Munro House is the new start Stella needs. But it will also draw her back to a dark past…
Devastated by a broken engagement, Stella Jackson leaves her old life behind for a new start in rural Scotland. But when she arrives in the remote coastal village of Arisaig, nothing is what she expected.
At the edge of Arisaig sits Munro House; grand, imposing and said to be cursed by a string of tragic deaths. No less intriguing is its eccentric and handsome young owner, Jamie Munro, who hires Stella as his assistant while he pursues a seemingly impossible aim. Working through the great house’s archives, Stella soon finds herself drawn in by a cache of increasingly erratic letters from a young Victorian woman about her husband, Dr James Lockhart, a man whose single-minded ambition has
strange parallels with Jamie’s.
Just as Stella begins developing feelings for Jamie, she discovers that the connection between the Lockharts and the Munros could have sinister repercussions for them both. She’s finally found the life she wants to live – but is it all an illusion?
I would like to thank Lake Union Publishing, the author Sarah Painter and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC of Beneath The Water in return for an honest review.
My favourite thing about this historical/contemporary mix was the way the connection was made between the past and the present, with each chapter starting with a letter from Jessie, a troubled Victorian women whose life reaches out into Stella Jackson’s present. The affect these letters have on current events, is what gives this superb novel is addictive nature, keeping me awake to one thirty am, when my alarm clock was due to go off four and a bit hours later. I was gripped with a need to know what would become of the troubled Stella and the equally unpredictable Jamie Munro, while also worrying by the fate of Jessie.
All the characters are beautifully drawn, flawed enough to make them fascinating and at the same time likeable enough to make you care about their fates. So much so that I find myself wishing that Sarah Painter would write a new novel delving into the fascinating story of Dr James Lockhart and his wife. I wanted to understand more about their lives and personalities. It is not an indication of a flaw in Beneath The Water, but that the writer writes about them so well, teasing you about their lives, that you just want to know more and you wish they had their own story. Both Stella and Jamie are superb leading characters, with the changeable and unpredictable Jamie being my favourite. Why? Because something just drew me to him. Probably the fact that it is rare to come across a male character whose mental health and troubled personality are front and centre of a storyline.
The edgy atmosphere which is depicted so well in this novel contributes to the tension in the story. You can feel the claustrophobic nature of a small community, where everyone knows everyone and their story. Or do they? Is it true that isolated inhabitants of places like the fictional Arisaig know their neighbours and if they don’t what is the real story behind troubled lives of people like Jamie and Stella. The feeling of a community damaged by lies and half truths contributes to this atmosphere of mistrust and repressed anger that Stella walks into.
Beneath the Water is an excellent read and I would not hesitate to recommend it to my fellow booked addicted friends.
Beneath The Water can be purchased from Amazon.
A bit about the author.
Sarah Painter writes novels which sometimes have historical elements or touches of magic, but always have an emotional core. Her debut novel, The Language of Spells, became a Kindle bestseller and was followed by a sequel, The Secrets of Ghosts. Her last book, In the Light of What We See, was also a bestseller and a Kindle First pick.
Sarah hosts a podcast about writing (and interviews other authors and creative-types) at www.worried writer.com. She lives in rural Scotland with her children, husband, and a grey tabby called Zelda Kitzgerald. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from St Andrews, drinks too much tea, loves the work of Joss Whedon, and is the proud owner of a writing shed.
Anxiety and self-doubt – how Sarah overcame anxiety and self-doubt to pursue her ambitions
Psychological impact of childhood heart surgery – and the decision to marry and have children early as a result
Helping other writers through the ‘Worried Writer’ podcast, book, and website to overcome fear, self-doubt and procrastination
James Young Simpson – the amazing 19th century Scottish obstetrician, who has captivated Sarah’s imagination.
Sarah Painter can be followed on Twitter