All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Three Miss Allens by Victoria Purman

on January 20, 2017

three-miss-allensThe Three Miss Allens
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 395p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In 1934, the three Miss Allens – Ruby, Adeline and Clara – arrive in the seaside town of Remarkable Bay for their annual summer holiday. It’s the last time they’ll spend summers as a family. Adeline is engaged, Ruby is weighing up an offer, and Clara is just eighteen and about to start her life. But by summer’s end, the lives they have known will change irrevocably and a mysterious secret will tear the family apart.

Eighty-two years later, Ruby’s great-granddaughter Roma Harris moves to the now sleepy Remarkable Bay, retreating from tragedy. Roma’s distant cousin Addy arrives too, fleeing a life with too much drama. It’s only when the women discover an old guest book that they start asking questions about the mysterious third Miss Allen. Who was she? Why has she disappeared from the family’s history?

If they solve this mystery from their past, could it change the women’s future?

I love a historical-contemporary blend. They’re one of my favourite types of stories to read but they can be difficult to balance at times. You can find yourself far more invested in one part of the story so it’s nice when both parts are equally as fascinating.

In 1934, sisters Ruby, Adeline and Clara are escaping the Adelaide heat with their mother, staying in a large B&B in the seaside town of Remarkable Bay. Adeline has just secured what is a very desirable match and is giddy over the prospect of her coming marriage. Ruby has received an offer but it’s not one that makes her dreamy. And Clara, the youngest at just eighteen, is harbouring a terrible secret that will divide her family. What should be a summer of careless fun ends up being complicated, ripe with new possibilities but also bringing terrible shadows.

In the contemporary part of the story, Ruby’s great-granddaughter moves to the very same Remarkable Bay after suffering a tragedy. Having quit her job in Adelaide and sold her home, she buys a large house overlooking the bay intending to do it up and restore it to its former glory. Joined by her cousin Addy, who she hasn’t seen for many years, the two women find a book that gives them a glimpse into their own history. They seek to unravel what became of the third Allen sister, Clara, who neither of them have ever heard of.

I really enjoyed Roma’s story. I’m a big fan of renovations both watching them on tv and reading about them as well. It’s something that I think I fantasise about doing one day but it’s also one of those things that will never really be more than that because I don’t think I’d actually be very good at it! But I love the idea of it, especially when it’s about restoring something of significance, such as the old place that Roma purchases. It’s not without its issues, having been severely neglected in the later part of its life but the bones are there and she knows what it could be. What Roma is doing is therapeutic for her as she seeks to heal from a tragedy and discover what she wants from her life now. Things have changed dramatically and she’s taking steps to move forward and although people think it’s ill advised, the house is the first step.

Roma is less than impressed when her busy brother sends their cousin Addy to check up on her. Addy is facing her own problems and once she arrives in Resurrection Bay she decides that she wouldn’t mind staying for a while to help Roma out. The two of them are intrigued by the mystery of the third Miss Allen….

….like I was. Clara’s secret isn’t difficult to guess but I do have to say that I didn’t expect everything that came after it. This book really doesn’t hold back in highlighting some of the difficult situations for women of the time….each sister experiences the troubles of being without real power in society, beholden to the rules and whims of the men in their lives in some way or other. I found each of their stories riveting but I think it was Clara’s that touched me the most. I’ve known someone in Clara’s position and although things are different now, I felt that I had the most sympathy for her, especially because of how isolated she must’ve felt. She would’ve most likely known the fate that awaited her as soon as her secret was discovered and I felt for Ruby too, who discovered it but was horrified by what came next. I found the family dynamics in 1934 very interesting. Despite the fact that their mother seems strict and careful with Ruby and Adeline, there’s still quite a lot that they manage to get up to (Ruby in particular) without her knowledge.

Back in the present day, Roma and Addy are working through an adjustment to spending time together. They holidayed together as teenagers, Addy spending time with Roma’s family and they each remember that time somewhat differently, each shaped by their own experiences. They haven’t seen each other in some time and it’s a bit of a learning curve, reestablishing their relationship and it’s not always smooth sailing. The house provides a refuge for both of them and Remarkable Bay seems a healing sort of place, where both of them discover a vision for what they want their lives to be. And who they want it to include.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish…… I liked Roma and Addy and really connected with Roma’s desire to restore the house to its former glory. The relationships in this story, the good bad and ugly are so well done and felt authentic in both timelines. I could’ve read a book twice this long with these characters, both in the past and the present day.

8/10

Book #204 of 2016

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