With blooming fantasy, the mastermind Lucinda Riley captures your heart in her spellbinding romance “The Shadow Sister” (2016). In a story about love and self-discovery, the New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author celebrates women’s everyday accomplishments, such as silent courage, kindness and inner strength that are often taken for granted.
“The Shadow Sister” is the third book in the “The Seven Sisters” series. The books are originally inspired from Pleiades, a legendary star constellation which is also known as Seven Sisters. The extremely luminous stars, visible for the naked eye all over the world, represent the seven divine sisters Maia, Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Taygete, Electra and Merope in the Greek mythology.
Based on the Greek mythology surrounding Asterope, which translates into Star, Riley develops the main character of the same name. Often, she is portrayed as the weaker sister since her star is outshone by the others and is, in fact, a compound of two separate stars. The legend gives little away about her story, leaving most of hers yet to be discovered. Riley, using this openness of the character to her advantage, creates her story.
Star is 27 when her billionaire father Pa Salt passes. He leaves each of his adopted daughters, who he loved as if they were his own, an envelope containing information about their genetic heritage. For Star, it’s an address in London, the name Flora MacNichol, and a delicate figurine of an animal.
In a handwritten letter, Pa Salt says his goodbyes to Star, his most sensitive daughter. “Nurture yourself. And follow your own star. It’s time.”, he advises Star, obviously referring to her close relationship to her sister Cece.
Together, they leave their loved family home in Switzerland and move to London, England.
Star immediately feels suffocated by the closeness the sisters share. Afraid to hurt the one she loves and wishing to build a life for herself, she is caught in a crossroad. This one, she knows too well, as often in the past she had to decide between her intimate relationship with Cece and her own dreams.
Out of desperation, she decides to follow Pa Salt’s first clue. It leads her to an old-fashioned bookshop called “Arthur Morston Books” in Kensington. There, she would find out more about Flora MacNichol.
Under the wings of the eccentric owner Orlando Forbes, Star steps out of her sister’s shadow and breaks free. By discovering the story of her presumed ancestor, Star will finally find herself.
About a hundred years earlier, the nineteen year old Flora MacNichol declares that she will never marry. There are a few things she loves dearly: animals, the lush countryside of Kent and her darling sister Aurelia. Flora has always been under the impression like she didn’t truly belong into this family. She felt more like a stepsister than having a connection by blood. The impression strengthened when the poor family invested all their money into her sister’s future and one chance to find a husband. Forced to sell the house, Flora was due to live with the society grand dame Mrs. Keppel in London. Leaving her loved country home behind broke Floras’ heart.
Flora can’t help it but to fall in love with Archie, Lord Vaughan, the man who would marry her sister before she leaves for life in the high society in Edwardian London. Pulled between family duties and the passionate romance with her true love, she has to make a decision….
Riley has created a literary piece of art. Most of all, I celebrate her vibrant descriptions that can guide a blind man through lush gardens, Edwardian towns and Tudor houses as well as the busy streets of London and the Kent countryside. The author basically captivates her readers with her words and tells a story of happiness, tragedy and hope. I admire the intimate presentation of Star as she is beautifully portrayed through interactions and little dialogue, but a clear inner voice. Sometimes, reading about her felt like eavesdropping on a conversation. On her voyage of self-discovery, Star touches the lives of people around her and finds a way to make them better. Trust me, she will also touch yours.
Riley shows herself from the cheesy side in “The Shadow Sisters”. Unfortunately, too cheesy in some parts. Yet, I experienced the novel as a reading phenomenon as Riley convinces with a strong storyline and a true gift of making the imaginable visible. A must read!
- Riley shares her passion for books with Star. In the dialogue, she sneaks in her all time favorites.
- “The Shadow Sister” is a beautiful read even if you have missed out on the prior books of the series. (Trust me, I started on the third one.)
- You might also enjoy the romance “The Last Letter From Your Lover” (2010) from Jojo Moyes. Similarly to Riley, Moyes creates parallel story lines of two strong females living in different eras that she eventually elegantly ties together. Beautifully written. One of my favorites.