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Review: The Missing Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Missing Sister (The Seven Sisters #7)
Pan Macmillan AUS
2021, 804p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: They’ll search the world to find her.

The six D’Aplièse sisters have each been on their own incredible journey to discover their heritage, but they still have one question left unanswered: who and where is the seventh sister?

They only have one clue – an image of a star-shaped emerald ring. The search to find the missing sister will take them across the globe – from New Zealand to Canada, England, France and Ireland – uniting them all in their mission to complete their family at last.

In doing so, they will slowly unearth a story of love, strength and sacrifice that began almost one hundred years ago, as other brave young women risk everything to change the world around them.

Until recently, we thought this book would give us all the answers to the questions that the previous six books have raised. But then the author, just before this book was released, announced that the story had become too big to be wrapped up in this final volume and that there would be an 8th book, about Pa Salt, the man of mystery himself. Since then, Lucinda Riley has tragically passed away after a battle with cancer which is a terrible loss, that many in the literary world will feel.

The six D’Apliese sisters have always known that they were supposed to have a seventh sister and that for some reason, their ‘Pa Salt’ could never find her. I’ve never quite understood how he chose the girls he did or how one was ‘lost’ to him – but don’t actually expect this book to give you any answers. Because it doesn’t clear anything up and actually, after the missing sister is identified, it really only raises more questions.

This is unfortunately, not one of my favourite books in this series. I found a large portion of the first part of the book quite uncomfortable – the sisters are given some information which give them a lead and they send the closest sister to meet with the person they think is their “missing sister”. That person needs information from her mother, who is travelling overseas – and from then on the sisters just keep sending whoever is closest (because they are living all around the world) to the woman’s next hotel, even well after it’s quite obvious she’s freaked out by these strangers turning up and trying to talk to her. The sisters cannot understand why she might not want a total strange family following her around the globe and they honestly show such a lack of awareness. I’m not sure if it’s their insulated privilege or their single-mindedness in finding the sister now that their father is gone but….they didn’t show a lot of empathy, putting themselves in the person’s shoes. And their father means nothing to this person – they didn’t even know he existed. Expecting her to join them for a flower-laying ceremony out of nowhere, was honestly, very weird. Especially as all the sisters essentially know nothing about their father, not even his name, and cannot impart any information on him at all.

I always enjoy the historical portion of these novels and this one was actually no exception – I enjoyed a glimpse of rural Ireland during some troubled times (although I cannot speak to the accuracy of the portrayal). It was definitely a look at poverty, a country that had been ravaged by famine and was still very poor in some parts with a huge divide between the capital in Dublin and the rural areas. It’s also a time of great upheaval, with Ireland fighting for its independence from Britain and Britain looking to quash that. We meet a young woman who struggles between her desperate desire for Ireland to have its freedom and the unlikely friendship she finds with an English man she is employed to take care of – and two generations later, a young poor girl in an overly large family who sees firsthand the devastation that has on her mother’s health. When she’s given a way out of that life, she grabs it with both hands. There are a lot of mysteries between these two different historical timelines and it takes a while before all the connections are established – and only at the very end are they connected back to the current timeline, albeit only partially.

I honestly feel like a lot of the first portion of the story – the various sisters chasing this person around the world – could’ve been condensed a bit, in favour of advancing the plot a bit more. Riley tries to give each of the sisters we’ve already met some page time, which might’ve made sense when this was the last book but considering there’s a whole other book coming out, ended up being mostly unnecessary, especially as some of the scenes bordered a bit on the ridiculous side. And there are things in here that huge portions of the plot are devoted to but then wrapped up in a mere sentence. A lot of things are repeated, particularly scenes between Ally, Maia and Ma and the care of Bear and everyone drinks whiskey for breakfast in Ireland. Is that a thing? Seems concerning. Also I feel like in the other books, the sisters are given the time and space to learn their journey in their own time but in this one, the sisters force it upon their seventh sister, basically not taking no for an answer, setting in motion the events that do lead to her learning of her past. They want her there for this deadline of the flower-wreath laying and I feel like they’re so pushy about it that it’s very disrespectful (especially as there ends up being some errors – like Georg, what are you doing? And why were you so mysteriously out of contact at the precise moment everyone needed you to confirm information that you should have just given them anyway).

