Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

I'm diving back into reading again with some great historical novels this month. In a previous post, I talked about discovering Nicola Cornick's historical fiction, and checked out all three of her latest paperback novels from the library. The Woman in the Lake is her newest, just published this year. 

At first, I was a little confused as I was reading, trying to get all my ducks in a row. It took about 40 pages before I felt on solid ground with this plot. One of my favorite plot devises is dual timelines and this one bounces from 1765 to 2014 and involves spousal abuse, love affairs, murder, and smuggling. And the one thing that links both timelines is a golden gown that has a dark power over anyone who possesses it. 

1765: Lady Isabella Gerard has just been viciously assaulted by her husband after refusing to wear his latest gift: a golden gown he had made special for her. Their marriage is downright toxic; he is always parading mistresses and spending money he doesn't have; she is trapped and has illicit affairs with members of the aristocracy. Isabella's maid, Constance, is Lord Gerard's spy; she keeps tabs on Isabella and reports her every move to Lord Gerard. He's both filled with obsession and hatred for his wife. 

2014: Fenella is starting her life over after a divorce from a possessive and abusive husband. As a teenager, she stole the gold gown from Lydiard Park while there on a school visit. The gown has an unhealthy hold on Fenella, causing her worst trait to manifest. She hides the gown in her grandmother's home and eventually runs away at sixteen to start life away from home. Now an adult, a teacher and a vintage antiques dealer, she receives the gown in the mail after her grandmother has died. Once again, the gown exerts an unnatural hold over Fenella...

The novel moves back and forth between the two timelines, and after settling into the story, I quickly became engrossed. At first I wasn't a big fan of Fenella, but as I read more of the novel, my opinion changed and I became a fan. When Hamish enters the picture, and romance is a possibility, I had big hopes for the both of them. What I really liked was Fenella's decision to confess to Hamish and her friend Jessie the odd happenings both now and as a teenager. This helped push the plot forward. I am not a fan of characters keeping key issues quiet for a long time. Spill it! In this case, it made Fenella's experiences valid and helped build her relationship with Hamish. 

There's magic, time travel, deadly plots, stalking, and a bit of historical interest all mixed into this novel. Just the kind I like! Oh--and dysfunctional families. That's another big part of the novel: loyalty, missed opportunities to make things right, regret, and acceptance. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and can't wait to read more of Nicola Cornick. Fans of Susanna Kearsley, Barbara Erskine, and Kate Morton will want to add Nicola Cornick to their list of favorite authors. 

Rating: 4/6 for an intriguing plot, twists galore, and just enough other-worldliness to make things interesting. Can an object hold intense emotion from the past and influence the present? 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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