Summary: Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.
It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.
When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.
Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.
Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.
Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story…or the whole truth.
*I received acopy of this book from Simon&Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.*
“Their doomed romance becomes a local legend…”
Nothing like shipping a doomed ship. I loved them right from their first “encounter” and the whole time knew it was bad news bears but you better believe that didn’t stop me!
Bellewether was a hit for me in many ways. The pacing was great and I never once felt bored while reading and the pages just seemed to fly by. The prose was descriptive but not excessively so, which is where I usually get hung up with historical fiction and having it feel way too long.
The use of multiple POVs and time periods is also beautifully woven together in Bellewether. Each character has a distinct voice of their own and the actual set up of the chapters and headings makes it crystal clear which character and time period you are reading so nothing ever gets muddled while flying through the story. Although frequently going back and forth, the story feels cohesive and fluid the entire time.
Susanna Kearsley’s passion for history and experience as a museum curator also shines through on the page. There is so much care put into describing the historical elements of the novel and painting the story of Lydia and Jean-Philippe. Had grade 10 Canadian history felt so easy to read and captivating I may have paid slightly more attention all those years ago! I can only imagine what goes into researching and constructing a novel like this and she has pulled everything together beautifully.
Finally, I can’t review a book with female leads like this without gushing about how much I appreciate the inclusion of strong female characters. I admire Charley for, among other things, making an incredibly hard decision and going against the grain of what many would expect (I’d say more but spoilers). She has her idea of what is the right course of action and followed that regardless of what others wanted her to do. We first see Lydia standing in a lake in her beautiful yellow dress and then running into her home all disheveled; lady-like behaviour be damned.
Bellewether is an incredible marriage of past and present with some of the best story-telling I’ve read all year. I highly recommend this to all historical fiction lovers!