The Hidden Palace

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Lushly illustrative, in many ways, of the works set in motion by Rosamund Pilcher, this sweeping cross-generational family saga follows the lives and loves of two key women: Florence Baudin, a naive yet sensible young woman (dealing with a horrific past), and her long-estranged aunt, Rosalie Delacroix, a glamorous and free-spirited run-away from the past.

Spanning the years leading up to and encompassing the claustrophobic and terrifying war years of WWII, the story splits between present-day Florence – gorgeously encased, for the most part, in a Devonshire “fairy tale cottage thatched and tucked into a cozy space between green-forested hills” (with the enigmatic and dashing Jack) – and Rosalie, two decades earlier, young and searching in the “the liquid shine of gold” buffing the limestone-ensconced fortresses on the island of Malta (a location near and dear to the heart of this reader).

As Florence, separated by war from her France-based sisters, Helene and Elise, reunites with her strangely-chilly mother, Claudette, she is unwillingly enlisted in the search for her aunt Rosalie – a search with an urgency of timing and accompanying circumstances both mysterious and confusing.

Battling her own growing and complicated feelings for her companion Jack, Florence’s journey, across the devastation of war-torn Europe and through the brambles of her own tangled heart, (complicated by family secrets, trauma and severance) tells a tale both engrossing and poignant.

As Rosalie’s path, equal parts mesmerizing and menacing, opens a door to a little-known aspect of Maltese history, her life shattering and blooming in the jasmine-scented courtyards of Mediterranean sunshine, it is unclear, to the reader, how and if this story could possibly resolve.

A fascinating and multi-layered read, this character-rich treat (the second in a series), worked well for this reader as a stand-alone novel.

A great big thank you to @randomttours #NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.

@dinahJefferies @HarperCollinsUK


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