The Nature of a Lady (The Secrets of the Isles)

Written by Roseanna M. White
Review by Fiona Alison

In 1906, Lady Elizabeth (Libby) Sinclair travels with her maid and friend, Mabena Moon, to the thoroughly romantic setting of the Scilly Isles for the summer, to escape her matchmaking brother and social obligations which she will happily trade for microscopes and slides. Settling into the rental cottage she discovers the previous occupant’s belongings haven’t been removed. The vicar, Oliver Tremayne, calls at the cottage, worried for his sister, Beth, who has mysteriously disappeared. The unclaimed belongings are Beth’s. Strange packages and ominous letters start arriving at the cottage as Libby is mistaken for Beth (whose name she shares). Assuming Mabena to have suggested St. Mary’s as a pleasant getaway where Libby can pursue her scientific hobbies, she is shocked to discover that her friend had much more personal motives. As she helps Oliver to find his sister, alarming facts come to light, tracing back to the history of pirates in the 1700s.

This is a novel about nature in all its awe-inspiring facets, taking place on St Mary’s and Tresco, islands within easy reach of one another. The idyllic setting forms a perfect backdrop for the events which unfold; strange sightings, unexplained deaths, family feuds, hidden treasure, intrigue and danger, all the hallmarks of a romantic mystery where suspicions abound. The islanders are a delightfully eccentric group, needing no explanation for the deep love of their home. Aristocratic summer visitors fail to understand how the islands’ lack of amenities can appeal year-round. The story is cocooned in the wondrous mystery of the ocean, the beaches, the flora and fauna, which settles into comfortable narrative pacing; however, White never loses sight of the goal – to weave a tale that is absorbing to the very last page. Romance blossoms, and two couples unexpectedly find love.