I’ve always thought from the beginning that Pa Salt probably wasn’t dead – too many things just didn’t seem to add up about it. Even though this book did frustrate me (the last 2 pages particularly) I’m in it for the long haul now. I’ve read 7 books about this and gotten almost no answers about anything, I need to know – who was/is Pa Salt really? Why did he adopt these specific children? Why was the 7th sister missing? Why do they not even know his name or what he does for a living? Why/how is he so rich? I need the answers to these questions and probably many more so yes, I’ll be reading the 8th book when it’s released next year…..might’ve been cool if they’d released these as a double release, rather than make everyone wait even longer. I really do hope however, that it does clear up all the points that have been raised throughout the series. I need closure.

5/10

Book #111 of 2021

The Missing Sister is book #23 of the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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Review: The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Sun Sister (The Seven Sisters #6)
Lucinda Riley
Macmillan
2019, 848p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: The Sun Sister is the sixth epic story in the Seven Sisters series by the number one international bestseller Lucinda Riley.

To the outside world, Electra d’Apliese seems as though she is the woman who has everything: as one of the world’s top models, she is beautiful, rich and famous. But beneath the veneer, and fuelled by the pressure of the life she leads, Electra’s already tenuous control over her mental state has been rocked by the death of her father, Pa Salt, the elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters as babies from around the globe. Struggling to cope, she turns to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, and as those around her fear for her health, Electra receives a letter from a complete stranger who claims to be her grandmother . . .

In 1939, Cecily Huntley-Morgan arrives in Kenya from New York to nurse a broken heart. Staying with her godmother, a member of the infamous Happy Valley set, on the shores of beautiful Lake Naivasha, she meets Bill Forsythe, a notorious bachelor and cattle farmer with close connections to the proud Maasai tribe. When disaster strikes and war is imminent, Cecily decides she has no choice but to accept Bill’s proposal. Moving up into the Wanjohi Valley, and with Bill away, Cecily finds herself isolated and alone. Until she discovers a new-born baby abandoned in the woods next to her farmhouse…

Sweeping from the frenetic atmosphere of Manhattan to the magnificent wide-open plains of Africa, The Sun Sister is the sixth instalment in Lucinda Riley’s multi-million selling epic series, The Seven Sisters.

In October 2019, I binge read the first five books in this series, intending to finish in time for this one, the 6th, to be released. I did finish in time but perhaps I was a bit fatigued after that because I didn’t get around to reading this when it first came out. It’s taken until now and receiving a copy of the 7th novel, The Missing Sister to realise that I’d better get this one ticked off the list. Because I thought that in getting book 7, I’d be getting all the answers and that I’d finally know who Pa Salt was, what he did, why he adopted all those children and why it was those particular children. Why the 7th one wasn’t found. But funnily enough on the very day I finished this, someone showed me a video on Lucinda Riley’s Facebook page saying that the 7th book wasn’t enough to do the story of the missing sister and Pa Salt justice so there’s going to be an 8th book now, which will be Pa Salt’s story and that’ll be out next year. I guess it’s better to know that now, before I start the next book expecting to get all the answers. Instead, I’ll only get half of them I suppose, as at least it’ll reveal the missing sister and tackle her story.

But this one is Electra’s story and she was always my least favourite sister in the other books. The excerpt at the end of book #5 didn’t really fill me with joy at reading this one as I do find the “celebrity with drinking/drug problem” very overdone. And Electra was just a really unpleasant character. So it was with some trepidation that I picked this one up….but I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would! So much so that I read it in 2 days and that’s no easy feat for an 800+ page book!

As always, this is split into two timelines: Electra and the “present day” which is around 2007/08 and then it delves back in time, this time in 1930s New York and then Kenya as Electra discovers the story of her past and her heritage. I actually found the historical portion of the story fascinating – sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. Cecily is a young woman living in New York after a broken engagement when her godmother asks her to come and spend some time in Kenya with her. Eager to escape the city while her former fiancé gets married to someone else, Cecily agrees and is catapulted into the ex-pat set in Kenya in the 1930s – wealth, privilege, champagne, the social scene. The ‘Happy Valley’ set are infamous for their lifestyle of excess during a time where you only had to sign up and the British government would grant you 1000 acres in Kenya to do with what you wanted – never mind those who were already there. This book references real life people of the Happy Valley set and presumably, real life incidents and just inserts Cecily right into the middle of them. I found the Kenyan setting incredibly interesting – a time of such excess and wealth among a group of aristocracy even as war approaches in Europe. And then there’s the local population and what they are reduced to with all of these people being granted land to set up farms and make money. Despite the problematic lifestyle and setting, I did find that portion fascinating to read, as Cecily settled herself in a completely foreign climate and learned to adjust to the wildlife and challenges. And then there were her decisions that were definitely out of the norm for the time.

