Monday, August 10, 2015

Review ~ Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson

About the Book

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder. Libby, a free spirit who can't be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver's death.Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family's cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She's mourning her father's passing but can't let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family's belongings left behind in the cottage. As Heather digs, she finds a mysterious journal that belonged to a woman she never knew and it contains clues that lead to the truth about a mysterious drowning decades ago. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family's history. Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways. Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

My Review ★★★ ½ (Four ½ Stars)

It’s not often that a story moves me to such emotional depth as Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor has done. It is a lovely and compelling read and one that I didn’t want to put it down. I was mesmerized by the characters and their plight—how negative choices followed from one generation to another, repeating themselves almost verbatim and the consequences therein. 

This is a complex story with many facets. The author chose to include a character who has what today would be called Autism but in fact very little was known about in the past. Perhaps the author drew from personal experience and that is what gave such realism to this character, I don’t know. But Libby was fascinating and strange and totally captured me from childhood to adulthood. 

Dobson exquisitely shows the isolation and rejection from society that comes to families who have children that are perceived as handicapped. I could certainly identify with Maggie, Libby’s mother, as I had a daughter with severe physical and mental disabilities. Even in our so-called modern society we experienced some heinous behavior from adults toward our daughter in her lifetime. It is a daily struggle for a parent to stay focused and positive for the child’s benefit. The author portrayed this element with great finesse, though at times I wished for a few happier moments. 

In life there are those who think trying to hide their sin is the best solution but in the end the truth usually prevails. It certainly did for Maggie. It cost her dearly in her marriage, with repercussions spreading to her husband and daughter. Walter’s poignant and heartbreaking journal entries begin each part of the story and are key to what drives it forward, in my opinion. I felt so sorry for him from the beginning. Not that he was without some faults but he was rooked. 

There are some tough choices and decisions made by each member of this family that can only be redeemed and used for good through their surrender to Christ. Not everything is neat and tidy at the end but it was still an engaging story because the author has a way of weaving words and emotions together on the page that are mesmerizing. Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is filled with love, betrayal, broken promises and dark secrets exposed.

Melanie Dobson has become one of my favorite authors and I am looking forward to reading her future work. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian historical/contemporary hybrids laced with mystery and faith.

Thank you to the author and Howard Books for providing me with a copy for review purposes. My honest opinion is all that is required. No compensation has been received. 

~Happy Reading~


  1. That sounds a very complex story.

    1. Hey Barbara, It is definitely complex but good. I always enjoy Melanie's books. They're not your typical Inspirational fiction reads.

      Hope you are doing well across the pond. :)

  2. I knew you would love this book; so complex and yet so simple and direct. A magnificent blend of stories!

    1. You were right! But you are so much better at detailing than I am. I couldn't get near the depth of this story and all it entailed. This one was way beyond what I thought it was going to be.


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