The Secret Hours by Santa Montefiore: Spellbinding, atmospheric and seductively romantic - book review -

Set amidst the rugged countryside of West Cork in Ireland in the first four decades of the 20th century, these epic tales based on a group of women, all bound together by one grand and beautiful house, have melded drama and romance.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 12:30 pm
The Secret Hours
The Secret Hours

Secrets, lies and forbidden love... Santa Montefiore is back to steal our hearts this summer with a spellbinding, standalone sequel to her sumptuous Deverill Chronicles, the trilogy which thrilled an army of readers.

Set amidst the rugged countryside of West Cork in Ireland in the first four decades of the 20th century, these epic tales based on a group of women, all bound together by one grand and beautiful house, have melded drama and romance with Montefiore’s special brand of spiritual magic.

This enthralling new chapter – which weaves between the late 19th century and 1960 – stars a new American branch of the dynamic Irish Deverill family whose lives have been linked through decades of love, war and betrayal.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And once again, Montefiore bewitches us with her beautiful, insightful storytelling as a cast of exquisitely portrayed characters play out a cross-generational mystery brimming with powerful emotions, soaring passions, and our unbreakable bonds to the place we call home.

Boston matriarch Arethusa (Tussy) Clayton has always been a formidable woman, strong-spirited and used to getting her own way. But on her death in 1960, she leaves unexpected instructions. Instead of being buried in America, on the wealthy East Coast where she and her late husband Wyatt raised their two children, Arethusa has decreed that she must be cremated and her ashes scattered on the hills above a place called Castle Deverill in Ireland which overlooks the sea.

All Tussy ever told her 58-year-old daughter Faye Langton was that she grew up in a poor farming family and left Ireland aged sixteen and alone, to start a new life in America, as did so many in those times of hardship and famine.

Faye and her brother Logan are baffled as to why she would want her remains to return to a place she barely talked about, and why she has also left a third of her large estate to a mysterious benefactor whose name has not yet to be revealed.

A dutiful wife in a loveless marriage and mother to three grown children, Faye is both bereft and intrigued at her mother’s death. She’s not given to flights of fancy, but when her mother passed away, she began to dream of a strange, yet familiar, castle set on rolling hills of grass and heather.

When Faye learns that her mother has requested her ashes be scattered thousands of miles away, she is shocked but intrigued. Her mother never spoke fondly of her childhood on a farm in Ireland, so why in death would she want to return to a castle Faye has never heard of?

Against her controlling husband’s wishes, Faye leaves her family behind and travels to the picturesque village of Ballinakelly, determined to fulfil her mother’s last wish, seek out a branch of the family she never knew existed, and to find out the reason for Tussy’s insistence on being laid to rest in this faraway land.

And it’s there that she finally uncovers a heartbreaking story of love and decades-old secrets that have touched those closest to her… and will change her own life forever.

Moving from the dune-backed beaches of Nantucket and the teeming city of Boston, to the stunning rural beauties of small town Ballinakelly in Ireland, The Secret Hours is a feast of escapist reading in a year when we are hungry for feelgood fiction.

Once again, the gorgeous, fairytale Castle Deverill and its hidden history is the unforgettable backdrop for a story of two generations of women, both bound by the prejudice, restrictions and expectations of their times, but both still seeking to discover the meaning of true love and to forge their own destinies in the face of patriarchal pressures.

Family and forgiveness loom large in this sweeping saga as do the threads of fascinating real Irish history… moving, atmospheric and seductively romantic, The Secret Hours is the perfect entertainment for both beach and garden.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)