After her mother’s death, twenty-year-old Sophie Ross is left orphaned in London. With no money and little chance of an income, she tries to get work as a governess to avoid destitution. Now alone in the world, she only has the company of her erstwhile nursemaid and faithful friend, Hannah.
But unbeknown to Sophie, her mother instructed Hannah to post a letter to Trescadinnick House in Cornwall upon her death. The letter will be the catalyst that changes Sophie’s life forever as she learns of her mother’s romance, marriage and then ultimate rejection by her own father and the estranged family she left behind in Cornwall.
The Penvarrow family welcome Sophie and Hannah into their fold, but tensions rise, and family secrets are revealed as Sophie attempts to rebuild her life and find happiness.
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Sophie woke to an insistent knocking on the front door, and realizing that Hannah must still be out, she glanced into the mirror. Her eyes were red and her hair in disarray, but she sluiced some cold water onto her cheeks, patted the stray wisps of hair into place, and went down to see who should be demanding entrance so determinedly. She opened the front door with words about impatience on her lips, but those words died unspoken as she saw her mother standing outside on the step; her mother, not as she’d last seen her, sunken-eyed, her skin stretched tight across her cheekbones, translucent and paper-white, her hair thin and greying, but as she had been before her illness took hold, cheeks glowing with health, eyes bright with laughter and curiosity, hair thick, rich, dark, luxuriant. Her mother stood on the step, a question in her brown eyes, and said in her gentle voice, ‘Sophia?’
Sophie didn’t pass out, though she thought for a moment or two that she was going to. She simply stared at her mother, her head spinning and her body cold, as the shock hit her and the colour drained from her face. Her lips formed the word Mama, but no sound came, and she continued to stare.
Her mother’s expression changed from one of query to one of concern, and stepping forward she took Sophie’s arm and guided her into the house. Sophie sank onto a chair in the hall, and the visitor closed the door behind them. For a long, silent moment Sophie remained crouching in the chair at the foot of the stairs, her mind dazed. Diamonds of sunlight cast through the glass of the front door, patterning the floor, and the solemn tick of the grandfather clock emphasized the silence, rather than broke it. Her mother spoke again. Only it wasn’t her mother, of course. Her mother was dead. But it was someone so incredibly like her that it took careful study of her face to notice the differences. When she did speak, her voice was one of great concern.
‘Sophia, my dear, are you all right?’
Sophia. Well, her mother had never called Sophie that, and anyway the voice was wrong. This was deeper, and there was the trace of an unfamiliar accent, missing from her mother’s voice.
The visitor continued. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve given you a shock, my dear. I did write, but perhaps you’ve not received my letter yet. I’m your Aunt Matilda, and I’ve come to take you home.’
Sophie stared at her uncomprehendingly. ‘Aunt Matilda?’
Her aunt said gently, ‘Yes. Aunt Matty. I’m your mother’s twin. She’ll have told you about me, no doubt. Your grandfather wants you to come home.’
Still dazed, Sophie ignored the last part of what she’d said, but latched on to the first. ‘Her twin? I didn’t know she had a twin. I didn’t even know she had a sister… or any family!’
Matilda knew from the letter that Mary hadn’t told Sophie she was writing to Trescadinnick, but she’d assumed that Sophie had at least some knowledge of the family. Clearly not. She smiled and reached for Sophie’s hand. ‘Well, we’ve obviously got a good deal of catching up to do. Perhaps we could go into the parlour and have some tea.’
Set in the late nineteenth century ‘Miss Mary’s Daughter’, is a family saga set against the rugged Cornish landscape. Shortly after her mother’s death, Sophie’s maternal family welcome her to their ancestral home with varying degrees of warmth. She discovers a web of guilt, regret and secrets that both intrigue and endanger.
The story’s historical detail and ambience let you step back into Victorian England. Moderate pacing and an increasingly complex but well-described plot combine to produce an absorbing read.
Sophie is a lovely character, naive but with a good heart and a strong will that gets her through her life’s tough times. All the characters are believable and reveal hidden depths as the storyline progresses.
Mysterious and sinister in parts this family saga slips effortlessly between Sophie’s present and her mother, Mary’s past. Exciting, adrenaline-fuelled final chapters lead to a lovely romantic end, with hope for the future.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Diney Costeloe is the bestselling author of The Throwaway Children, The Runaway Family, The Lost Soldier, The Sisters of St Croix and The Girl With No Name. She divides her time between Somerset and West Cork