Title: In the Shadow of Winter
Author: Lorna Gray
Genre: Fiction (Historical/Women’s)
Release date: March 12, 2015 (e-book*)
You know that saying, ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’? Well if I’m really honest, the main reason I requested this book on NetGalley was because of the cover. Sure the blurb had something to do with it as well – but seriously, look at the cover. Luckily the content lived up to the aesthetic expectations. So much so that I finished this book in only a few hours, reading late into the night in the silence of my house (this is, in my opinion, the best way to read, especially when it’s cold and rainy).
On a harsh winter night in 1947, Eleanor Phillips rescues a man lost in the flurry of snow. At first she believes the almost dead man to be a stranger, but on closer inspection she realises it is Matthew Croft – a man from her past and a happier time before the world was turned upside down by the war. The mystery surrounding the appearance of Matthew deepens when news of a murder reaches Eleanor, and it is Matthew who is the number one suspect. Now harbouring a wanted man, Eleanor soon finds herself in the role of detective as she attempts to help Matthew uncover the truth about the murder, and before long feelings she thought long gone begin to resurface.
I’m a big fan of any book that can place me directly in the scene – it makes it easier for me to connect with the story. Although generally a solitary activity, I think reading is a very sensory one, and I find whenever I don’t like a book, it’s because I can’t engage – or at least imagine that I’m engaging – with all of my senses. In this book I was able to do just that. I could see the rolling hills of the Cotswolds where Eleanor lived, smell the stables in which she housed her horses, and feel the cold bite of the winter wind as Eleanor struggled against the winter storm.
There were also plenty of moments throughout that were suspenseful, and being able to imagine the scenes so vividly made them that much more suspenseful. There was one scene in particular that quite literally had me on the edge of my seat, and almost had me thinking the ending was not what I thought it was going to be. It was moments like these that kept me reading late into the night, and had the book moving along at a decent pace. I find sometimes when romance/mystery meet in a plot and the focus is mainly on the romance side of the story, that it slow things down a bit. But in this case there was a good balance struck between romance and murder mystery – I think those readers who have a preference for one of these genre’s over the other, would be happy with the balance.
But by far my most favourite aspect of this book, was the character of Eleanor. Strong willed and yet incredibly awkward at times, Eleanor is an entirely relatable character. She often puts on a facade of having everything under control, when in reality she is uncertain of herself and her actions. As the novel is written in the first person perspective, we often get to see the rambling thoughts of Eleanor’s mind and because of this, when she was feeling awkward, I was feeling awkward for her. There were a couple of occasions where I was actually saying, “No! Why would you say that? Just stop talking”, and then I would shake my head, cringe, and cover my face with my iPad (which is nowhere near as effective at reducing the discomfort you feel for a character, as covering your face with an actual book).
All in all, this was an enjoyable read, evidenced by how quickly I devoured it. In the Shadow of Winter is Lorna Gray’s debut novel, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work. I am completely biased towards historical fiction – particularly that set in post-war England – so it’s no surprise I enjoyed this. Realistically though it could have gone the other way – I might have compared to similar books and found it wanting. Thankfully I didn’t and I now have another author to add to my ever growing list of excellent historical fiction writers!
Many thanks to HarperImpulse and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review!
*After investigating further, a paperback of this will be released in Australia on July. Hooray!