Electra’s story went much the way I expected it to. I thought it could’ve done with a bit more depth in the portion after she exits rehab as even though she seems to think of her addictions, it’s almost in an abstract way. I thought she’d face more of a challenge in overcoming them back in her world, one also of excess. She’s a famous model and you’d think that world would provide temptation in many forms every day. I found her more likeable as the book went on, as she’s really not a pleasant person in the beginning and is well used to being on her own since she was 16 and having everything she’s ever wanted. Electra learns of inequality in this book and also how those that have can advocate for those that do not.

I found it engrossing and it got me back on track to want to learn more – I’m actually glad I waited until now to read it after that ending.

8/10

Book #80 of 2021

The Sun Sister is the 16th book read that counts towards my 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

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Review: The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Moon Sister (The Seven Sisters #5)
Lucinda Riley
Macmillan
2019, 738p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Tiggy Aplièse is doing the job she loves; working at a deer sanctuary up in the raw beauty of the highlands of Scotland. When the sanctuary has to close, she is offered a job on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate as a wildlife consultant by the elusive and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird, she has no idea that the move will not only irrevocably alter her future, but ironically, bring her into contact with her past. She meets Chilly, an ancient gipsy, who has lived for years on the estate, having fled from Spain seventy years before. He tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her gipsy ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home …

It is 1912 and, in the pitifully poor gipsy community that have been forced to make their homes for hundreds of years outside the city walls of Granada in the seven caves of Sacromonte, under the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra Palace, Lucía Amaya-Albaycin is born. Destined to be the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation, La Candela – as she is named, due to the inner flame that burns through her when she dances- is whisked away by her ambitious father at the tender age of ten to dance to his guitar in the flamenco bars of Barcelona. Her mother, Maria, is devastated by the loss of her daughter, and as civil war threatens in Spain, tragedy strikes the rest of her family. Now in Madrid, Lucía and her troupe of dancers are forced to flee for their lives, their journey taking them far across the water to South America and eventually, to North America and New York itself – Lucía’s long-held dream. But to pursue it, she must choose between her passion for her career and the man she adores…

As Tiggy follows the trail back to her exotic but complex Spanish past, and – under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja – begins to accept and develop her own gift, she too must decide to whether to return to Kinnaird, and Charlie…

So this is the last of this series that is currently already published. I think the sixth book is due out pretty soon, perhaps as early as late this month/early next. So I’ve actually managed to catch up in time before the arrival of Electra’s book. I was quite looking forward to Tiggy’s book – she was a sister I found really interesting, living in remote parts of Scotland, taking care of animals. She’s a vegan who is passionate about animal conservation and struggles with the idea of culling to keep numbers down, even with animals that have no natural predators. She accepts a job on an isolated estate helping settle in some Scottish wildcats. The owner of the estate has grand designs to repopulate the estate with native animals and repair the deforestation that has taken place. When she arrives, Tiggy meets an elderly man of Spanish origin who has been told he will be the one to guide her back home to her family. His words match what has been left for Tiggy in her letter from Pa Salt and when some things go a bit wrong on the estate, Tiggy flees to Spain to learn the truth of who she is.

Tiggy’s portion of this story is really great. I liked her a lot and I loved her immersion in her job. She’s a bit…..militant at times about the veganism and the conservation stuff but it sort of fits into her background pretty well. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Scottish property and how there are plans to help return it to how it should be, after several generations basically stripping it of a lot of its natural resources. It’s when the story took a dive back into past that I had some problems with it….

