Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.
A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life…
As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tell me a novel is historical fiction and I’ll be all over it. Add real life historical figures and I’ll swoon. Toss in a quest to discover a character’s long lost past and…oh my. Enter The Shadow Sister. Star, one of six adopted daughters, has no idea about her true origins – nor, for that matter, where her billionaire adoptive (and oh so beloved) father came from. However, they had a wonderfully happy childhood and, when Pa Salt passed away, he left each of his daughters a clue as to her heritage. For Star, that means travelling to London, to an antiquarian bookshop where she uncovers a story that played out a century earlier. A story of Flora MacNichol, Beatriz Potter, and a king’s mistress.
While The Shadow Sister wasn’t my introduction to Lucinda Riley, it was my first of her Seven Sisters series – and let me be the first to tell you if you aren’t already familiar with Riley’s novels: her books are NOT quick, breezy afternoon reads. Not only do they tend to hover close to 500 pages, but the depth of Riley’s writing practically demands the reader’s full attention. Don’t let the size fool you though, these novels are truly lovely and so, so rewarding.
Star is the quiet one in her band of sisters and for a good portion of the book I was extremely frustrated and enraged for her. Her sister CeeCee virtually runs Star’s life and has since they were children. Despite being nearly 30, CeeCee still insists on buying an apartment with Star, sharing a bedroom with Star, going everywhere and doing everything with Star. What really did it for me though, was what happened when the two had been looking at universities. Star had her heart set on a particular school and was even accepted. However, CeeCee had never been as bright as her sister and wanted to apply at a school that was still great, but far easier to get into. And had Star apply too. Naturally Star was accepted and when CeeCee received her own acceptance letter, that’s where the pair ended up studying. Only – and this is the part that had me seeing red – CeeCee dropped out, leaving Star to study at a school she never wanted to attend in the first place. The sheer audacity of CeeCee’s character wowed me (and not in a good way). I was beyond thrilled for Star when she finally realized she needed to break away and take time for herself.
I love novels that bounce between the present day and the past and Riley pulls it off flawlessly, jumping between Flora’s story and Star’s. What had me most intrigued about, not just this book, but the series as a whole, is that each sister has been adopted from a different part of the world and it’s Pa Salt’s clues that lead each woman to discover where she came from. For Star, that clue leads to London, but I’ll admit now I’m eager to read the previous two novels: Maia’s clue leads her to Brazil and Ally’s clue has her packing for Norway! I say this begrudgingly, but even the next book (CeeCee’s story ugh) sounds intriguing as she heads to Australia!
While these novels are definitely a commitment, they are truly worth it and Lucinda Riley is a master at weaving together intricate, seemingly unrelated characters across centuries. The Shadow Sister was my first of this series and easily read as a standalone with Star’s sisters making brief appearances. That said, I’m very interested in going back now and reading the first two books! Several readers have been discussing the possibility of a seventh daughter – after all, the series title does mention seven sisters and the girls’ names come from the Pleiades star cluster, so how could there only be six of them? That alone has me eager for more!