Secrets within families stretching out over the decades have a tendency to smother like snow. They twinkle and taunt, the facade bright and promising, but once the snow melts…
Story within a nutshell
Cressida is a debutante in London society, courting and set to marry. To mark the occasion, her father orders a painting of her. But as soon as Cressida mets the enigmatic painter Ralph Few, she is smitten. It seems her feelings are reciprocated but there is a Mrs Few – Catherine, and she won’t give up Ralph without a fight.
Present day – Emily Conway is almost killed when her husband’s car careers off the road. She had just found out that they were in serious debt following a bad business deal. But as she wakes from her injuries, her husband remains in a coma and she finds out a lot more about their tragic situation.
Then she gets a letter stating that she has been left a legacy by a woman she has never met. A house in Cumbria. Just what kind of mystery will she have to unravel next?
Place and setting
From the drawing rooms of London society and the debutante world, we are drawn into the world of poverty and the education of children as Cressida, tired by her opulent world seeks a challenge in becoming a teacher. The metro stations seem to act as door to her future –
She emerged red faced and hot in the late afternoon sun, the station steps leading out into a different world from the one she had descended from in Upton Park, the Georgian elegance contrasting with the wreckage and poverty of East London
For the school she wants to work in and prove herself is in the poor area that she has been protected from but which captivates her in a way that nothing has before.
She lives in a house with a ‘large black front door on a quiet street in Kensington’ but when she meets the artist from Blackheath she is quite literally transported to another world again – as she looks at an abstract painting –
It was entrancing and seemed to promise revelations if only she could look long enough
The setting blending the two time periods together is the house in Cumbria linked to both stories in some way – December House is located in Cumbria, not far from Carlisle and provides the mysteries and gothic overtones of a house with many secrets hidden inside. The even more mysterious paintings of the house keep the most secrets of all –
The whiteness of the picture gradually began to absorb her until she felt as though she was in the painting herself, standing on a crisp, chill layer of snow
The house is remote, comes complete with a small Keeper’s cottage and there are lots of things to be revealed within its walls..
Well, I sat myself down and immersed myself in the world of the Snow Angel and I left that world somewhat reluctantly. Surprises throughout and with two concurrent storylines merging and blending in unexpected ways with one huge twist at the end – a great read.
Lulu Taylor created a gothic and mysterious world with her novel The Winter Folly set in an old house/castle in Dorset but this one, set between two worlds and two time frames – with paintings revealing secrets and the presence of a Snow Angel who could hold the biggest secret yet.
The scenes in the past were definitely the most captivating of the two and the present day story seemed mismatched at first until the reasons for it became clear. But when they did – and all the secrets came spilling out – well it was more than worth it. The descriptions of the house and its dark, wooden rooms, the paintings and those apples! – made for some creepy and enthralling moments.
Jumping from Emily in present day to Cressida in the past was seamless and as the two characters ended up in Cumbria the secrets from the past were centered around one old house and secrets which threaten to reverberate across time. Emily’s storyline opened up the novel and shocking as it was, I wanted to spend more time with Cressida. The way in which Emily helps us the reader to investigate the mystery of Keeper’s Cottage is nicely done.
As for the snowy landscape paintings – well there are also some lovely moments of romance and unspoken desire. Adding to the allure of the world of the snow angel ….The forbidden passion of Cressida and Ralph is shocking and startling and of course will have consequences but they could never have imagined just how many and what kind.
As things unravelled and the pace ratcheted up towards the end I was dying to know who, what why and how? And now I understand the meaning of the title. So I smiled and closed the cover, then closed my eyes to keep that world in my mind’s eye for some time to come.