26 September 2016

Book Review: The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

"Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries . . .

Love. Guilt. Heartbreak.

1914

Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .

2016

Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .

Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience."

Rating: 5/5

I am very lucky that thanks to my blog, I get to read lots of amazing books. One of my reads of 2016 so far is certainly going to be Gill Paul's new novel The Secret Wife, set both in the present day and in Russia during the First World War. This is one of my favourite periods of history, I studied it for GCSE, A-Level and my first year of University too.  I was fascinated to read, at the end of this novel, that the historical part of this story is based mainly in fact and just a few things have been embellished for the sake of the story, which makes it even more exciting to read, and I simply couldn't stop reading once I had started, desperate to find out what was to come.

The Romanov family are certainly very famous in history, and there is of course the historical mystery of whether or not one of the Romanov duchesses, Anastasia, managed to escape the brutal slaying of the family in Russia during the war. However, this story follows Anastasia's older sister Tatiana, who is working as a nurse at the Palace, tending to injured soldiers. Here, she meets Dmitri, an Army officer who has been wounded and is in for medical attention. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship which soon evolved into much more. However, the war creates many problems for the pair, especially when Tatiana is forced into a makeshift prison along with her family. Dmitri is determined to help free his love, and her family, but his actions come at a terrible price.

This historical part of the novel was utterly compulsive to read, and I loved Gill Paul's writing. You can tell that she has done copious research into this topic, because everything read so beautifully, you weren't left wondering anything at all. Everything, from the palace, to the clothes, the gems, the setting, it was all so descriptively written that I enjoyed every single word of it, it set the scene perfectly. As well as these more technical details, the passion and emotion between these two characters comes across beautifully in Paul's writing. Many of the couple's interactions are actually through letters, and again I thoroughly enjoyed reading these exchanges. Their desperation, fear and love for one another really comes across and I was really praying for a happy ending for the pair.

The book alternates this story with another set in the modern day. We meet a character called Kitty, who has a link to someone in our historical story, which I loved straight away. Kitty has had her own personal trauma, and so has fled to a cabin in the woods on the shore of Lake Akanabee. There, she unearths a beautiful necklace, and finds out a lot more about the great grandfather who left her the cabin. The secrets are slowly unlocked throughout this book, and the fact that Kitty was discovering them along with the reader makes it all the more exciting because you simply don't know what is going to be revealed next.

There were a few jaw dropping moments that had me really stunned, a few moments where I did guess a couple of twists but it did not detract in any way from my enjoyment of this wonderful story. I loved how the two stories were woven together beautifully, drawing all of those threads together by the end and leaving me feeling like I had been on a real emotional rollercoaster. I honestly wished that it didn't have to end, because I could read about this set of characters forever, and the ups and downs they each went through at the different points in their lives. Gill Paul's writing was simply brilliant, and I cannot fault this book in any way. It is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, and I cannot wait to read more from her, this was just pure brilliance. Make sure you read it and allow yourself to be swept away with the captivating tale of The Secret Wife!

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