Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" by Melanie Dobson

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review: "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" is filled with mysteries and tangles of deceit.  Melanie Dobson creates a plot with three generations of layers to sort through.  Dobson definitely thought outside-of-the box when writing "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor." There isn't much that is predictable or ordinary in the plot. Amid the quaint cottages and country lanes of England, Dobson weaves a story shadowed with darkness and pain.  Stories of the past slowly unfold in the present for Heather Toulson, who uncovers shocking revelations about her family and shares some of her own.

The novel started a bit slow, especially in the present day scenes. There were some detailed passages about art restoration that I skimmed, but the pace picked up within several chapters. Secrets and lies are continuously present and create an engaging, yet heavy read. There is a pattern of deceit that emerges among all three generations, and the results are thought-provoking. They can also be disturbing.  This is especially true of Libby's role in the novel. Through Libby, Dobson sheds light on the stigma attached to children who were deemed "abnormal" by society in the 1950's and 1960's. As a reader, I couldn't understand Libby's decisions, which made me feel like an outsider. I was left feeling sympathetic to her character and very perplexed by certain interactions between Libby and other characters. The history of the Doyle family is plagued by painful twists, which could have been avoided through truth. It seems a bit unrealistic that each woman would follow such similar life paths, and the plot almost sounds like a soap opera when you tell someone all of the details. Regardless, it is easy to keep turning the pages while seeking resolution.

It would be unrealistic to end "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" with complete and perfect closure. There are broken hearts that cannot be mended and relationships that cannot be fully repaired.  Dobson gives readers a hopeful conclusion for Heather and her family, finally on the mend, thanks to lessons learned from long buried secrets.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Howard Books through Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Howard Books: When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways. 

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

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