The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

The Midnight Rose Anahita (Anni) Chavan’s whole family are gathering at her hill-top bungalow in Darjeeling to celebrate her one-hundredth birthday, but even surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there is still one person missing. This is Moh, her beloved son, whom she has not seen since he was a small child. Everyone believes him to be dead…everyone except Anni who is sure that he is still alive somewhere in the world. A year later Anni herself has died, but before her death she had written down her story and entrusted it to her favourite great-grandson, Ari Malik, in the hope that he would try to find out what happened to her missing son.

Anni’s story leads Ari to Astbury Hall in England, where filming is currently taking place for a new period drama set in the 1920s starring the beautiful young American actress, Rebecca Bradley. When Lord Astbury invites her to stay at the Hall for the duration of the filming as a safe haven away from the world’s press, Rebecca gratefully accepts, hoping that the peace and quiet will give her a chance to decide what to do about her equally famous actor boyfriend, Jack, who has just proposed to her.

Soon Rebecca is drawn into Ari’s search for the truth about Anahita’s past and as her tragic story unfolds, we are taken back to India in 1911, where as a young girl Anni becomes friendly with Princess Indira, the daughter of the Maharaja and Maharani of Cooch Behar. She and Indira are sent to school in England just before the beginning of the Great War, and while staying with family friends at Astbury Hall in Devon the relationship Anni forms with Donald Astbury changes her life forever.

This is the third Lucinda Riley novel I’ve read (the other two were The Girl on the Cliff and The Light Behind the Window – I still need to read Hothouse Flower) and it’s my favourite of the three. Although there were times when I found the plot easy to predict and a few coincidences that felt too implausible, there were enough unexpected twists to keep me in suspense wondering what was going to happen next. I particularly loved the parts of the book set in India during the British Raj and also the insights into what life was like for a young woman trying to find a place for herself in a new and unfamiliar country.

Sometimes when a book is set in multiple time periods, the different threads of the story can feel disjointed and unconnected, but that was not the case here. They came together perfectly, with the secrets of Astbury Hall being slowly revealed as Ari and Rebecca discover them. As usual, though, I found myself enjoying the historical sections of the book more than the contemporary ones. The modern day characters do have storylines of their own – Rebecca’s troubled relationship with her boyfriend and Ari’s struggle to find the right balance between his work and his personal life – but they didn’t interest me as much as Anni’s. I thought Lucinda Riley’s writing really came alive in the sections about Anni – the dialogue felt vibrant and the characters were strong and memorable, especially Anni herself, her best friend Indira, and Donald’s cruel and manipulative mother, Maud Astbury, the villain of the book.

The Midnight Rose is a long novel (650 pages – and it’s one of those books that is physically big and heavy too) but once I became swept up into the story I stopped thinking about the number of pages and concentrated on enjoying Anahita Chavan’s fascinating tale.

I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan for review

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16 thoughts on “The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

  1. Fleur in her World says:

    I loved The Girl on the Cliff but I was disappointed by The Light Behind the Window, and so I was hoping this would be a return to form. You make it sound wonderful and I shall definitely be looking out for a copy.

    • Helen says:

      I remember having a few problems with The Light Behind the Window too but I thought this one was a big improvement… maybe even better than The Girl on the Cliff.

    • Helen says:

      You’re right that there don’t seem to be many dual timeline novels with Indian settings and characters. I really loved that aspect of the book.

  2. Jo says:

    Great review. I think this one is up there with Girl on the Cliff. It really captured me even when I sort of knew what was going to happen it still surprised me.

    Not a book though to be carrying around!

  3. Lark says:

    Sounds like quite the sweeping tale; I’m intrigued by the story line in India especially. But 650 pages…hmm. I might have to think about this one. Still, it sounds really good…

  4. Charlie (The Worm Hole) says:

    I missed reading this post before. As someone who finds the disjointedness to often be a problem, I like that this book is more connected in its time periods. I like reading about India so that would have been the only thing that might have made me pause.

    • Helen says:

      I’m not really a big fan of multiple time period books in general, but there are so many of them around at the moment that it’s difficult to avoid reading them! Disjointedness was not a problem with this book, as Lucinda Riley does a good job of bringing the two separate storylines together.

  5. joyweesemoll says:

    Hopping over from the What’s in a Name Challenge. This book hits on a number of topics that interest me, so I think I’d really like it. Thanks!

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