Synopsis from Amazon:
2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London fromq an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded history begins to open...
Great characters. Julia is on the forefront. Not in any way a risk-taker and doesn't really have a passion in her life. I felt for her from the beginning, being a child who lost her mother at a young age with a workaholic father who hides his feelings. Julia needed a change in her life. You could see her begin the story with an attitude that found the glass to be consistently half empty with no chance of being filled. Slowly, as Julia learns more about the history of the house and meets new people, she begins to open up and by the end of the story, she has found new meaning in her life. It was nice to see this change and I found myself analyzing all of her decisions and pushing her towards the choices that I felt would lead her in the right direction. Nick, the male lead, has also has his share of disappointments in life. We don't see him as much as I would have liked and I was a bit frustrated at first because the two of them kept pushing each other away. The typical lack of communication. Finally, however, they were able to get to the same page.
In the past story, there is Imogene. I love the comparison between she and Julia. Although their stories were ultimately different, their emotional attitude and decision making was very similar. Imogene also lost her mother and moved through life day by day, with no passion until Gavin entered her life and then she too began to show a new found exuberance. Both women, past and present, had deceitful relatives who were easy to dislike and I found myself wishing they were held more accountable for their crimes. Oh well. :) Just the simple fact that all of these characters elicited such feelings from me demonstrates the high quality of Willig's writing.
The plot was extremely engaging. I enjoyed the past story as much as the present. I won't giveaway any spoilers here but I can tell you that there is a good historical mystery connected to an old house with a little bit of romance on both fronts and a good deal of soul searching and self discovery. The history was interesting and the house was the perfect setting, both charming and mysterious with a plethora of hidden secrets inside its walls. It was truly a good read. And now, I am on a search for the next historical romance and can only hope it will be as enjoyable as this one.