The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

The Splendour FallsThe Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In The Splendour Falls, author Susanna Kearsley excels at what she does best, creating a lovely sense of place, along with a bit of romance and adventure. Fans of romantic suspense will enjoy Kearsley’s story of a likeable young heroine who goes on holiday to the picturesque village of Chinon in France. Emily plans to meet up with her loveable but unreliable cousin Harry. However, when she arrives, Harry has predictably failed to appear, and Emily begins her holiday happily enough without him. But all is not as idyllic as it first appears, and soon, Emily becomes embroiled in a mystery from the past, a new romance, and a murder.
Susanna Kearsley’s writing is reminiscent of both Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier, two of my favorite authors.  The Splendour Falls reminded me of Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, which also takes place in rural France, and involves a beautiful chateau, a murder mystery, a sweet child who befriends the heroine, and a rather chaste romance. It was interesting to me to compare Kearsley’s novel with a similar story from the 1950’s. In a nutshell, here are my thoughts on how The Splendour Falls measures up.
First, the good: As noted above, Kearsley evokes a wonderful sense of place; reading this novel is like taking a holiday to a hill village in France, and that alone makes it worth the read. Kearsley’s descriptions of the chateau, the sunrises, the hills, and caves, are lovely. Furthermore, by writing a PG-rated novel, Kearsley creates a sense of an ultimately safe world, even if it contains some bad people. This means that The Splendour Falls leaves the reader with a feeling of hope, even as its characters deal with danger.
However, while The Splendour Falls succeeds at creating a world that I enjoyed escaping to, it does have some weak points. For one thing, it seemed unsure what type of book it wanted to be. Some of Kearsley’s other novels, such as The Winter Sea, are dual-time historical fiction. The Splendour Falls started out in that vein, but then the historical fiction aspect evaporated, and the story focused on a present-day murder mystery. I don’t feel that Kearsley was entirely successful in combining these disparate genres, and I would have liked to have seen more of the characters from history. Also, while Kearsley’s writing is good, it does not match the poetic beauty of Mary Stewart in Nine Coaches Waiting.
What this means is that, in retrospect, The Splendour Falls is not a perfect or groundbreaking novel, but it does succeed at being a genuinely enjoyable read. If you are a fan of the romantic suspense genre, and want to escape to a crumbling chateau on the sun-dappled hillsides of France but can’t afford the plane ticket, Susanna Kearsley’s novel, The Splendour Falls, is the next best thing.
I received a review copy of The Splendour Falls from the publisher through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. cleopatralovesbooks
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 22:16:11

    An excellent review, it is odd how the historical part of this book ‘evaporated’ although it still sounds like a great read.


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