Author: Nicola Cornick
Publication: Graydon House, trade paperback, 2019
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction
Plot: Fenella Brightwell, in present day, has rebuilt her life after a disastrous marriage, leaving London for Swindon, not far from where she grew up. When her grandmother dies, Fenella receives a sumptuous gold silk dress that she had impulsively stolen on a visit to a stately home as a teen. The dress had belonged to Lady Isabella Gerard in 1765, herself trapped in a vicious and loveless marriage, and has become an ill-omened garment that exacerbates out the worst attributes in those who touch it. Somehow Fenella time slipped across the centuries to encounter Lord Gerard and snatch the dress from his obsessed grasp. However, Fenella’s possession of the dress is not happy: it makes her kleptomania worse and she starts to feel she is being watched. As she recognizes parallels between her life and Isabella’s, she begins to fight for her own new life and happiness.
Audience: Fans of dual time frame books such as those by Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley, and Barbara Erskine
My Impressions: I have been reading Nicola Cornick for some time, although her books have not been easy to find in the US. A couple years ago, I visited about 10 bookstores in England, trying without success to find a copy of her House of Shadows, which was brand new. Luckily, I found a sympathetic sales associate at a W.H. Smith who looked it up in her database, told me her location didn’t have it, but got permission from her manager to dash to another terminal to get it for me (she took so long that I wondered if she had forgotten me and gone on break), and returned triumphant! Now, that is what I call customer service!
This book was enjoyable despite the fact that all the characters were quite unpleasant, including Fenella, Isabella, and Constance, who is Isabella’s maid (there are many nefarious characters in fiction with my name!). Ms. Cornick is a skilled writer whose research and language are unerring, enabling her to bring different eras to life. I liked her historical romances but she has added dimension to her work with the last three books: House of Shadows, The Phantom Tree, and The Woman in the Lake. I believe all three are now available in the US which will make it easier for readers on this side of the Atlantic to discover this talented author (and save me money!). I wish there had been time to interview the author for this blog but it is too busy a time at work. Maybe for her next book!
He tilted his head to read the title and author. “Georgette Heyer,” he said. “I’ve never heard of her.”
“Wow,” said Fen blankly. She had never met anyone who hadn’t heard of Heyer.
He laughed. “Thanks for making me feel illiterate,” he said dryly.
(I assume there are many people who haven’t heard of Heyer but she is certainly one of my favorite authors.)
Off the Blog: I am puppy-sitting this weekend, and Chloe was a good sport about coming to help with free tax preparation today in Dudley Square. We walked around the block every two hours but had to be very careful to avoid broken glass, which is sad.