Heather Toulson never thought she would have to return to England after fleeing to America years ago. But after the death of her father, she must return to the English cottage of her youth that sits on the property of Ladenbrooke Manor. Heather is thankful that at least her newly-married daughter is able to join her on the trip.
When it is discovered that the sorting of the things in the cottage will take longer than anticipated, Heather finds herself staying in England indefinitely. Along the way she has a run-in with her first love that leaves her more confused than ever about her life currently and her plans for the future.
But an even bigger shock awaits Heather in the little cottage in which she grew up. As she continues to sort through her parents’ belongings, long-held secrets about her family come to the surface. As Heather explores her past, she discovers what really happened at Ladenbrooke all those years ago and how her family is connected to this mysterious Manor.
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of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.
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I am a sucker for "past and present" stories these days. The book club I am in has read many of these types of books over the years, and we seem to continue to pick them every year. I think it's difficult to tell stories like this well without getting the reader all mixed up, but Ms. Dobson was able to do so, at least as far as the time period goes.
First off, the setting of this story was very interesting and gave a little bit of new life to the usual English countryside novels. I’ve read several novels that tell about someone who must return to their childhood home to sort through their parents’ things, but for some reason this one didn’t seem completely run-of-the-mill.
This novel was definitely portrayed as one that would explore the secrets and mysteries of Ladenbrooke Manor and of Heather’s past. (I mean, it’s in the title, right?!) While there were secrets that the characters kept that were revealed throughout the novel, I never quite got an overall feeling of mystery or suspense. I think the back of the book summary gave way too much away, which is why I chose to write my own summary for this review. I guessed every single secret way before it was exposed, which is really odd to me considering that I haven’t been able to do that in Ms. Dobson’s other novels.
I also have to point out that one of the main secrets/plot points of the book was based on the main characters having a Big Misunderstanding, which is definitely not my favorite way to keep characters apart. Plus, it seemed as if each generation of women in this novel kept making the same mistakes over and over. It got a bit tiring towards the end.
The inclusion of a character with autism in this novel was very interesting. It was fascinating to see how each parent dealt with the child and to see how far we have come in relation to those on the autism spectrum. That being said, I thought the romantic storyline for the autistic character was quite traumatic. It felt more like a story of a stalker and lack of consent than it did a beautiful love story, and I’m still not sure which way the author was trying to go with it.
Even though this story had several hiccups along the way, the overall effect is still interesting. The struggles the characters face are very real and very emotional. While the spiritual aspect didn’t focus as much on Christ as I prefer in Christian fiction, there is an overall feeling of forgiveness and redemption in this novel that is expressed quite well.
I will give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor ... 3 BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books through Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."