It revolves around Tiggy’s maternal biological grandmother Lucia, a flamenco dancer of gitana origin (the Romani people of Spain) and yeah Lucia is a piece of work. She’s taken by her father from their small village to dance in bars from a young age and then we jump to around her being 21 and move through those years and she’s just a lot to take in. She’s very good obviously and this comes with a huge sense of entitlement and arrogance and vile stupidity. She’s selfish in many different ways and demanding in others and she’s just incredibly unpleasant to read about for any length of time. Despite the fact that she sees her flawed father for what he is, I think Lucia inherited a lot from him, her selfishness just showed in different ways. I loved her family members (with the exception of her father, although he played what was probably a vital role in the story) but Lucia herself was just so difficult to read without rolling my eyes so much it hurt. She wanted for a good slap and being told to wake up to herself and that the entire planet did not revolve around her. Fortunately her eventual daughter ended up having other stable, wonderful people in her life to raise her and it was probably for the better that Lucia’s role in her life was non-existent because she was the least maternal person I’ve ever read.

Tiggy’s history was interesting but not the sort of thing I have much knowledge about – kind of a bit of psychic ability combined with healing and medicinal herbs and that sort of thing. I really liked the bond she forged with Zara, Charlie’s daughter and the way in which she seemed to fit in so well on the Kinnaird estate. The thing I do find amusing is that the sisters who were raised together kind of barely keep in contact. Like in this book, Tiggy gets a text from CeCe which basically says yeah I live in Australia now, come visit if you ever want to. It’s something that has run through the various stories, and I think it’s in this book that perhaps it’s Tiggy who does lament that Pa Salt seemed to be the thing that kept them together but now they’re basically just off all over the globe doing their own thing, dropping each other texts or emails every few months!

Next is Electra’s book, which doesn’t excite me super much. She’s a world famous model with the seemingly stereotypical lifestyle of staged paparazzi shots, champagne and cocaine. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

7/10

Book #166 of 2019

 

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Review: The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Pearl Sister (The Seven Sisters #4)
Lucinda Riley
Macmillan
2018, 682p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

From the breathtaking beaches of Thailand to the barely tamed wilds of colonial Australia, The Pearl Sister is the next captivating story in New York Times bestselling author Lucinda Riley’s epic series about two women searching for a place to call home.

CeCe D’Aplièse has always felt like an outcast. But following the death of her father—the reclusive billionaire affectionately called Pa Salt by the six daughters he adopted from around the globe—she finds herself more alone than ever. With nothing left to lose, CeCe delves into the mystery of her familial origins. The only clues she holds are a black and white photograph and the name of a female pioneer who once traversed the globe from Scotland to Australia.

One hundred years earlier, Kitty McBride, a clergyman’s daughter, abandoned her conservative upbringing to serve as the companion to a wealthy woman traveling from Edinburgh to Adelaide. Her ticket to a new land brings the adventure she dreamed of…and a love that she had never imagined.

When CeCe reaches the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia, something deep within her responds to the energy of the area and the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people, and her soul reawakens. As she comes closer to finding the truth of her ancestry, CeCe begins to believe that this untamed, vast continent could offer her what she’s always yearned for: a sense of belonging.

So, book 4 of this huge series and this is the one that’s set in Australia. Each of them have delved back into the past to a different place on Earth and CeCe’s journey brings her to outback Australia – first Broome, then Alice Springs. This was always going to be a bit interesting to me, because it’s being written by a white non-Australian and CeCe’s heritage actually turns out that she is mostly Aboriginal or Indigenous Australian. And she was adopted by a white, wealthy man from overseas. If you know anything of Indigenous Australian history, you know that they had whole generations of their babies removed from them in an abhorrent practice because they weren’t believed to properly be able to care for them because the family dynamics weren’t the same, nor were children raised in the way in which white Europeans were used to. Those babies were placed in orphanages or adopted into white families to be raised in the “right Christian way” leaving behind their languages, their culture. It’s been hugely, hugely problematic and something our government has only recently taken responsibility and apologised for.

