“Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia.”
Unfair it may have been, but I held Mariana up to the high standard set by The Winter Sea; I’ve no one to blame but myself for the malcontent that dug in upon finishing the novel. My expectations were unreasonably high, true, but I was aware of that bias and, not wanting to give the second of Kearsley’s books I’ve read short shrift, I read Mariana again. I’m happy to say it improved upon that second reading.
Kearsley’s storytelling is not at issue here; it’s engaging, assured and heartfelt. So it’s not that I wasn’t absorbed, that I ever felt taken by an urge to set the book down; on the contrary, I read it straight through. What inspired my initial disappointment with the book was a feeling of disconnect from the present-day couple. I cannot, however, go into detail because to do so would be to spoil several plot points. I’ll just say this: in The Winter Sea, both couples’ romance engaged my emotions, but Mariana’s resolution didn’t have the same emotional payoff. Initially. That second reading allowed me to see things more clearly, and I found myself more at ease with and satisfied by the ending.
Once again, I enjoyed the characters individually, appreciated the setting’s strong presence in the story, and immediately wanted to jump to another of Kearsley’s books to hold her special brand of magic close a little longer. Her books have moved into my comfort category; I know I’ll go to them when I’m feeling a little low and need a lift. And so, despite my at-first disappointment and that one remaining reservation, I would recommend Mariana to fans of Kearsley’s work, and to anyone who enjoys a story that wraps around you like a warm blanket on a dreary day.