Author – Rachel Hore
Published – 2011
Genre – Fiction
This is the fifth title by Rachel Hore, following on from the success of A Place of Secrets, which was a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection. I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy Place of Secrets when I read it, and I nearly gave up when I thought that A Gathering Storm was going to follow the same formula. Fortunately I didn’t, as it actually turned out to be an enjoyable read.
After Lucy Cardwell’s father dies she discovers references to Rafe Ashton, her great-uncle and someone she had never heard mention of, amongst his things. Lucy’s father seemed to have been troubled before he died and when she is presented with the opportunity to visit the village where her grandmother grew-up she takes it. In fact after a disagreement with her boyfriend she makes a spontaneous decision to spend a week there.
Trying to find out more about her family’s history, Lucy is introduced to Beatrice Ashton, an elderly village resident in her eighties, who happens to be Rafe’s widow and the former best-friend of Lucy’s late grandmother Angelina.
So the similarities to the previous book are an “intrepid” young woman in the present in an unsatisfactory relationship who has a chance meeting with a handsome stranger. At the same time she becomes involved in finding out more about a story from the past.
But there the similarities end. Beatrice herself tells Lucy her story, and it’s told in a very straightforward way. During her stay in Cornwall Lucy visits each day and over the week Beatrice tells the story of how she met Angelina, grew up alongside her family, and then how their lives took separate paths after the breakout of World War II. Beatrice’s story is fascinating. There’s obviously a secret that she’s been keeping all these years and this is alluded to very early on, but the reader doesn’t have their suspicions confirmed until almost the end of the book. Beatrice’s story is of her coming of age during the early years of WWII, and I have to confess to having a soft spot for these stories (Sarah Harrison’s Flower’s of the Field comes to mind, although set in WWI).
Lucy’s own story is a simple romance, but ties neatly into the story Beatrice is telling, as her love interest is a soldier on leave. The threads of sacrifice for your country are mirrored without it feeling contrived.
There were one or two places I felt a little let down by the book, a few mysteries which went unsolved, but as one of my complaints from the previous one was that all the loose ends were tied up to neatly, it’s hard to be critical. The story had none of the supernatural elements of its predecessor and although I wasn’t too fussed by Lucy, Beatrice’s character was welll written and I really felt for her.
Score – 4/5