CeCe isn’t an easy character to settle into – at the beginning of the book (it begins just as Star’s is ending) she’s quite bitter and upset about the fact that not only has Star been investigating her birth family without telling her and has….moved in a new direction with her life. The two of them have been inseparable their whole lives, with Star not really saying much and CeCe talking for her. Originally it seemed as though CeCe wasn’t particularly interested in finding out about her origins but given Star has she almost seems to decide to do the same on a whim. She flies to Australia via Thailand, spending a few weeks there and just…..trying to figure things out I think. Her confidence in her art has taken a huge knock, the art college in London didn’t work out for her and she’s left feeling like perhaps she wasn’t as talented as everyone thought. She lacks direction with what to do next, especially as she’s alone now. She decides that finding her origins might help give her some clarity and armed with a clue, she lands in Broome, in northern Western Australia. Broome is now mostly a holiday/tourist destination but years ago it was incredibly busy with pearling and was a melting pot of a mix of cultures. A lot of the pearl divers were Japanese, there’s a large indigenous population and then of course there were also those of European heritage. CeCe’s heritage lies in most of these!

I enjoyed quite a lot about this but it kind of wasn’t without its issues for me too. Kitty’s story, beginning in Scotland, travelling to Adelaide and then onto Broome was quite a read. It was rife with scandal, heartbreak, a girl who was a fish out of water and learned to adapt in the most remarkable ways. I actually quite enjoyed Kitty as a character and the ways in which she faced her changing circumstances with courage. She’s also remarkably modern for the times as Riley does that thing people do when they write characters into Australian history who don’t think the way that everyone else at the time seemed to. But it set the scene well as the background of CeCe’s story and I also liked her finding her heritage. There’s a lot of reality woven into the story, such as the Hermannsburg Luthern Mission and perhaps its most famous resident, painter Albert Namatjira (an Indigenous painter who also painted in a Western style) and the inclusion of real pearl ships during Kitty’s time in Broome.

The end of this felt a bit…..random to me. There’s a whole story which is woven in, which seems important and then basically isn’t at all, really. Then there’s something that pops out of nowhere towards the end which for me, did not have the groundwork laid for it. I’m not against the actual idea of it at all, but it just doesn’t seem like it was a logical conclusion for me. Like I was thinking one thing and then all of a sudden the book was like nah, that doesn’t matter, here’s this thing over here that we never really explored before at all but yep, it’s out there and that’s probably the way it’s going to go. Also I felt like CeCe’s dyslexia was her excuse for not knowing things (like what is genocide?) but there are many other ways to learn things if reading is difficult for you and considering CeCe’s adoptive father is super rich and and she’s had access to the best education money can buy surely someone would’ve figured out a way for CeCe to learn things that doesn’t involve reading a textbook and having Star write her essays for her.

This was not my favourite of the series, which I expected going in, CeCe has proven difficult to read about at times and even though I finished Star’s book feeling a bit sorry for her, her mindset at the beginning of this one is pretty negative. It’s all about everything she did for Star growing up, talking for her when Star couldn’t find words etc and now Star has abandoned her. You’re both 27 or 28 years old. Did you think you were going to live together/share a bedroom together forever? Someone had to cut the cord and CeCe seems to resent the people in Star’s life that she cares about because they’ve taken Star away from her. She does grow up a bit towards the end but there’s just a lot of negativity and self doubt and thinking she’s rubbish to get through and it was a bit of a challenge at times. I am however, quite excited for Tiggy’s story. It’s set in the Scottish highlands, which should be a lovely place to visit and the little preview chapter at the end of this one sounded very interesting. I’ve been keen for this book since I read the first one and discovered what Tiggy’s job was.

Also Pa Salt? No progress made there except once again he finds a way for people to not know his real name. So the mystery continues.

7/10

Book #159 of 2019

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Review: The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Storm Sister (The Seven Sisters #2)
Lucinda Riley
Macmillan
2015, 685p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Ally D’Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world’s most perilous yacht races, when she hears the news of her adoptive father’s sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home, she discovers that her father – an elusive billionaire affectionately known to his daughters as Pa Salt – has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will change her destiny forever. But with her life now turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, which leads her to the icy beauty of Norway…

There, Ally begins to discover her roots – and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who lived there over 100 years before, and sang in the first performance of Grieg’s iconic music set to Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father, Pa Salt, really was. And why is the seventh sister missing?

Following the bestselling The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister is the second book in Lucinda Riley’s spellbinding series based loosely on the mythology surrounding the famous star constellation.

