Sometimes a book comes along and it’s like it was written just for you. I have been a huge Sarah Maine fan since reading Bhalla Strand, which is now known as The House Between Tides.
When I saw that this one was out, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to read it earlier, so I checked it out from my library and brought it with me to Seattle for vacation.
Her books are always so atmospheric and have this kind of dark romantic prose so I figured it would be an exciting vacation read.
Libby Snow has always felt the pull of Ullanessm a lush Scottish island enshrouded in myth and deeply important to her family. Her great-great-grandmother Ellen was obsessed with the strange legend of Ulla, a Viking maiden who washed up on shore with the nearly lifeless body of her husband—and who inspired countless epic poems and the island’s name.
Central to the mystery is an ornate chalice and Libby, an archaeologist, finally has permission to excavate the site where Ulla is believed to have lived. But what Libby finds in the ancient dunes is a body from the Victorian era, clearly murdered…and potentially connected to Ellen.
What unfolds is an epic story that spans centuries, with Libby mining Ellen and Ulla’s stories for clues about the body, and in doing so, discovering the darker threads that bind all three women together across history (summary from Goodreads).
So let’s just say that it was evident that this book was going to keep me up into the late hours of the evening. From the second I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down! Like I literally had to tear myself away from this book because I didn’t want it to be over and I wanted to savor every single page!
I love the archeology parts. In another life, I planned on being Indiana Jones and I actually did take quite a few classes in college to become a Biblical archeologist, but then I loved literature and writing so much that my path went another way. But I love books with archeology in them and Maine’s knowledge and attention to detail shines in this book. I love the legend and oral tradition aspects of this story and how that played out in multiple ways in this book.
This was the most interesting angle for me and I absolutely devoured the history, legend, and archeological elements. In a word—outstanding.
Then came the characters…..a smart, yet secretive independent woman with a mysterious connection to the legend and past, double check. A handsome, yet brooding caretaker with a tragic past—-YES YES YES CHECK. I loved that the secondary characters and the alternating time period characters didn’t eclipse the two main ones. Libby and Rodri have great chemistry and carried the story without any problem. In fact, when we switched to Ellen and the other Sturrock characters, I was greatly annoyed. I wanted to keep reading just Libby and Rodri’s story however, before I knew it, I was enjoying Ellen’s portions just as much.
I think what stood out to me was the romantic angle. Ellen’s portions were clearly a love story, but Libby and Rodri’s were less obvious. Throughout the book, the chemistry and growing attraction between Libby and Rodri are hardly mentioned but the reader will easily see the subtle changes as the story goes on.
It takes a true talent to show readers a subtle romance without any real confirmation of the feelings. There isn’t some grand, let me tear your clothes off moment, to tell the reader that YES they are in love. All of a sudden about half way through this book I was like awwww they like each other—a lot. And it literally stole my heart. I loved loved loved how mature and how surprisingly romantic this approach was.
There were so many things to love about this book. The setting, the legend, the romance—-it had everything. Maine’s books always remind me a little of a modern Victoria Holt or Daphne du Maurier. I can’t get enough of her books and I am looking forward to reading the next one she puts out. Not going to lie, I wouldn’t mind revisiting these characters in other books but I know that Maine will create new characters that I will love just as much!
This was easily my favorite read of the summer, if not the entire year. I can’t remember having loved a book as much as I loved this one in a long time!
Final note—-whoever her cover designer is should get a huge shout out. Her covers are beautiful and the artist captures the essence of her books so well. I am absolutely in love with this cover and can’t get enough of it!
- Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 24th 2018 by Atria Books
- Review copy provided by: Personal collection, all opinions are my own.
- Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (can I give it more?!)
- Genre: Historic fiction, mystery, romance
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