heart of The Secret Heiress – all elements I love to find in a book. The dual narrative explores the mystery in two different generations – Ida’s perspective alternates with her daughter Biddy’s. There’s also the upstairs-downstairs element that adds a bit more depth – the mystery involves them all, rather than the upper class only.
Despite the sense of foreboding that was established early on, it took me a while to really feel connected to this book. It could be because there were so many things to keep track of. However, eventually the story had me in its thrall, and I was caught up in the mystery, guessing here and there. Devenish included a good mixture of characters, from the feisty to naive, from amoral to repulsive. It worked well!
It’s funny how with some books you have a theory and pages later you have a new one, and a new one…it was a bit like this in The Secret Heiress, albeit with some confusing moments keeping track of the twins. Most of the loose ends tied up well by the end.
Overall, an enjoyable read and a good addition to the Australian Gothic genre.
Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.