16 Sep The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore
Family mystery meets romance in a gorgeous Cornish setting
Welcome to my stop on the blogtour for The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore, an author whose books I have always enjoyed. She’s wonderful at creating a sense of time and place in dual time-line stories that involve family mysteries.
The Hidden Years opens in 1966 as young student Belle abandons her studies to run off with new boyfriend Gray to Cornwall, to join a commune of free-spirited artists and musicians in a grand old house called Silverwood.
It is to be their Shangri-la, but it evokes strange longings in Belle, who recognises the name from an old photograph she once found in her parents’ attic. Has she been there before?
The narrative switches to 1939, as Imogen accompanies two little boys to their prep school, which has relocated to Cornwall for the war. She stays to cover for matron, who is ill, and her story is told in tandem with Belle’s, as Belle meets an elderly woman who knew Imogen, and discovers her old diaries in a secret room at Silverwood.
As the threads of the story draw together, it becomes clear that something links the two young women together – but just what is their connection? And will discovering the truth about Imogen help Belle go forward in her own life?
Strong and interesting characters
This was an atmospheric and immersive read. Both Imogen and Belle’s stories could have stood alone, as each is such a strong and interesting character, living her life in a way she’d never expected – Imogen plunged into wartime experiences, Belle uprooting herself from a nice normal middle-class upbringing to share her life with strangers.
The contrast between their lives is marked – for Imogen and the people around her, it is all about duty and sacrifice for others. For the Commune, people like Rain, Arlo, Sirius and Chouli come across as more selfish characters, though Belle has integrity enough for them all.
She is conflicted – and that could impact on her relationship with Gray.
Meanwhile, Imogen is enjoying romance of her own, but how can she commit herself to anyone when the world around her is falling apart?
A wonderful read
Mystery and romance form the backbone of this story, but it is the characters of the two women that really draw you in. Both are strong, empathetic, often conflicted but never mentally frail, and it would be hard to choose a favourite between them.
There is plenty of action and drama in both timelines, and the narrative is very well paced.
The resolution of the mystery is predictable, but that doesn’t matter because it is the telling of Imogen and Belle’s stories that make this book such a wonderful read.
A family mystery and strong romance in a Cornish setting – this story has everything a reader could want.
The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore is published by Simon & Schuster in hardback and ebook
About the Author
Rachel Hore is already the author of twelve bestselling novels – The Hidden Years is her thirteenth book. She edited fiction at HarperCollins, and taught Publishing and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, before becoming a full-time writer.
Thanks to Sarah-Jade Virtue of Books and the City for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Simon & Schuster for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster
More Reviews of Dual-timeline Stories