A Splendid Ruin

Written by Megan Chance
Review by Fiona Alison

Set shortly before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this highly recommended and immersive novel reminds us to be careful what we wish for. Arriving destitute in San Francisco, into the welcoming arms of family, May Kimble is star-struck by her ‘golden’ cousin and her aristocratic uncle, and falls headfirst into the luxurious opulence of their world, of which she has only ever dreamed. As weeks turn into months, she finds herself increasingly enmeshed in her new family’s crushing kindness. Though alarm bells ring in her head, May doesn’t want to think this jackpot she has stumbled upon is anything but real, but her wilful ignorance robs her of a great deal and at great personal cost.

Ostracised by society, May has nothing but time to think on her revenge, after she discovers the true reason for her uncle and cousin’s duplicity. She spends her days practising patience, storing away every piece of information she can glean – anything she can use to clear her name – with the help of the only two people she can trust. As her determination and strength grow alongside her hatred, will she abandon her moral fibre and use that hate to bad ends?

I first encountered Megan Chance with her book A Drop of Ink and have been hooked ever since, reading all of her previous novels. I have yet to be disappointed. Her subjects vary but have a similar sense of the creepy unknown, conjuring a wonderful sense of menace: duplicitous characters, family secrets and cliff-hanger chapter endings. I read A Splendid Ruin in one sitting, unable to put the book down. This is about trust and recognising that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.