I was originally sent this book for review about four years ago but I hadn’t read the first one. It’s sat on my shelf for years, patiently waiting until I got around to starting this series, which so many people had raved to me about. Finally I acquired the other books (we’re up to 5 now, 6 is about to be released) and I read and enjoyed the first book a couple of weeks ago. This one took me about 9 days to read – look it’s a huge book. Almost 700p in large paperback form. And I was reading it in snatches at night, whilst reading other books as well. But I have to admit, there were times when I struggled with this one and I think it’s mostly my fault. I think I had a misconception about what these books were, I keep expecting sweeping romances both in the historical timeline and in the present day timeline (which in the books, is 2007).

This book is second sister Ally’s story. Ally is a professional sailor and the first part of the book is dedicated to her sailing, meeting a captain named Theo and then the devastating discovery and aftermath of Pa Salt’s death. But that isn’t it for Ally, she also suffers another devastating loss and in the wake of that, only then does she decide to use the clues Pa Salt left for her in order to find her true heritage. That search takes her to Norway and the world of classical music.

This was kind of funny because in the last month or two, I’ve recently started listening to classical music. My husband and I were having a discussion one day about how neither of us could name many pieces but we probably knew much more than we realised and so I started searching out prominent composers and listening to the most popular results. As a result I discovered that I did know much more than I thought and I’ve regularly been listening to a classical music playlist as I write reviews, because for the most part there are no words to distract me. And because of that, I recognised quite a few of the pieces mentioned in this book as well as the composer who features, Edvard Grieg. In the Hall of the Mountain King is one of my favourites to listen to and Morning Mood is lovely as well. In this book, both Ally, a flautist and Jens, the love interest for Anna in Norway in the late 1800s, play Morning Mood. If I’d read this book even a few months ago, I’d have had to google all the music, all the composers mentioned, so it was nice to read it and know the pieces and who was being talked about.

I enjoyed a lot about Ally’s early story (one bit aside, which I’ll get to later) and also Anna’s as well. I appreciated a bit of an insight into 19th Century Norway, from the rural area of Anna’s upbringing to Christiania (now known as Oslo) as well as Anna’s struggle of duty and love. I felt for Anna, who was really quite naive when she was snatched from her family and taken to Christiania to sing and be “bettered” by a wealthy benefactor. She lives in his house (there’s a housekeeper, so it’s not quite as sleazy as it sounds, although I did still find it quite sleazy), he buys her clothes and gives her jewels. But Anna only has eyes for Jens, a lazy but talented womanising musician. People insist Jens will be her ruin but Anna can see nothing but her love for him.

But….I have to admit, I felt a bit deflated when I finished this and like I mentioned earlier, it might be my own preconceived ideas about what I thought this series was going to be. I was expecting more romance, I think, and the way in which this ended sort of left me a bit flat. I didn’t really like either of the love interests, Theo in the present timeline and Jens was a complete waste of space in the historical. Theo for me, was a huge part of why I struggled even early on in this – I just couldn’t warm to him. I found him overbearing and arrogant, bossy and patronising. I know nothing about sailing but to be honest, he seemed like a pretty terrible captain and the way in which he orders Ally off his ship only to push on with the rest of the crew really didn’t sit well with me. He’s talked about as though he were a legend but he had the chance to pull out of a dangerous race, like pretty much all of the other boats (ships? yachts? I don’t know) involved did. Their whole relationship smacked of instalove and felt quite immature for people in their thirties. And Jens in the 1870s onwards was such a poor waste of talent. I admired Anna’s tenacity for sure and I think I would’ve liked a little bit more for Ally. I know the books are about more than that, it’s about each sister discovering their heritage, learning their stories although each story also gives as many questions as it does answers. We’re still none the wiser about Pa Salt, who he was, what he did, why he adopted the girls, how he chose them/found them etc. Those are mysteries that will continue running through each book I guess until the last. I just wasn’t expecting some of the things that happened in this book, or the way that it ended but now that I think I’ve recalibrated my expectations, I won’t have those issues going into the next few books.

I did enjoy this but not as much as the first one, however I do think it’s mostly on what I was expecting but also because two of the men that these main characters fell in love with were so lacklustre. But that’s part of reading I guess, sometimes we assume something or think we’re getting something when we open a book but the reality is a bit different!

7/10

Book #141 of 2019

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Review: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1)
Lucinda Riley
Pan Books
2018 (originally 2014), 622p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings.

Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela—passionate and longing to see the world—convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

About four years ago now, I received a copy of the second in this series for review. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with it and I didn’t own the first book so I put it on my ‘TBR for the future’ shelf. Books I do want to read at some stage but that I can’t read right now. At some point in time I ended up picking up the first in this series on iBooks but it wasn’t until just a couple weeks ago when I saw that one of my local bookstores had all the series on sale, that I managed to collect the rest. And I actually got the first book too (as well as 3, 4 and 5) because I wanted to own them all in the same format. Plus I prefer reading pretty big books in print, rather than on my iPad screen. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about this series and so I decided to get stuck into this first one as a reward for plowing through quite a few of my review books.

The book begins with Maia, the oldest of six girls adopted by an enigmatic man the sisters know as ‘Pa Salt’ who adopted them all as infants over the course of a decade or so. The girls are all named after the stars in the seven sisters constellation, however there are only six of them – the seventh sister never materialised. Pa Salt has died and the girls gather at their childhood home to farewell and mourn him. Pa Salt, a wealthy man, leaves the girls the home as a safe haven and a modest income, encouraging them to make their own way and earn their own money. By means of a mysterious statue he also leaves them a clue to their heritage as well as a personal letter. It’s up to them what they choose to do with the information he has provided.

For Maia, it’s a journey to Brazil, because that’s where her clue leads to. From there she meets an email acquaintance and gets to know the city as well as trying to find out things about her past. The story then sweeps back to Brazil in the 1920s before journeying to Paris. I have to admit, after being with Maia for so long, I was a bit resentful when the story stepped back in time. But it didn’t take long before I was swept up in that element and the life of Izabel, daughter of a wealthy coffee farmer in Brazil and her coming of age, engagement to the son of a noble but impoverished family as well as her educational trip to the continent and exploration of Paris and its bohemian art scene. The trip to Paris focuses around Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa (a real life figure, posed here as the father of a friend of Izabel) and his dream to build a huge statue of Jesus Christ. There’s a lot about the logistics of building a 30 metre high statue of Jesus, as well as situating it atop a mountain, because of course this statue is Christ the Redeemer, which overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro and is a modern wonder. I’m not at all religious and I generally find it incredibly boring to read about but I actually found the incorporation of the story about the statue really interesting, it makes the logistics of constructing weave seamlessly through the narrative, as well as the debate on what to make it out of and how that played forward into Maia’s present time. I can appreciate the sheer scope of the task and the level of difficulty and the fact that it then had to be transported halfway around the world by boat.

But it’s not just about the statue. It’s also a sweeping love story – star crossed love of course, because is there any other sort when you’re a young, wealthy, contractually engaged woman visiting Paris for the first time? Paris is presented as this place of freedom and colour, women going out unescorted, meeting for lunch and drinks, artists and writers and musicians. There’s a few names dropped, people that I presume were well known to be in Paris at this time.

Back in the modern day, Maia’s search for the answers of her past is also helping shape her future. For a very long time now she’s been quite closed off (the reason why is revealed quite late in the novel) but some of the answers she gets as well as the company she keeps is quite influential in her evolution to embrace something new and take a chance. I really did love her journey to find her ‘blood’ family and the clarity that it gave her in some aspects. It was also a very strong part of the novel, rather than her own developing romance, which is kind of more like a bonus of her journey to Brazil to find out the truth about herself. Not every question is answered – I find that this book left me with quite a few questions about things. How were they chosen? Why? Where is the 7th sister? What is the deal with Pa Salt and his mysterious fortune? Why do the adopted daughters not even know what he did for a living? Is he even {redacted}? I don’t know, I have all these questions and I can only assume that as I continue on with the series, I will begin to get all the pieces I need to solve the puzzle. The other sisters are mostly only in this book briefly at the beginning but I am already intrigued by a couple of them – the last chapter also sets up the next book.

I actually really want to dive right into the next book but I’ve told myself I’ll appreciate them a bit more if I space them out a bit, so at least a book, maybe two, in between each one.

8/10

Book #132 of 2019

As a bonus, I also am counting this one towards my participation in the Reading Women Podcast Challenge for 2019. I’m going to use it for prompt #23 – Any book from a series. This is the first in The Seven Sisters series. It’s the 18th book completed for this challenge.

