The Silent Touch of Shadows is the fourth Christina Courtenay novel I’ve read. It’s really two stories in one. The main story of Melissa is a contemporary romance, with a paranormal twist. And the second story a historical romance.
The main story tells of Melissa, a young mother recovering from a divorce who goes to stay with her great-aunt in the haunted Ashleigh Manor. There she begins to have dreams and strange experiences about a knight called Roger. This introduces us to the second story of a young woman called Sibell, who lived in the fifteenth century.
As soon as you start Sibell’s story, you are immediately aware it’s not going to have a happy ending. With each instalment of the story you hope that maybe your instincts are wrong, as Courtenay slowly weaves the story making you wait until the very end. Sibell’s story is relayed to us through flashbacks and dream sequences, but inevitably both are interlinked as the hauntings, and past, begin to impact on life in the modern world.
The writing was really easy to sink into, and as I picked it up I thought this very well might be my favourite Courtenay novel to date, and I did thoroughly enjoy it. But the problem with having two big romances in one book is that there was a lot to fit in. The story jumped ahead at times and just as I was really getting into one, we would switch back to the other. But when we returned to the first, the story had often moved on. Plot developments were often unfulfilled in the other story. It didn’t allow me to seep as deep into the character’s lives as I would have liked.
Courtenay obviously has a real passion for history, this comes through in her writing. I’ve said this in previous reviews of her books, there is a sumptuous richness to the details she includes and it portrays a vivid picture of the century the story was set.
The book was compelling and at times beautiful. Sibell’s story was much more intense than Mellissa’s. The love story between her and Roger so profoundly sad in one breath and, well, breathtaking in the next. In the modern story I found Melissa’s genealogical research fascinating and despite my frustrations with it on occasion, I thought it was an interesting way to unravel the plot. Although the romance between Melissa and Jake was not quite so engaging, but that’s perhaps because I’m comparing it to the whirlwind of forbidden love. As a side note I really would have liked to have seen Melissa’s ex get his just desserts!
Melissa was a strong woman coping with single motherhood, I liked that she grew more of a backbone as the book developed. The ending is not what I would call a surprise but does deliver some unexpected elements. The final pages completely pull you into as you finally get some answers to the mystery that has been so meticulously eeked out.
Overall this was two great romances in one, written with obvious passion. I would have liked more of Sibell’s story, because it was so consuming, and perhaps a little more passion in Melissa’s. For romance fans, Courtenay is a great writer with a real love of history and you should definitely pick up one of her books if you haven’t already.
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