A Place of Secrets

Written by Rachel Hore
Review by Jane Kessler

This story starts in the present as Jude, a young widow who works at an auction house, is sent to Norfolk to value the library of an 18th-century astronomer, Anthony Wickham, at Starbrough Hall. Jude has family in the area, including her sister and young niece, and her grandmother grew up in the gamekeeper’s cottage on the estate. The collection is fascinating and includes an element of mystery: the astronomer’s adopted daughter, Esther, who was his assistant, disappeared after his death. While Jude searches for clues to past events, she is also struggling with problems in the present. Her young niece keeps having a nightmare, which turns about to be the same nightmare Jude has had all her life. In addition, Jude is attracted to Euan, a naturalist living in her grandmother’s old cottage, but she’s afraid that he is attracted to her sister, with whom she has a prickly relationship.

The place of secrets refers to a folly on the Starbrough Hall grounds used by Wickham to view the stars, which figures prominently in the lives and secrets of many of the people in the story, both past and present. Jude’s quest to find out more about Esther Wickham leads her to some surprising family connections and to the revelation of family secrets.

I enjoyed so much about this story: the setting on an English estate, the description of the process of valuing Wickham’s collection, the discussion of astronomy in the 18th century, and the budding romance between Jude and Euan. At times while reading, I wondered how, or if, the author was going to tie up all the loose threads of this multilayered story. I worried for naught, as it all came together with a satisfying conclusion. A thoroughly enjoyable read.