Last year, a bunch of Susanna Kearsley’s books went on sale on Amazon. I’d been wanting to pick them up, but kept putting it off because of the price. If I love an author’s work, I don’t care what it costs, but I had never read her and wasn’t inclined to lay out $10+ for an ebook until I had had a taste.
First I read A Desperate Fortune, and then, while they were still on sale, I bought everything I could. But although this is “series” month in the TBR challenge, I am using that to loosely mean “author you’re glomming” instead of strictly “books in a series.” Each Kearsley is a standalone.
I will say that I was a bit annoyed with the heroine of The Splendour Falls because of what seemed to me a rather facile “if my parents divorced after 30 years together, there must be no such thing as lasting love” attitude. But that’s a minor quibble (the same kind of thing happened in A Desperate Fortune, where she took an “easy out” with a characterization) and because Splendour is an early book (despite the listed publication date, this is a reissue), some of the flaws do show. The pacing is not as tight as in later work, the characters are sometimes overblown and the weave between past and present has some holes. (Also, if you don’t know that this was originally published in 1995, you’re going to be confused by the ages of some of the characters…you need to remember that the book is 20 years old since there’s a WWII-era storyline woven through it.)
Despite its flaws, however, Splendour is worth reading for writing like this:
Between the saints and me a garden grew, a wild garden, mindless of man’s will or rules of order. Here and there the sunken forms of graves spoke of the time when this wild place had been a proper church, with nave and transept, altar and aisles. But the graves were empty now, the bodies moved and buried elsewhere. Above where they had lain the roof had long since fallen and been cleared away, and the once-high walls had crumbled to uneven contours, their jagged stones yet softened by a trailing growth of ivy.
Kearsley’s books are not romance, though they do all have romances in them. They are a marriage of lit fic, mystery, and romance. They’re modern Gothics, with an old-school feel and an emphasis on complex plotting and evocative language rather than full emotional arcs. Like most Gothics, they tend to end rather suddenly, which I know can annoy some people but it doesn’t bother me at all.
This is not a perfect book, not Kearsley at the top of her game, but it is still head and shoulders above much of what is out there and worth a read.