One of Spain's richest men is dying. But as he prepares his estate, his family is shocked to discover he is making plans to give away his wealth to a young woman they have never even heard of. Who is she, and what hold does she have over him?
Wealth counsellor Charlotte Fairfax is asked to travel to the troubled family's home in Spain to get to the bottom of the mysterious bequest. It's the week before her wedding but she is confident she has time - there's only one reason an older man leaves his money to a beautiful woman, isn't there?
But in Madrid, things don't go to plan when the woman denies knowing anything about the gift. Is she lying? Looking for clues, Charlotte digs into the prominent family's history and unearths a dark and shocking past in which two people were torn apart by conflict. As long buried secrets start to reach into the present, Charlotte begins to wonder if love does not need to forgive or forget in order to endure - but just needs two hearts to keep beating.
I was lucky enough to win this book. I really liked how well the characters were described, I could see that there was a huge secret that some of the characters were hiding but I never expected it to be what it was (trying not to reveal the secret). I liked Charlotte as she was tough when needed to be and soft and caring when needed to be. I was hoping that her and Nathan got their differences resolved as it was obvious that there was something between them.
The story was interesting, the story was partly told in the past as memories and partly in the present as the family history was investigated to see why a dying man would leave millions to an unknown person. The story just flowed easily from past to present and the secrets started being revealed. The book was a page turner and I was hooked but I was more interest in the Charlotte and Nathan side of the story.
Well done to Karen Swan for a really captivating story of love and betrayal, of loyalties being tested and war. It wasn't a very long book but well told and interesting enough that I'm going to enjoy reading this again. I do hope that there are more books from this author.
I am not usually into romantic novels, but this one intrigued me because it appeared to offer something other than a conventional love story. I have always loved visiting Spain; it is a country of contradictions with rich and poor living side by side, and a wealth of art and architecture to entice the most discerning of tourists into paying a visit. The Andalusian area, in particular, has always been a drawcard with the Moorish architecture and local dialect which I find quite a challenge! And anyway, Spanish history has always fascinated me.
I started reading with no particular expectations, but was quickly seduced by the fast-moving prologue. Swan writes fluently, choosing the opening words judiciously to ensure that the reader is instantly involved with the action. The novel proper then begins, juggling two time periods to portray two separate stories which span the decades. I hesitate in fact to classify this as a romance, even a historical romance. It is so much more; it captures the essence of modern-day Spain and presents it in stark contrast to the Spain of the 1930s Civil War, showing how far the country has come in many ways while maintaining certain traditions and customs in others. The social history of the earlier period is vividly shown, underpinning the tragedy of a conflict that sets family members against one another.
Every time there is a move from one era to another, there are cliff-hangers to urge the reader to stay just a little longer. I was tempted once or twice to skip a section in order to find out what happened! However, there is a reason for the time-toggling; as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that, rather than crafting two separate stories, Swan is developing the links between them until it becomes clear, near the end of the book, that they are interdependent and form one complex narrative.
I think the one weakness in the book is that the ending is a little too predictable. I would like to have seen one issue left unresolved, if only to emphasise that in real life things do not always pan out as we would have hoped. While it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole, it might have made it truer to life.
As far as the romantic passages are concerned, they are entirely in context. For me, this is the difference between a "romance" and a "detective story". This book fits somewhere in the middle; the romantic passages are never gratuitous - they serve to illustrate the action rather than replace it. At the same time, they are never tacky; the descriptions are tastefully presented, not once descending to the realm of erotica. Readers who pick up this book expecting a titillating read are going to be sadly disappointed - it is so much better than that.
And finally, the pursuit and solving of a family mystery is an exciting journey into a former era. Charlotte - the wealth counsellor turned detective - manages to find out what really happened with the help of several others including her former partner Nathan, and the reluctant heiress Marina. As the pieces from the past emerge one by one, the entire saga unfolds and the mystery of Marina's identity is finally revealed.
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