Review of 'The Forgotten Maid' - Jane Cable
A captivating dual timeline romance set in Cornwall! Perfect for fans of Sarah Burton, Stacey Halls, Jessie Burton and Kate Mosse. Two centuries apart, two lonely women seek a place to call home…
Cornwall, England, 2015 Nomadic project manager Anna Pritchard has arrived in the village of Porthnevek to oversee the construction of a trendy new glamping site. But with many members of the local community strongly opposed to the development, she quickly finds herself ostracised and isolated. Seeking to ease her loneliness, Anna begins volunteering at a nearby National Trust house in Trelissick, once owned by the aristocratic Daniell family. In her new role, Anna soon feels her attachment to both Porthnevek and Trelissick deepening. And as she spends more and more time steeped in local history, it seems that the past and the present are beginning to collide…
Belgium, 1815 After losing her brother in the Battle of Waterloo, French army seamstress Thérèse Ruguel is taken to London by war artist Thomas Chalmers, becoming his reluctant muse. But with Thomas’s mother unhappy with the arrangement, Thérèse is soon sent to Cornwall as a lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell, a kindly relative of the Chalmers family. Able to speak only a little English — and with the other servants suspicious of her — Thérèse feels lost and alienated. And when she discovers her brother may still be alive, she must decide whether to continue with her new life in England, or brave the dangerous journey back to her homeland… What became of Thérèse? Can Anna unearth the ghosts of the past? And has Anna finally found where she belongs…? THE FORGOTTEN MAID is a beautiful time-shift romance set in Cornwall between the Regency era and the modern day. It is the first book in the Cornish Echoes Dual Timeline Mystery series.
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The Prologue sets the tone and there is an immediate sense of threat, but the possibility that the man's actions could be benign means you feel slightly off-kilter right from the opening scene. When the modern section kicks in, we are thrown straight into another situation where there is a potential threat. Who is Anna afraid of and why is she getting menacing phone calls? The present tense narration also makes this half of the book feel very immediate and drastically increases the sense of the dramatic.
The main thrust of the modern section of the story centres on the objections of the villagers to Anna's glamping development. It's clear that there is something more going on below the surface and when that is eventually revealed, it made me quite sad. We have a holiday home in Cornwall and when we kitted it out, because we are very aware of the issues surrounding second homes in the area, we tried to buy as much as we could from local businesses. We also allow friends and family to use it during term time when we can't and go down as many weekends as we can so that it's being used. Long term we want to move down there permanently. In the meantime however, the issues raised in this book are really important. Whilst the perception in the rest of the country is probably that most of Cornwall's income comes from tourism, the reality is that it's nowhere near as simple as that. I think it's really important that books don't romanticise the problems of modern Cornwall and this really doesn't: it tackles them head on.
The balance between the two halves of the story felt right and I was equally interested in both stories. The conclusion to Thérèse's story initially felt a little rushed, but on reflection, I think this was more to do with the sense of urgency created by the circumstances in which it ends, rather than because of any issue with the writing. I didn't particularly warm to Anna's character and felt a closer connection to Thérèse, but I think this was an advantage as it felt as though Thérèse was more the focus of the book. It's difficult to discuss certain elements of the modern story without adding a spoiler warning, so all I will say is that the situations with both male characters were utterly believable and remarkably poignant at times. And, as always, the Cornish countryside provides a stunning backdrop to the stories - it was lovely being able to picture the locations the two women were in.
Jane Cable isn't an author I've come across before, but I will certainly be looking out for more of her books in the future.
Jane Cable writes romance with a twist for Sapere Books, and The Forgotten Maid her first novel set in her adopted county of Cornwall. She is lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for more than twenty-five years, and loves spending time outdoors, preferably close to the sea on the wild and rugged north Cornwall coast.
She also writes emotional women’s fiction as Eva Glyn, published by One More Chapter.
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