One night I was browsing for a new audiobook on Audible and the book The Light Behind the Window by Lucinda Riley popped up as a recommended read. I was so excited because I thought it was a new Lucinda Riley book so I downloaded it immediately.
Then I realized that it wasn’t a new Lucinda Riley book but rather the UK title for The Lavender Garden. Which was actually ok because I have had The Lavender Garden on my TBR since 2013 so I thought it must have been a sign that it was time to read it.
I started listening to it in my car while driving my son to school one morning and for the rest of the week I found myself leaving the house earlier and earlier to drop him off so that I could listen to this one just a little longer.
An aristocratic French family, a legendary château, and buried secrets with the power to destroy two generations torn between duty and desire.
La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions . . .
Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.
As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.
Note to readers: In the UK, this book is published under the title The Light Behind the Window. (summary from Goodreads)
This book was absolutely stunning and captivating. Did it wrap up a little too neatly and perfectly? Yes of course it did, but did I care at all? No—not even a tiny bit! This book completely captured my attention from the moment I turned it on in my car. It was so good and had everything I expect in a Lucinda Riley book. A sweeping romance/saga, family secrets, and of course elegance. There is just something so posh about Riley and I have yet to read one of her books and feel disappointed—with the exception of The Sun Sister which was only ok for me—every other book has been wonderful.
Sure there were moments when I wanted to shake Emilie for all she was worth but I also felt like everything she did fit with her character. She was sheltered and struggled with her own feelings of inadequacy while Sebastian prayed on those. Right from the beginning I did not trust Sebastian. He just felt too convenient but even if the romance between Emilie and Sebastian was wrapped up in the first couple of chapters, Riley has a few tricks and twists up her sleeve when it comes to their romance. I loved how she slowly introduced readers to the idea of another romantic interest for Emilie, it was wonderful to watch unfold in an unexpected way. By the end I was sighing with a big ‘awwwwww’ inside.
I will admit I wanted to get back to Emilie’s story more often than Connie’s story. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Connie’s story was rich, well written, and interesting but I felt more of a connection with Emilie. I have read so many books set in WWII or Occupied France with women spies, but I am never tried of hearing their stories, even if they are fictional. I never met a lady WWII spy story that I didn’t like and this one was no exception. I loved Connie and felt her motives and choices aligned with her character as well as the time period. I am not going to ruin it for anyone, but the big decision she makes towards the end of the book just ruined me and broke my heart and I kept waiting for her to change her mind—-but she didn’t. I was so impressed that Riley stayed true to Connie’s character and the time period. The decision would have had repercussions for Connie and even though I wanted her to do the opposite, I felt that it showed the strength of her character and I admired her all the more for it. She felt fully developed and real to me.
I adored this book and I just want to reiterate how much I love Lucinda Riley. If you love sweeping sagas with romance and drama this is an author you need to check out. She is truly one of my favorites!