I've been looking forward to posting this review ever since I finished the novel back in March. But as I was reviewing it for the Historical Novel Society, I waited until the review went live on their site.
I really enjoyed this novel. I read Riley's The Orchid House last year and though it had its drawbacks, I enjoyed it a great deal. I saw none of those same issues in The Midnight Rose and so I definitely recommend reading it. Especially if you like shifting time periods and a little suspense with your romantic historical fiction.
The Midnight Rose spans across four generations and two continents to tell the story of Anahita Chaval, royal companion to an Indian princess during the early 20th century; and Rebecca Bradley, an up-and-coming movie star filming the role of a lifetime in modern-day England.
Riley has published several novels, and The Midnight Rose is her strongest yet. The novel opens with Anahita’s story. She is an old woman and reflecting on her life, which has been one of extremes. Her only regret is never discovering the whereabouts of her long-lost son, who supposedly died at a young age. On her deathbed she charges her young and brash great-grandson Ari Malik to discover the truth.
Anahita’s life is recounted throughout the novel, and it is a remarkable one. Her position as royal companion takes her from the sultry climes of Jaipur to the frosty winters of England. There she finds racial prejudice, classism, and an unexpected love at the great estate of Astbury Park.
When Ari finally takes up his quest, it brings him into Rebecca’s orbit. She is filming a period drama at the now crumbling Astbury Park, and her role brings her dangerously close to the past. When Ari comes seeking the truth about his great- grandmother’s stay on the estate, he and Rebecca will discover the dark and long-buried secrets of the Astbury family.
This novel will appeal to many readers, as it contains mystery, suspense, historical detail, and romance. The plot does take a surprising, slightly difficult-to-digest turn towards the end, but all in all it is an enjoyable read.