I admit it. This book has been in my TBR pile for over a year. I love Susanna Kearsley. She is one of my absolute favorite authors. The Winter Sea, The Shadowy Horses, The Firebird, and The Rose Garden are divine reads. Why has this one been on my shelf for so long? I honestly can't say. I think I was afraid to pick it up because I would have been disappointed if it wasn't as good as the others. I was wrong. I finally decided to dive in two days ago and I devoured the story just as I had each of the others. I only now wish that I hadn't waited quite so long.
Synopsis from Amazon:
The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew at once that it was her house. Now, twenty-five years later, by some strange chance, she has just become the new owner of the sixteenth-century Wilshire farmhouse. But Julia soon begins to suspect that more than coincidence has brought her there. As if Greywethers were a porthal between worlds, she finds herself abruptly transported back in time. Stepping into seventeenth-century England, Julia becomes Mariana, a beautiful young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love for Richard de Mornay, handsome forebear of the present squire of Crofton Hall. Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past, falling ever deeper in love with Richard...until one day she realizes Mariana's life threatens to eclipse her own--and that she must find a way to lay the past to rest, or risk losing a chance for love in her own time.
Susanna Kearsley's characters are always both intriguing and engaging. She often only shares a small group of important characters in each story and develops each one to the point where they seem like real people who could come right off the page. In Mariana, we have Julia/Mariana, Iian, Vivian, Geoff, Tom, and Richard. I was invested in all of them right from the beginning of the story. Their personalities, their compassion and caring for one another, and their relationships. The settings are also always beautiful and make me want to pick up and travel. In this book, Julia buys an old 16th century cottage in England with a rich historical background, which makes a perfect backdrop for the time travel element in the story. One thing that consistently attracts me to these books are the stories that accompany the settings. That many of these place really existed fascinates me. Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genre but Kearsley seems to have the perfect combination of history, romance, and just a touch of the supernatural in the form of time travel. I was completely enthralled.
Not only did I love the present day story with Julia, but the past story where she traveled back in time and became Mariana was lovely. Julia's time slips flowed seamlessly and I was able to easily tell when she arrived in her past life, and when she returned to the present. The comparisons between the two times were absorbing, especially the details concerning the settings of the manor house, dovecote and surrounding area. The romance in both time periods was endearing, as in most of Kearsley's books. Both Julia and Mariana experience love but Mariana's story is more passionate. Unfortunately, it is also more tragic and bittersweet than Julia's present day relationship. The intrigue develops as Julia finds herself traveling more and more to the past and finds herself in danger of losing herself to the person she used to be.
In my opinion, Kearsley's entire style of writing is captivating. Her attention to detail and the haunting yet "fairytale" feel of the story make you want to go back and reread passages over and over, which I did on several occasions and will most likely do again.