Author: Susanna Kearsley
Provided Synopsis: 1205 – the town of Chinon is beseiged by enemies of King John, and his young Queen calls upon a trusted servant to conceal her treasured jewels.
Emily Braden is intrigued by the medieval story of Queen Isabelle, and cannot resist when her cousin Harry, a historian, suggests a trip to the white-walled town of Chinon, nestling in France’s Loire Valley. But when Harry vanishes and Emily begins to search for him, she stumbles across another intriguing mystery — a second Isabelle, a chambermaid during the Second World War, who had her own tragedy, and her own treasure to hide.
As Emily explores the ancient town of labyrinthine tunnels, old enmities, and new loves, she finds herself drawn ever closer to the mysterious Isabelles and their long-kept secrets.
Review: Unfortunately, The Splendour Falls and I did not agree with each other. I had heard so many high praises about this book and its author that I was excited to read it, but what I got was a bland heroine, an uninspired mystery, and an unconvincing romance.
Emily Braden is persuaded to visit the town of Chinon, France with her cousin, Harry, as he does research for an academic article on Queen Isabelle of Angoulême’s forgotten treasure. When she arrives to the town two days after Harry’s arrival, her cousin is nowhere to be found and Emily bands together with a mismatched group of guests staying at her hotel. To some of these guests she feels a connection while others repulse her, yet she is intrigued with all of them well enough, along with the townspeople she has encountered and the pathways of the town. Eventually she hears the tale of another Isabelle, who lived in Chinon during World War II and who is rumored to have left a treasure of diamonds behind. And once enough time goes by without a sign of her cousin, Emily supposes that some evil must have befallen him.
All of these elements created a story that just did not work. Plenty of pages went by where nothing happened. With the exception of a young Canadian man named Paul, I would say that none of the characters in this book were very interesting either. There was no mystery, there was no suspense; the romance was also unconvincing and uninspired enough to make a reader wonder why it was included since it added nothing to the story. Furthermore, the blurb on the back of the book seemed to hint at a connection between the Isabelles and Emily, but the string to tie all of these people together was so tenuous that it was cheap. I had heard that Susanna Kearsley sometimes gives paranormal aspects to her characters, but there was none of that in this story and I wish there had been since it would have given a point and meaning to Emily’s weird and unexplained hallucinations. Too many things in this story added up to nothing.
The only thing I can say I liked about this book was the descriptions of Chinon. The town was powerfully realized through words and sounded magical.