STORY: Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.
Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.
She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?
And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?
REVIEW: Milford on Sea, Hampshire England – 1851
Miss Annabel Ashton, a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies, has been summoned to her home, Highcliffe, by her cousin, Edward. Edward informs her that Highcliffe is to be sold as there is no money to care for it. The furnishings are being packed and they are heading to London for a few days to view the Great Exhibition, after which they will return to Highcliffe and then Annabel will return to her school.
While in London, Annabel is introduced to Captain Marco Antonio Del’Acqua, a Maltese man. He is very handsome and Annabel is attracted to him. She has been asked by Edward to friend Marco and learn what she can from him about his business dealings.
Annabel has been presumed illegitimate. But for this, Annabel would have inherited Highcliffe instead of Edward. When it was assumed that Annabel is illegitimate, Edward seized her dowry funds and spent the money, leaving her penniless. Annabel’s mother had been deemed insane when Annabel was a small child and died in an insane asylum. Some think that Annabel may be going mad as well. Annabel never knew her father who appears to have left her and her mother, breaking her mother’s heart. He was a Maltese man. Her mother told her that they were married, but the family did not believe her. However, Annabel was given a necklace by her mother that shows that she was indeed married.
Edward wants Annabel to marry a Mr. Morgan, who is quite wealthy but extremely unappealing. Edward’s wife, Clementine. is a strange woman under Edward’s demanding ways. She tends to drink Anisette, the act of which is called “visiting the green fairies.”
While Annabel is attracted to Marco, Edward does all he can to assure that she has no freedom. Before long, she starts suffering bouts of hallucinations and wonders if she truly is going mad which Edward and Clementine feel she is. That is when Edward has her committed to an insane asylum just as her mother had been.
Is Annabel truly insane? Will she ever be able to leave the insane asylum? What about Marco? Does he know where she is?
This was an interesting book, but I did not like the heroine. Even for the time period, I feel that she was a “victim” with no real gumption to help herself. Some parts of the story are too “theatrical” to be believable. However, I am certainly hoping other readers will enjoy it.
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher
Connie for b2b