[450]: The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Published March 18th, 2014 | Simon & Schuster Canada | Arc Paperback, 486 pages | Source: Publisher for review | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

As Anahita’s century-old life draws to a close, she yearns for the son she had to give up when he was but a child of three. While everyone had told her that he died soon after she left, she knows from the depths of her soul that he was still alive. Ever the perceptive, she also knows that death will soon knock on her door. As she sets her affairs in order, she leaves her first grandchild a letter; one that she’s written to her missing son. In the letter is the story of her life and details of the events leading up to her abandoning him.

Ten years after she died, her grandson sets about finding Anahita’s son; an endeavour that will take him to England, particularly, Astbury, the estate where Anahita worked as a healer at a time when people of colour are considered to be only as valuable as servants.

In the present Astbury, he finds Rebecca Bradley, an American actress on location shooting a film. He also meets Lord Anthony Astbury, a recluse who can tell him where he can start his search for Anahita’s son. At first, the lord of the manor did not take kindly to Ari unearthing history. But the more he reads her letter, the further he gets drawn in to the past.

It will take you to a time when Royal India boasts the most lavish of courts.  When girls are told education was nothing but a fantastical dream. Anahita grew up with a father who thought it otherwise, however. And when he died, her mother made sure that that dream was kept alive. You can say that this was how her story started; when she met a precocious princess in the person of Indy. Their childhood friendship span years, and had gone through the ups and downs of having two different backgrounds. But short of adopting her, Indy’s had become her family when Anni’s mother died.  Indy’s family provided for her education and shelter in England. In the end though, Anni had to make choices for herself – which proved to be both a blessing and the tragedy that she couldn’t prevent.

While Anahita’s story was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking, Rebecca’s was as gothic as stories of the past. Her part in this epic story is that her resemblance to Lord Astbury’s grandmother was quite uncanny. And having been the person to discover his grandfather’s diary attaches herself to this tragic tale. What Rebecca stumbled into is a madness  that started three generations past. If I had to compare it to any gothic novels I’ve read in the past, I’d say it’s comparable to Jane Eyre. It’s having another resident to Astbury Estate but no one would know who it was until the bitter end.

Lucinda Riley crafted a cast of characters whose stories were seamlessly tied with love, family, and murder three generations old. I must admit that the major draw for me was the mystery surrounding the lost son. The Midnight Rose is a beautiful tale of love and tragedy. It’s lush, and full of history. It’s also dark and as mysterious as a decrepit manor losing its battle with time. This book just proves to me that not all historical fiction are created equal. Once you crack open this novel, you would not be able to stop.