An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother’s honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.
Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.
Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.
She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?
And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?
Bride of a Distant Isle is a gothic romance set during the Victorian period in southern England. Our heroine, Annabel, is recalled to the family home without warning by her cousin who hints that he has a particular future in mind for her. Highcliffe has never been a welcoming environment and certain events cause Annabel to fear that she might be going as crazy as her deceased mother. It reminded me of the 1940’s George Cukor classic movie, Gaslight.
While reading, I was never quite sure where the plot was headed. There were unexpected twists and, like Annabel, I found it difficult to know which characters could be trusted. Some people were friendly toward her but acted in a duplicitous manner. Others were distant but had Annabel’s best interests at heart. There are moments of brevity, such as a visit to the Great Exhibition, but these are few and far between. One thing I appreciated were the references to the Maltese language, including some speech written in this variety of Arabic. It’s a difficult language at the best of times and, during the period in which the novel is set, was not actually one of the official languages of Malta.
Bride of a Distant Isle is the second novel in the Daughters of Hampshire series, but has no connection to the previous book other than its location. Each can be read as a standalone and would be enjoyed by any fan of gothic romance.
Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary Advance Uncorrected Proof of Bride of a Distant Isle, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Do you plan to read Bride of a Distant Isle? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: 22 March 2016
Page Count: 352