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The Splendour Falls

The Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley 3 ½ stars

This book is more a mystery with some romance rather than historical fiction. It's set mostly in 1990's Chinon, France, with just a few brief jaunts to the past to set the scene for the contemporary story. The book begins in the 12th century: King John's wife Isabella resides in Chinon Castle where she "hides a treasure without price" prior to fleeing the besieged Castle. There is also a brief journey to the end of WWII where another Isabella hides another treasure. The bulk of the novel revolves around Emily, who has been convinced by her cousin to join him in Chinon while he searches for the first Isabella's treasure. When he fails to appear, she becomes embroiled in the lives of the other guests at the hotel.

I love Kearsley’s descriptive style, however in this novel her descriptions overshadow the actually storytelling. At first I loved it, but by ½ way through I got tired of all the detail with little substance and nearly stopped reading. Fortunately I didn’t give up. By nearly 2/3 of the way in, the story finally took over and I was back to loving it by the time I finished. A bit convoluted and meandering, but with enough of a payoff to make me happy I stuck with it. Not recommended for first time Kearsley readers, but I think enjoyable enough for her diehard fans. I was enchanted by her descriptions of Chinon—it makes me want to plan a vacation there.