I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite RNA authors, Jane Cable. The book is The Forgotten Maid, a dual timeline novel set in picturesque Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
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…
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…?
This book promises everything I love in a book. Gorgeous Cornish setting? Check. Dual timeline? Check. Exploring a fascinating period of history? Check. I went into it full of anticipation and I can tell you, the book fulfilled its promise in every respect.
The main protagonist is Anna, a rootless young woman who moves from project site to project site around the country with nowhere to call home and some unspecified trouble in her recent past that she can’t quite shake. When she arrives in Porthnevek, she is drawn to the wild beauty of the place, as well as its rich history, but is shocked at the hostility of the locals. She manages to carve out a little community for herself nevertheless, but becomes intrigued by one historical figure in particular.
Back in the Regency period, another young woman is feeling displaced, this time by war and loss, and is equally foreign and friendless in Cornwall. However, she has a saviour in her kind mistress and begins to settle into a new life, until her past also comes back to haunt her.
The parallels in the lives of Anna and Therese are subtly drawn but compelling, and I was equally entranced by the lives of these very different but connected women, separated by two hundred years of history. I had never really given any thought to what might happen to women affected by war in the 1800s, so Therese’s plight but an interesting and fresh spin on the Regency aspect of the story. We still get to read about all of the fabulous balls and social events that form the backbone of Regency novels, but the focus here in more on what happens below stairs and behind closed doors for women who have even fewer options than the monied classes. It is a sobering lesson in how far feminism has come in 200 years.
The detail of the effects of industrialisation on Cornwall, and the vast differences in benefits for the owners and the workers was also woven into the story beautifully and was enlightening. I personally love a book that I feel is teaching me something I didn’t know whilst I am reading it, and Jane has clearly done a lot of research for this book so it feels historically accurate. At the same time, you are not bombarded with historical fact, the balance the author has achieved is perfect.
This is also true in the division of the story between Anna and Therese. I liked the fact that the story switched between the timeline in chunks, rather than chapter to chapter. It allows the reader to develop and maintain a connection to each woman, rather than flitting between the two constantly, which can sometimes interrupt the establishment of relationship between the reader and the characters. I really felt immersed in each story and time period when I was reading those chapters. This was a book in which I did feel like I completely lost myself, and the read flew by very quickly, always the sign that I am engrossed in the tale the author is telling.
If I had any minor complaints they would be, firstly, that Anna is way too fickle with her affections, despite the fact that Jane was trying to persuade us she was exercising caution, and I wasn’t 100% buying it, particularly the first time. Also, I felt the storyline involving her family was not really committed to fully and should either have been developed more fully, or omitted altogether. These are me looking for things to criticise though, they did not detract in any meaningful way from my enjoyment of this book.
If you enjoy a dual timeline novel, and would be interested in a novel exploring the Regency period with a different spin, this is the book for you. It whisked me away and kept me entertained throughout, and I was left very satisfied with the whole reading experience. That’s a pretty good investment of 99p, if you ask me,
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 and for a limited time is only 99p. You can buy a copy here.
Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:
About the Author
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.
Connect with Jane:
Facebook: Jane Cable