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Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson: A Book Review

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor
Author: Melanie Dobson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Christian
Publisher: Howard Books
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 353
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

     Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

     Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

     Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

     Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

     My Review: When Heather Toulson returns to England, she wants to put her parent’s cottage up for sale. Heather thinks that it will be a short trip, but she learns that her stay will take longer than she thought. Heather learns her family's secrets and stumbles upon the unsolved murder of Oliver Croft, the boy who lives next door. Could Oliver’s death and the disappearance of her sister, Libby, be connected?

     Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor tells the story of three strong women, Maggie, Libby, and Heather. The novel introduces us to Maggie first. She is pregnant when the novel begins and her lover has abandoned her. In order to save her reputation, she marries an older but respectable newspaper man named Walter. However, when he finds out Maggie’s secret, he nonetheless stays with her and her daughter, Libby. Maggie is a likable character. She is flawed and is prone to lying. However, she does this to protect the ones she loves.

     Libby is the next character. Even though a diagnosis for autism was not around during those times, the author reveals that had there been a diagnosis, she would have been autistic. I found Libby to be a wonderful heroine and a tragic character. She was innocent and loved butterflies, She was also very creative and liked to draw. When she is pregnant one day, she was not capable of taking care of the child. She loved the child, but she knew that her parents were more able to take care of her than she.

     Heather was also a lovable heroine. I could relate to her. She wants to make right her past. She was also persistent in her search to find out what happened to Libby. She is forced to come to terms with her family’s secrets and how to fix her own. Thus, all these three women were forced to endure tragedies and readers will be enthralled by these characters.

    Overall, this book is about family secrets, love, loss, and redemption. The message of the story is forgiveness. All of the characters in the novel were lovable. My favorite character was Walter. Walter was a man of courage and loyalty. Even though he knew that his wife deceived him in the most hurtful way, he stayed true to his marriage vows. Thus, I loved the relationship between Maggie and Walter because through their ups and downs, their marriage stayed strong, and they loved each other deeply. The plot was fast-paced and each chapter was full of suspense. Both storylines were well done, the historical and the contemporary, and I didn’t have a favorite era. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor will keep one reading late into the night, and once you read the last page, it will linger with you for a long time. I recommend this thought-provoking novel to fans of Kate Morton, Jan Moran, and M. K. Todd.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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