The Lavender Garden
By: Lucinda Riley
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
An aristocratic French family, a legendary chateau, 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 Martinires, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent chateau 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 chateau itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future.
I had an eye out for this book for a very long time, and her books bumped up the want-to-read queue after reading her most recent novel, The Midnight Rose (review), last year. I think it’s the cover because it looks like the perfect read for this time of year.
I was immediately intrigued and drawn towards Emilie’s story. I really wanted to hug her after reading all of the stuff she had to deal with growing up with her mother being the way she was and her father being the way he was and wanting to just forge her own path in life. Her family’s chateau sounded amazing and was curious about the 1944 storyline at first but it did take a while to materialise and enter into the narrative. Over the course of reading the book, I found the 1998 storyline more interesting than the 1944 storyline, probably because there seemed to be a lot more questions being raised there than in the 1944 storyline, which felt more predictable (I probably read too many historical fiction titles in a similar vein at this point) and more interesting in the latter 20th century with the questions raised from that vantage point.
I guess I was also more interested and invested in the 1998 storyline because I was more curious about Emilie’s story and the strange relationship between Sebastian and Alex. I really felt from the get-go that things were moving too fast between her and Sebastian.
Overall, The Lavender Garden was unputdownable once the story hit its stride and both storylines emerge. It left me wondering how both stories were connected, and I enjoyed following Emilie both in piecing together the clues of what happened in her father’s life, her own personal growth, and understanding the men in her present life. Readers of historical fiction will want to check out this title.