Release date - 27th July 2017
Book length - 350 pages
Publisher - www.harpercollins.co.uk
Book Depository - www.bookdepository.com
Amazon UK - www.amazon.co.uk
Amazon US - www.amazon.com
ABOUT THE BOOK
A war-torn summer
A house fallen into ruin
A family broken apart by scandal…
Summer 1944: Bombed out by the blitz, Bethany Merston takes up a post as companion to elderly Alice Summer, last remaining inhabitant of the dilapidated and crumbling Summerhayes estate. Now a shadow of its former glory; most of the rooms have been shut up, the garden is overgrown and the whole place feels as unwelcoming as the family themselves.
Struggling with the realities of war, Alice is plagued by anonymous letters and haunting visions of her old household. At first, Beth tries to convince her it’s all in her mind but soon starts to unravel the mysteries surrounding the aristocratic family’s past.
An evocative and captivating tale, The Secret of Summerhayes tells of dark secrets, almost-forgotten scandals and a household teetering on the edge of ruin.
Firstly, I just have to mention the stunning cover of THE SECRET OF SUMMERHAYES by Merryn Allingham. While the image above is lovely it does not do justice to this richly coloured and atmospheric cover that made me pick it up straight away and dive into its pages.
Now onto the novel itself.
It is the summer of 1944 and the army has arrived in force at Summerhayes estate, which is nothing new as the crumbling manor has been the home to soldiers for a while now. In a small section of the house lives Alice Summer, the owner of the estate, and her last remaining helpers, Mr. Ripley, and Bethany Merston. Bethany, who acts as a companion to Alice, is trained as a school teacher but when her school was destroyed by the war, she was lucky to find the job in Summerhayes, even if Alice can be a handful at times. When strange letters begin to arrive that haunt Alice, it soon becomes apparent that somebody wants to scare her or worse.
Can Bethany with the help of a certain soldier, uncover the truth? And as they delve into the past history of Summerhayes will the truth destroy Alice?
THE SECRET OF SUMMERHAYES by Merryn Allingham is a richly layered historical story that paints a picture for you as you get lost in the drama. There are so many in-depth and likeable characters in this story and you immediately become connected to what is happening and need to know how it ends. That's not to say that all of the characters have that effect - I won't name the one that made my skin crawl from the very beginning, I'll let you find that out for yourselves.
The harsh reality of the war is depicted expertly throughout, and Summerhayes comes alive as we begin to imagine what it used to look like in its former glory and then in its shambling ruins. There is a dark and mysterious undercurrent that runs throughout this story and as Bethany makes it her mission to protect Alice from the past, she soon realises that to keep Alice safe she has to dig up old memories and many secrets and betrayals will come to light.
THE SECRET OF SUMMERHAYES by Merryn Allingham is everything I hoped it would be and so much more, and I am now going on a shopping spree to treat myself to some of the author's other titles - The Buttonmaker's Daughter, The Girl from Cobb Street, The Nurse's War, and Daisy's Long Road Home.
THE SECRET OF SUMMERHAYES by Merryn Allingham is an excellent book with an excellent plot and excellent characters. A complete all-rounder.
My father was a soldier and most of my childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including several years living in Egypt and Germany. I loved some of the schools I attended, but hated others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I left half way through the sixth form with ‘A’ Levels unfinished.
I became a secretary, as many girls did at the time, only to realise that the role of handmaiden wasn’t for me. Escape beckoned when I landed a job with an airline. I was determined to see as much of the world as possible, and working as cabin crew I met a good many interesting people and enjoyed some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca to mention just a few.
I still love to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage and children meant a more settled existence on the south coast of England, where I’ve lived ever since. It also gave me the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually gain a PhD from the University of Sussex. For many years I taught university literature and loved every minute of it. What could be better than spending my life reading and talking about books? Well, perhaps writing them.
I’ve always had a desire to write but there never seemed time to do more than dabble with the occasional short story. And my day job ensured that I never lost the critical voice in my head telling me that I really shouldn’t bother. But gradually the voice started growing fainter and at the same time the idea that I might actually write a whole book began to take hold. My cats – two stunning cream and lilac shorthairs – gave their approval, since it meant my spending a good deal more time at home with them!
The 19th century is my special period of literature and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, so when I finally found the courage to try writing for myself, the books had to be Regency romances. Over the last four years, writing as Isabelle Goddard, I’ve published six novels set in the Regency period.
Since then, I’ve moved on a few years to Victorian England, and I’ve changed genre too. The Crystal Cage is my first novel under the name of Merryn Allingham. The book is a mystery/romantic suspense and tells the story of a long-lost tragedy, and the way echoes from the past can powerfully influence the life of a modern day heroine. The next few Allingham books will see yet another move timewise. I’ve been writing a suspense trilogy set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s, and hope soon to have news of publication.
Whatever period, whatever genre, creating new worlds and sharing them with readers gives me huge pleasure and I can’t think of a better job.
For more information:
Website - merrynallingham.com
Twitter - twitter.com/MerrynWrites
Facebook - www.facebook.com/MerrynWrites/
*I want to thank Phoebe and Alice at Midas PR, the Publisher HQ, and the author Merryn Allingham for the opportunity to review this compelling novel, and take part in this blog tour. Read on for a little teaser...
For months, the regiment had been gradually inching along the south coast, practising manoeuvres as they went. It was common knowledge that an invasion this summer was on the cards; he was pretty sure it would only be a matter of weeks. He prayed, they all prayed, there’d be no repeat of the Dieppe debacle. The planners had called it a reconnaissance, his fellow soldiers a disaster. The element of surprise had been lost. A German navy patrol had spotted the Canadians and alerted the batteries on shore. His countrymen had faced murderous fie within a few yards of their landing craft – over three thousand killed, maimed or captured, and fewer than half their number returning to tell their story. He’d lost friends in that attack and mourned them still.
He pushed on, striking due north in the hope of finding some sign of men and machines, using his knife to hack a narrow path through grass that grew to the height of a small hut. It was hot and steamy and pungent. The backpack weighed heavier with each minute and though it was only April, the sun was unusually bright and he was forced to push back the fall of hair from his forehead and wipe a trickle of sweat from his face. But after fifteen minutes, he’d progressed just fifty yards. He stood still and gazed across at the tangle of grass and palms and ferns. He’d had enough.
He turned to go back the way he’d come. It was only then that he became aware he was not alone. Through the long stalks of grass, a pair of eyes peered at him, fixing him in an unnerving gaze. It was as though the grass itself was deciding whether he were friend or foe.
Then a small voice broke the silence. ‘Are you lost?’
Hi fellow bookworms. My name is Linda and I'm a reviewer & blogger from Ireland. Oh and also a wife and mother!
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