Review: Secrets of the Lighthouse; Santa Montefiore

Escapist paranormal romance (3.5 stars)

Source- review copy

Published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster. The paperback edition was released April 2014

I read the Kindle edition. The paperback is 480 pages.

This was an engaging story of secrets, lies and betrayal and overall proved to be a very readable family drama. There was an interesting paranormal slant to the plot which offered something a little bit extra than your usual run of the mill romance.

Ellen Trawton feels overwhelmed by her life in London- with a job she hates, an interfering mother and an engagement she feels pressured into, she impulsively escapes. Ellen heads to rural Ireland, her mother’s home country yet a place she knows she won’t be followed, due to some dark family secrets.

At the same time, Caitlin Macausland is feeling bitter owing to a future that was ripped away from her. Following her tragic death, she is now stuck in limbo, watching over her husband and children, yet unable to move on.

Connecting the two women is an old lighthouse- a symbol of crushed hopes and dreams yet also longing. Both Ellen and Caitlin are ultimately searching for peace and to each the lighthouse becomes a beacon of hope; the question is whether or not they will be able to find it.

Well-written and filled with vivid descriptions of rural Ireland, I found this book to be the perfect escapist reading for a lazy Sunday afternoon. There are some gorgeously evocative depictions of the rugged Irish coastline and majestic emerald green countryside that whisked me away from rainy Derbyshire! This book was perfect for sinking into and living in the moment’s right alongside the characters.

Speaking of characters, I must confess that I appreciated some in this storyline more than others. Unfortunately I found Ellen herself to be REALLY frustrating. As in, reach into the book and slap her kind of frustrating! She acted like no thirty-three year old I have ever met and was simply unable to address her problems head on, running away from them like a child. Then again, she’s thirty-three, so does it really count as ‘running away?’ Seriously, though I know it presumably made for a better storyline, she behaved like a little child at times and in all honesty I just couldn’t see her appeal to the male protagonist whatsoever.  That being said, it does go to show that some people can seemingly have everything yet be incredibly unhappy.

That brings me to Connor Macausland. YUMMY. What a delectable sounding specimen he was—all mysterious and gruff. Suspected by the villages for the murder of his wife, he was a man of mystery though not without issues. That being said, with what he’s been through, it’s no wonder he is so guilt-ridden and mired in sorrow. I appreciated the portrayal of a man who had been pushed out of the local community by the villages who deeply mistrusted him and were suspicious of his intentions towards Ellen.

I have to say that I did enjoy the ‘ghostly’ aspect to the plot. It was a shame that we didn’t get to read more from Caitlin’s perspective as her bitterness and quest for revenge added some interesting dynamics to the plot and made some interesting contrasts to Ellen. The mystery behind Caitlin’s untimely death was for me at least, the most readable part of the book. The opposite of her husband, she was perceived by villagers to be very different to what she actually was and learning her real story was fascinating.

I really enjoyed the development of the secondary characters too- and getting to know Ellen’s large Irish family. Though they seemed a bit stereotypical in places, they added some much needed humour to the storyline and it was clear they were determined to protect their new-found niece at all costs. Ellen’s Aunt Peg too sounded such a sweetheart. Set in a rural community where everyone knows everyone else’s business, gossip spreads like wildfire and it seemed like a lot of this book’s characters were harbouring secrets of their own that could cause damage if the truth was unveiled.

I suppose at the core of this novel are two mysteries really- what happened to Caitlin and what drove Ellen’s mother to leave Ireland so many years ago, never to return. Both elements are delivered well, albeit they don’t offer too many surprises. They were tied together beautifully however and this book did leave me with something of a warm feeling at its ending which is all I really ask for when I pick up a romantic read.

I think this escapist romantic read is sure to appeal to fans of Nora Roberts, particularly to those who have already enjoyed her paranormal romance novels set in Ireland. Though not my favourite Santa Montefiore to date, I’m glad I picked up this book as it was an enjoyable way to pass a few hours and it goes without saying that I will read more from her in future.

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