Fast forward to 2011. Laurel, now a successful actress, and her sisters are gathered at Greenacres Farm, their childhood home, to celebrate their mother's 90th birthday. Dorothy's health is failing so this may be Laurel's last opportunity to get answers from her mother about that horrible incident that has plagued her memories from fifty years ago - answers that can only be found in Dorothy's past.
The story is expertly told in three time frames. The author hooks you immediately with the shocking event that takes place in the 60s, then goes back to World War II England during the blitz, and forward to the present. The gradual layering of the narrative seamlessly assembles all the missing pieces of the mystery, enhanced with a passionate love affair, betrayal, and exploitation amidst the ravages of war. Just when you think you have it all neatly figured out you're hit with a zinger of an ending!
The Secret Keeper was the first of Kate Morton's books that I've read. Her characters are very well developed as is the story rich with vivid detail. I will definitely watch for future novels from her.
The Kingmaker's Daughter is the fourth installment, and possibly the best so far, in Philippa Gregory's popular Cousins' War series. Set in 15th century England, it is the compelling story of the daughters of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick - particularly Anne, his youngest. Warwick was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander who was the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrat of his age, with political connections that went far beyond the country's borders. He was one of the main powerbrokers in the War of the Roses, and was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, which earned him his nickname of "Kingmaker". Since Warwick had no sons and heirs, he of course used his daughters as pawns in his political games of kingmaking.
One of Warwick's grand schemes was to win over the York King Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, possibly with the prospect of installing him on the throne. George was secretly married to Warwick's oldest daughter, Isabel, and joined Warwick in a rebellion against his brother, the king. Eventually he defected back to the York side and realigned with his brother, King Edward. So at the age of fourteen, Anne Neville's father married her off to Edward of Westminster, the son of deposed king Henry VI, in an effort to align himself with the Lancaster cause. Long story short, Warwick and Edward of Westminster were killed in battle against King Edward, thus leaving Anne Neville a widow and without the protection of the wealth and power of her father, the aftermath of which was the struggle of King Edward and George of Clarence to gain control of Warwick's enormous wealth. Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of King Edward. Very conveniently madly in love with Anne, they were married, thus taking care of half that fortune. Richard had ever been loyal to his brother the King. But George was put on trial for treason against his brother, and executed in 1478. Five years later, Edward IV died, and his youngest brother became King Richard III, making Anne Queen of England.
There are several fascinating aspects of this story, one of which is to see her grow from a weak and powerless teenager to a strong and intelligent woman, in spite of her constant vulnerability. Her rise to the pinnacle that her father had envisioned for her was marked by the tragic loss of everyone she loved, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. It seemed as though her father's political ambition had rubbed off on her, however, which enabled her to stand up to the overwhelming power of the royal family and become a player in her own right in the kingmaking game. As always, Philippa Gregory is spot-on with the historical details, creating a vivid picture of these important and turbulent events in British history.
True Sisters is an inspiring, yet depressing story. The sheer strength, spirit and determination of the four women - Nannie, Louisa, Jessie and Anne - was the only thing that got them through this ordeal. The caring, love and unselfish support they showed each other was truly inspiring. There was little to smile about in the book, however. It was difficult reading about the way these pilgrims blindly followed their leaders, resulting in tragic loss of life. The children that died was particularly painful to read about. But the historical aspects of this book, particularly the foundations of the Mormon faith, is very interesting, shedding some light on the faith of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.