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Review: The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley

The Love Letter 
Lucinda Riley
Pan Macmillan
2018 (originally 2000 as Seeing Double), 590p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

1995, London.

When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family and a wealth of memorabilia from his long career but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could change everything…

Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist, assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world will be there. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter Harrison has left behind, the contents of which he was desperate to conceal. As she gets closer to tracking down the source, she realises that there are other very interested parties. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.

This title was originally published as Seeing Double.

This is my first Lucinda Riley novel. A couple of years ago I was sent the second in her Seven Sisters series but I hadn’t read the first. I’ve since picked up the first on iBooks but I haven’t tackled either of them yet. Quite frankly, the second one is a brick and I’m assuming the first is as well. This is a solid almost-600p so it seems that if you like bang for your buck, Lucinda Riley might be a good choice. In an author’s note at the beginning of the book, Riley writes that this was originally published almost 20-years ago but didn’t do very well, perhaps because of the timing. I’m not sure how much editing as been done but the book keeps it’s mid-90s timeframe, which I have to admit, perhaps doesn’t do it any favours.

So. Sir James Harrison passes away, a respected theatre and Hollywood actor. Young journalist Joanna Haslam is sent along by her newspaper to cover the funeral and meets a mysterious older lady at his funeral and then stumbles on a mystery. The sort of mystery that certain people and organisations would do anything to protect.

I have to admit I struggled with the first probably half to two-thirds of this book. It felt very slow pacing wise – achingly slow at times. There’s a lot of stuff about Sir James Harrison and his life and the life of his family and Joanna meeting several remaining members. It honestly took me a really long time to get into the story. The secret feels dragged out too long – there are a few hints dropped along the way but it’s complicated by one of the other characters connections to the same family. But when you wait so long for something to be revealed, sometimes it loses its power.

Perhaps because I’m not English, I didn’t particularly find the revelations mind blowing. I understand the problems they would’ve caused but I’m not sure I really thought that what it might possibly bring about would be a bad thing. It’s quite likely that if I were English I might feel differently, or maybe I wouldn’t. Who knows? It’s a bit of an outdated concept in 2018, I think anyway. And it’s entirely possible that it’s happened in real life, buried in the history books. And the book is terribly dated obviously – 1995 isn’t that long ago in terms of timeline but it’s a lifetime ago in terms of technological advancement and stuff like that. No one has a mobile/cell phone in this book and it’s really quite jarring in that they’re all running around trying to communicate with each other. But I knew that going in and it doesn’t really affect how I feel about the book, it’s just a little side note.

What did impact how I felt was just….there are two ‘romances’ that sort of crop up out of this story that are endgame and I’m afraid that I just didn’t really buy into either of them. Neither of them really did anything for me – in one of them, there’s just so little real build of it, there’s no real exploration of it and it just felt a bit slapdash, like the author was left with these two characters who were going to end up kind of hanging at the end so she decided to just pair them up and then go back and insert a few lines about it. And the other, which involves Joanna, was equally lacklustre. I found her love interest spoiled and silly (well you’re supposed to in the beginning) but I never warmed to him either. He had such a sense of entitlement that was so ingrained that I think it would’ve taken quite a bit for a person like that to overcome that sort of upbringing. He was from a wealthy and successful family, although he hadn’t found that success himself and had made bad choice after bad choice and been bailed out each time. He’s bitter about his inheritance from a family member and savagely cruel. Then he meets Joanna and five minutes later he’s thinking ‘oh I want to be a better person for her’. It just felt really forced and unbelievable. It also gave Joanna bit of ‘special snowflake’ syndrome. She was a perfectly nice person, good reporter, quite intelligent and sensible. The idea of her and this person was just quite odd. They didn’t have any chemistry for me and the ending just felt so ridiculously far fetched that I ended up laughing out loud.

Despite the fact that this book wasn’t to my liking, I’m still going to eventually try the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley because I have heard so many amazing things about it. A lot of people I know really enjoy it and several people have recommended the series to me. So I’m going to chalk this one up as a bit of an anomaly – perhaps if I’d read it in its original timeline, it might’ve felt a bit more high stakes but honestly, I think it needed to be trimmed down quite a bit and have the pacing adjusted so that it didn’t feel so slow slow slow and then everything happening right at the end.

5/10

Book #138 of 2018

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