I gave this four stars on Goodreads because it was such a page turner, but overall, three might be more accurate. I would feel better about the higher rating if the book had ended about 50 pages earlier than it did.
Lucinda Riley is a gifted story-teller. I’m one of her fans and I’ve read MANY of her novels (links to other reviews below). This one, according to her preface, was originally published in England in 2000 under the title THE LOVE LETTER, and initially fell flat. Riley explains that it was probably because Britain’s Royal Family was held in such low esteem at that moment, just a few years after Princess Diana’s death. I think it’s more likely this story would not sit well with royalty fans at any time. Because the royal family, its massive supporting bureaucracy (what the Duke of Edinburgh refers to as “the firm”), and the British secret service do not come off well in this book.
It’s a mystery which begins with the death of a prominent British actor, Sir James Harrison, who dies with an old secret on his lips. His grandchildren — Marcus, a producer and Zoe, an actress — eventually become caught up in trying to figure out that secret. They are somewhat pushed into this inquiry by a hungry, young journalist, Joanna Haslam. I won’t share much more about the plot because, if you decide to read this, you’ll want to experience the pleasures of the many, MANY surprises for yourself. Because it turns out that lots of other people have secrets too. Zoe. Joanna’s childhood friend Simon. Along with many more peripheral characters. And then, of course, there’s the big one promised by the book’s title.
For me, this felt more like a promising writer’s early work. It’s remarkably suspenseful and you will likely inhale it as a “good read.” So Riley certainly understands what it takes to hold a reader’s attention. But it’s almost as if she was experimenting, trying to see how many plot twists you can put into one 500-page novel. By the end, she took it, in my view, way too far into the realm of OVERLY imaginative and even a bit ridiculous.
Still, it’s a complex plot with lots of romance among beautiful people and you won’t be able to anticipate what happens. And, in truth, I was completely captivated, up until the last 50 pages. Even then, I had to keep reading to see how everything would resolve.
More about the author, Lucinda Riley.
You may be interested in my reviews of other Riley novels:
The Seven Sisters (also the name of a 7 novel series, still in progress, and including the following books)