'The smell of exotic spices enveloped her in a fragrant cloud. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the shop. Above her strings of brass bells tinkled like fairies' laughter.'
In 1872, seventeen year-old Amy Duncan arrives in the Gold Rush town of Millbrooke, having spent the coach journey day-dreaming about glittering pavilions and gilded steeples. What she finds is a dusty main street lined with ramshackle buildings. That is until she walks through the doors of Mr Chen's Emporium, a veritable Aladdin's cave, and her life changes forever. Though banned from the store by her dour clergyman father, Amy is entranced by its handsome owner, Charles Chen.
In present-day Millbrooke, recently widowed artist Angie Wallace has rented the Old Manse where Amy once lived. When her landlord produces an antique trunk containing Amy's intriguingly diverse keepsakes - both Oriental and European - Angie resolves to learn more about this mysterious girl from the past. And it's not long before the lives of two very different women, born a century apart, become connected in the most poignant and timeless ways.
The cover on this book is very catchy and definitely piqued my interest. I won't explain the plot as this is well covered above.
Told in the third person this is the story of two women over two different centuries in the same town. The story begins with 17 year old Amy and I immediately wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this book but within a few pages I was captivated. Thankfully I was having a rare escape so was able to read this over a couple of days as I was totally engrossed in this story. I especially enjoyed reading the story of Amy, as I am a bit of a historical novel buff, but Angie's story was enjoyable also. Both stories held me and I really wanted to find out what was going to happen. There is nothing like a good romance novel and this had all the elements of a very good read. The stories of Amy and Angie were incredibly well woven together and are both very believable.
I would have loved this story to continue in this book but the author has a sequel in the pipeline so I will be eagerly awaiting this for the conclusion of Angie's story. I don't want to ruin the book by writing too much about the development of the story but it is just so believable and enjoyable. At the end is an author's note, Q&A with Deborah O'Brien, and reading group questions so this is a good book if you have a book club.
I would recommend this if you like a good romance or historical story and it is a very absorbing read so brilliant to take on holiday or on a plane or train trip (or just to curl up and read). A fantastic first novel and I look forward to reading more!
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Evelyn Waugh (1903 - 1966)