Martinières has spent a lifetime distancing herself from her family legacy. She never wanted anything to do with the social mores of the French aristocracy. More than anything Emilie wanted to be loved by her parents. When her father was alive and not absorbed in his own hobbies, including his beloved rare book collection, he showed Emilie as much love and affection as he could. Her mother, however, was a different story. Emilie's mother was more interested in spending money and showing off her wealth.
Now that both of her parents are dead, Emilie will have to return to her childhood home, a large chateau on the South of France. She will have to face her past. And...Emilie will uncover family secrets, including a connection to a young woman sent into Paris as a spy during World War II. All of this blends together in Lucinda Riley's latest novel The Lavender Garden.
Emilie struck me as a cold, but at times naive and vulnerable woman. When the book opens, her mother has just died but Emilie shows very little emotion. I thought she might be in shock. Maybe she was bottling up her feelings, and she was just about to burst. But that didn't happen. I guess it's hard to feel a deep sadness when you grow up with inattentive parents. I found her to be a bit naive and vulnerable when she met Sebastian Carruthers, a man with connections to Emilie's father. Sebastian is very eager and willing to help Emilie with sorting out her mother's estate. I found myself questioning his intentions. Does he have an ulterior motive? Does he really care about Emilie? When they fall in love and get married, I'm still questioning his character. He just seems too good to be true.
Sebastian's connection to the Martinières is told through the eyes of Jacques, a long-time employee of the family. The story he tells is captivating. The contemporary part of the book is engaging, but I love reading about past history. In this case, you get an insight into life in World War II Paris during the Nazi occupation. Constance Carruthers, Sebastian's grandmother, was a British office clerk, but her fluency in French proved to be a useful asset during the war. She was sent into France undercover, but the mission goes sour leaving Constance searching for a safe haven. That safe haven was provided by Emilie's father. This part of the book felt like a bit of a thriller. You get invested in Constance and her well-being. She's young but was willing to put her life on the line.
I'm not always a fan of dual narratives, but I think it works here. It has the right blend of history, family drama, and complex relationships. If you like historical fiction, you should give this one a try.
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Atria) in exchange for an honest review.
In the spirit of honesty, I have to tell you all something. Currently I'm an editorial intern for Atria. I accepted this book for review before I applied for the internship. I spoke with the editor and publicist of this book, and both gave their approval for my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.