The Heroine: Cassandra, an Australian antique dealer who has recently lost her husband and son in a terrible accident. When her grandmother Nell dies, she is pulled into the mystery of Nell's unknown origins: where did she come from, and how did a child end up alone at the Queensland wharf? Cassandra is serious, lonely and grieving, but she uses Nell's mystery to help her find purpose in life again and ultimately turn over a new leaf in her life.
The Highs: The Forgotten Garden is full of interesting characters who are each given their time to shine. Even better, the majority of them are women who all contribute something important to the story. There is Eliza Makepeace, a poor orphan with enough spunk to unsettle the somber Montrachet estate. There is Rose Montrachet, the sickly debutante with romantic aspirations. And there is even the evil Lady Adeline Montrachet, who controls the estate with iron talons. Each character is colourful and left me flipping the pages to learn more about them.
I also adored the interwoven story plot. Cassandra's discoveries in the present day would lead into a flashback that made the story and the mystery itself richer and gave it more layers. The novel is laid out perfectly for maximum suspense and leaves you wanting more at the end of each chapter. The author's use of weaving in details in also fantastic. I especially adored the scene involving Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden) viewing Eliza's hidden garden. Interesting and quirky details like that make me really impressed with an author's work.
I loved the setting, specifically the Montrachet estate on the Cornish coast. What girl doesn't dream of living in a breath-taking stately stone castle with sea views? I was very intrigued by the maze and the hidden garden, as well. Overall, I really had a very strong picture of the scenery in my mind.
The Lows: There were a few things I wish the author had elaborated on, specifically the purpose of the maze and Linus Montrachet. First of all, why was there a maze planted on the property to begin with? I feel like so much more could have been done with the maze, since it is such a dark and mysterious sort of place. And as far as Linus Montrachet goes, I am still curious as to the kind of relationship (so to speak) he had with his sister. I also wonder whether or not he had a mental illness. Either way, I wish I had answers to these questions.
I also wish Nathaniel Walker, Rose's husband, played a bigger role in the story. He comes off a little like a stock character or a prop. I found that he was sketched out as an interesting character (a poor painter with a deep love for illustration and his wife!) but in actual practice, he seemed a little flat. I know the author is capable of writing great characters, so I'm not sure what went wrong.
Final Thoughts: I loved The Forgotten Garden. It definitely appealed to my romantic tendencies and soft heart. I've already recommended this book to friends!
Rating: The Forgotten Garden earns nine plot twists out of ten.
Click here to buy it on Amazon
Click here to connect to the author Kate Morton
Photo from I Heart Elegance