REVIEW: In the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
A post-war novel debut that will appeal to readers interested in Britain’s more recent history, as well as those who enjoy a more rural setting. The mystery matches the pace of rural life, and then races off with the reader in a thrilling but satisfying climax.
In the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
Category: Historical Romantic Suspense
Publisher: HarperImpulse (March 12, 2015)
Rated 4 out of 5
I chose this book to read because of its beautiful cover. I was immediately drawn to it because I could sense the era in history that I’m gravitating to more in fiction. Finding out that this novel takes place in Britain on a Cotswolds’ farm, is what sealed my request for review. I love stories from Britain since my great-grandmother entertained me with memories of her childhood. The English half of my family came to America as farmers in 1912, so reading books like this bring back nostalgic memories of stories told and letters shared while having tea.
In a year of regulations, rations and peace after World War II, Eleanor “Ellie” Phillips finds herself battling a foot of snow to feed her ponies. Times like this are hard enough for a family, but for a woman alone with only a boy to help her, it can be overwhelming. But it’s the life she lives and loves, on her own without anyone to answer to since her father’s death.
It was the young boy Freddy who spotted the man floundering in the snow, and in his agitated state convinced Ellie that she had to see for herself. No one should be out in this storm, but Ellie can’t leave a person in such inclement weather to face it alone. Finding the man supposedly dead was enough of a shock, but when he comes alive and fights Ellie, she nearly runs for her life. Until she realizes that this almost dead man is the very same man she knew before the war, Mathew Croft.
Ellie and Freddy get Mathew into the house after some persistence, but it’s when they start to take off his soaked clothes that they realize Mathew has been shot. Mathew isn’t really sure where he is so he’s muttering senselessly, but very plainly demands that Ellie not tell anyone he’s there.
The ambience and unraveling mystery created by Lorna Gray’s writing style is very enjoyable, once I got used to it. It’s funny how what we read most consistently will influence how we react to a new style. Going from one historical era to another will often make me hesitate, stumbling through the words trying to make sense of them. Yet, when I go back to read those first chapters after I’m done, I understand them perfectly and wonder why I had trouble to begin with. Such is how I reacted to this story, at first. Once I was in the rhythm of Ellie’s thought process, which can be rambling at times, I really enjoyed her character. The rambling showcases Ellie’s personality and probably is very much like how many of us think. So it filters in a bit of her past and some of the mundane from everyday living, while throwing out clues to a murder mystery she’s wrapped up in and trying to solve.
The rural setting is perfect. I got a real sense of what it may have been like in 1947 when everyone was picking up the pieces of their lives after the war. I fell for Ellie’s character, laughing at her dry wit and the absurdity of her circumstances sometimes. She’s hardened by life but you have to love her heart as it’s revealed slowly throughout the story. I feared for Ellie’s safety more than once and fell in love with Mathew right along with her. By chapter fifteen I was thoroughly swept up by the story, feeling as if I was there with each cautious step as the mystery builds in speed and anxiety.
An enchanting debut, Lorna Gray is a new author to experience. I’m already anxious for whatever she writes next. IN THE SHADOW OF WINTER is enthralling in the quietude of the rural setting in direct juxtaposition to the building suspense of the whodunit. The pacing can be unnerving as you’ll surely want to know what happens before you get there, but it’s the journey that’s so lovely and enjoyable because the characterization is worth the savor.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies. ARC provided by HarperImpulse through NetGalley.
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