The Winter Garden – Nicola Cornick – ARC Review

Title: The Winter Garden
: Nicola Cornick
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
: October 25th, 2022 (Graydon House)

Synopsis: 1605: Anne Catesby fears for her family. Her son, the darkly charismatic Robert, is secretly plotting to kill the king, placing his wife and child in grave danger. Anne must make a terrible choice: betray her only child or risk her family’s security…and her very life.

Present Day: When her dreams of becoming a musician are shattered, Lucy takes refuge in her family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire. Everyone knows it was originally home to the notorious gunpowder plotter Robert Catesby. As Lucy spends more time in the beautiful winter garden that Robert made, she starts to have strange visions of a woman in Tudor dress, terrified and facing a heartbreaking dilemma.

As Lucy’s and Anne’s stories converge, a shared secret that has echoed through the centuries separating them will change Lucy’s life forever…

Thank you to the publisher, Harlequin Trade Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lucy Brown’s promising music career has come to an abrupt end after an illness and she goes to her aunt’s cottage in the countryside, to rest and recuperate. The cottage was originally a manor in Tudor times and is famous for having been the home of Robert Catesby, one of the gunpowder plotters. An archaeological dig is underway around the cottage as her aunt hopes to find the remains of a Tudor garden, and as Lucy spends more time on the grounds, she begins to have visions of a sorrowful ghost who keeps mentioning a lost treasure. The story of the ghost unfolds in a parallel timeline set at the end of the 16th century. Anne Catesby is growing increasingly worried about her son Robert, who is passionate about his Catholic faith and willing to go to great extents for it, even plotting against the throne and placing his family at great risk in the process. When Anne discovers that Robert is involved in a dreadful plot to kill the king, she must make the difficult choice between her family’s safety and betraying her only son.

Having read The Last Daughter of York just a few months ago, which was my first time reading a book by this author, I was very eager to pick up this one and even more excited to get an ARC of it. Dual timeline is a style of narration I adore for historical fiction novels and it was nice to learn a little more about this time period in history, centered around the Gunpowder Plot. The timelines felt better balanced in this book compared to the last and both were equally intriguing. The past timeline did an excellent job of introducing the characters of Robert and his wife Catherine Catesby through the eyes of his mother Anne and the steady progression of events that led to Robert getting involved in the plot, along with how it affected his family. The present day timeline weaves a fascinating tale of a lost treasure on the grounds of a historic cottage and the mystery of a ghostly woman in Tudor dress who seems to haunt it. Lucy’s dreams and visions lead to her taking an interest in the dig, but a second mystery was added to the mix when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want her looking into it.

Lucy and Anne were both well written characters though I did find it a little odd that Lucy’s POVs were in third person and Anne’s in first person. I generally expect the narration style to be consistent across narrators regardless of it being in different timelines, but I suppose it did help to keep them separate. The author described the era in such rich detail and really brought it to life, making it easy to visualize those dark and dangerous times and imagine what Anne’s situation would have been like. Lucy’s character arc was quite good, and I liked that the development was done in such a way that it didn’t interfere with the plot but still showing how Lucy began to heal with the help of the people around her. The same thing goes for the romance, which I didn’t find to be particularly stand out, but it was blended well into the story without unnecessarily taking over it.

While this was an interesting read, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the pacing. It took forever for anything exciting to happen beyond a couple of dreams and ghost sightings and I think it was close to the 65% mark before things finally picked up. Also, this may be something that annoyed just me, but anyway, in this book, just like The Last Daughter of York, there were characters connected to those from the author’s previous books, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but I didn’t see the point of the connection because it bore no relevance to the story at all.

The mystery of the treasure itself was something I found to be rather easily guessed, but it was fun to see how the characters in the present timeline discovered it all. The descriptions of the house and garden were very interesting and I found myself looking up more details to get a better idea of how it might have looked. Overall, this was an entertaining and engrossing read and I would highly recommend it for historical fiction fans!

The Winter Garden releases on October 25th, 2022.

Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
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4 thoughts on “The Winter Garden – Nicola Cornick – ARC Review

  1. Fransic verso October 12, 2022 / 7:51 am

    Interesting book and I like the story of this book. I will add this to the list to read when it comes out. Great that you get books to review them before it gets to the public.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sunshine with Savannah October 12, 2022 / 5:50 pm

    Great post and fantastic review! I love novels where two narratives overlap and intersect. I’ll have to add this one to my list. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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