I am a big big big Lucinda Riley fan. I have read almost all of her books and have loved many of them. This book is probably one of her most popular books and the reviews have consistently been strong, but it’s one of the few books I haven’t read by her. So I thought it was time to rectify that and start reading it—well listening to it.
Sadly, this one felt like a chore for me. I kept listening and listening and listening hoping that it would get better but for me it just fell flat. I had very high hopes for this one but it just wasn’t up to the Riley standard for me. I will say though, I am glad I listened to this one instead of physically reading it. There were a lot of difficult names and places that I would have had no clue how to pronounce had it not been for the amazing narrator.
I hate when I have to ‘make up’ how a town or person pronounces their name and that’s the beauty of Audible for me, I love knowing exactly how to pronounce a person’s name or the town etc. The narrators of this edition were great and I really liked their performance. Honestly I don’t think I would have kept reading/listening if it wasn’t for them.
In the heyday of the British Raj, Anahita becomes Princess Indira’s official companion, and accompanies her to England just before the outbreak of the Great War. There, she meets the young Donald Astbury – reluctant heir to a magnificent, estate – and his scheming mother. Eighty years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. Her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, takes her to the now-crumbling Astbury Hall…(summary from Goodreads)
This book is primarily a historical fiction book, however it does contain a modern story too that connects to the historical parts. For me, I had little to no interest in the modern story. I didn’t care for Rebecca or even Ari. I thought they were self absorbed and boring. Neither of them really stood out to me and I found them so irritating early on in the book that as it progressed I just never felt connected or invested in their parts of the story. Anahita was a charming character and I liked her well enough but there was nothing amazing that stood out to me about her. Donald seemed idealistic and frankly when he ‘moved on’ I just wrote him off all together. I never really liked any of the characters and I felt like Riley has written so many wonderful characters in her other books that this one left me scratching my head.
The book is over 600 pages long and the Audible edition is roughly 18 hours of listening and while I don’t mind long books, there is something about this one that made it feel long and boring. I didn’t feel any of the ‘romantic’ parts. I never liked Donald and Anahita together. I thought it was too much of a reach and he just seemed too idealistic for my taste. I ended up skipping through some parts because I just wanted to get through this one. After 14 hours of listening I felt like I could finish the rest of the book but it wasn’t easy. This one took me weeks to read and typically Riley’s books are quick reads for me.
Now this one did have some things to recommend itself, I loved the rich historical detail. Riley is known for her attention to historical detail and this one did not disappoint on that front. She draws on Indian culture during the British Empire rule and I loved how she incorporated that historic detail into this romance/epic novel. It definitely had a sweeping feel to it but for me it just didn’t hit as hard as some of her other books. I know that I am in the minority of readers as many many many people loved this one and praise it as her best novel but for me it just didn’t hit the mark.
Book Info and Rating
Format Audible Audio
PublishedJanuary 17, 2014 by Whole Story Audiobooks
Review copy provided by personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: historical fiction