Rachel Hore

A Gathering Storm – Rachel Hore

Title – A Gathering Storm

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


A Place of Secrets – Rachel Hore

Title – A Place of Secrets
Author – Rachel Hore

Published – 2010 (paperback)

Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Another Richard & Judy bookclub book, and as with Sister, I was also given this for free.

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again …Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her. A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she’s asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up. As Jude untangles Wickham’s tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer’s nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?

This really does fall outside my comfort zone and isn’t the sort of book I would normally choose, but I was happy to try it. While the story felt very escapist, as the main character headed off to her Norfolk roots from her humdrum London life, it really went too far for my liking. The discovery of old manuscripts leads Jude to follow two stories based in the 18th century – one about the family who originally lived at Starbrough Hall and the other about the astronomical discoveries of the time. And while all this is going on she has her niece’s nightmares and her own love life to worry about.

Thankfully the author makes a point of wrapping up every possible loose end, but unfortunately this does mean using some mystical means as well as an unbelieveable number of coincidences. I struggled to feel any empathy with the characters and didn’t care too much what happened to them. It’s certainly an easy read and probably great for the beach, as long as you are prepared to suspend your disbelief.

Score – 2/5