Book Review : Bride of a Distant Isle
Daughters of Hampshire
By Sandra Byrd
Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.
Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.
She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?
And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I was hesitant to start this book because it looks like a romance, and I’ve had dismal luck finding romance novels that I enjoy. Bride of a Distant Isle was recommended to me by a librarian. I didn’t realize it was the second in a series, however, it works as a stand alone novel. I didn’t need any background information to understand what was happening and I’m delighted to report that I really liked Byrd’s novel.
Bride of a Distant Isle reads more like a modern Jane Eyre than a contemporary romance. There were no lines such as, “when I kissed him I felt a tingle of electricity run through my whole body…” which is the common line used repeatedly in clean romance novels. Hooray! I love it when a novel is original rather than a repeat of other books. It also has a Jane Eyre feel because it has other gothic elements. The eerie tone of the mental institution, the way her mother had been locked in the tower and the religious leader who served a crucial role in pointing out clues to Annabel were all gothic elements. The Captain also alludes to the fact that he isn’t as good a man as he could have been until he met Annabel. The pure woman saving the man (a Byronic hero) is another element found in gothic novels.
If you don’t feel Bride of a Distant Isle is a modern gothic novel I would love to hear your thoughts. I recommend this book highly. I am anxious to read more of Sandra Byrd’s novels.
4 out of 5 stars
- the Mother
If you like this one I would recommend Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (published in 1984) and The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (published in 2008).
If you want to branch into historical novels with magic try Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede (published in 1988) and The Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler, beginning with The Queen’s Poisoner (published in 2016).