The Forbidden Promise

Written by Lorna Cook
Review by Jasmina Svenne

August 1940: escaping from a distressing incident at her 21st birthday party at Invermoray House, Constance is the sole witness when a Spitfire crashes in the nearby loch. She rescues the pilot, but when he asks her to keep his whereabouts a secret, she makes a promise that could cost her dearly… August 2020: needing a fresh start after nearly ruining her career, Kate accepts a job promoting Invermoray House as a luxury B&B. But she discovers that the job description is inaccurate; her employer Liz’s son James is less than pleased to see her; and some mystery hangs over the previous owners of the house. Particularly intriguing is the fact that Constance’s name has been violently excised from the family Bible. Discovering what happened to her could just be the story to put Invermoray on the map – if only James would cooperate…

This is an engaging twin-narrative novel in which both strands of the story work well. Time-shifts are clearly marked, and the parallels between the two eras are subtle. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the landscape and the Scottish weather, and there’s a plot twist near the end I didn’t see coming, but which makes sense of earlier events.

I admit I warmed slightly more to the present-day characters than to the historical ones, because they are fractionally more fully developed. There’s one crucial scene towards the end of the book that feels a tiny bit rushed and underdeveloped, as if the author was afraid of overstepping her word count, so it didn’t quite have the devastating impact it should have had.

But on the whole, I enjoyed this book very much and intend to look out for Cook’s award-winning first novel The Forgotten Village and anything else she writes in the future.