Who doesn’t love a good family saga? Set in Edwardian Cornwall, here’s a novel with a tried and tested recipe: dark secrets, affairs of the heart, a spot of blackmail and a rather spectacular storm! It’s an absorbing story for a rainy afternoon or to take on holiday, and will no doubt be a popular choice in libraries from Penrith to Penzance. Terri Nixon sketches a credible Cornish village community, still reliant on its traditions of fishing and tin mining but emerging into a more modern era where electric lights, motor cars and transatlantic travel are part of a brave new world. We follow the story of characters created in an earlier novel (Penhaligon’s Attic); they are trying to move on from past issues but events surrounding the mysterious death of a pregnant, unmarried girl trigger misinterpretations that serve to unsettle many relationships including that of Anna Garvey and her lover’s daughter, Freya Penhaligon.
Although the author clearly loves her Cornwall, and the novel is awash with indigenous surnames and place-names, the “Cornishness” does not have the authentic ring of Winston Graham or du Maurier, and the 1910 setting, though competently handled, is never fully realised. Perhaps the most effective part is the description of the storm; the havoc wreaked by a tempestuous sea upon a coastal village is told convincingly. Terri Nixon has devised a good plot, and I think you will care enough about the characters to welcome a third instalment at some point in the future. Will the lovely Freya be won by journalist Tristan, or upper-class Hugh? And what will happen to this village when the Great War breaks out?