Friday, 6 March 2015

Guest Book Review: Kathleen McGurl - The Pearl Locket

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

We’ll Meet Again…

When Ali inherits her great-aunt’s house she immediately moves her whole family in, despite the warnings that there is something strange about the place. Unfazed Ali begins redecorating, going through the rooms, making each one her own with the help of her daughter, Kelly. But when under the wallpaper in Kelly’s new room they discover a scrawled message from 1944 Ali begins to question the history of the house as she knows it. 

Her family has always seemed so picture perfect, not a blemish or a secret to be found. Yet, this discovery throws her into confusion and Ali begins to question exactly what she knows about her family and the mysteries they have kept hidden…

Amazon link: Kindle

What can I say! After just finishing Kathleen McGurl's latest book she has without doubt found a new fan in this reader. Being a huge lover of historical fiction and this book having the added time slip element it certainly provided me with all the right ingredients I need for a wonderful, satisfying read. The Pearl Locket is her second novel for Carina and not having read her first The Emerald Comb Kathleen was a totally new author for me. It takes no effort in saying I loved this book from start to finish and could find no fault with the extremely well told story with love deeply rooted at its centre. In fact I was so lost in the story of Joan, Ali and Kelly that I read it in two sittings and could hardly believe I had reached the end so quickly. It would have been lovely if the book had been even longer but that's just me being greedy.

The story just seemed to flow seamlessly between the past and the present. Knowing each chapter would alternate kept it clear in my head and at no point did I feel like the story was jumping around in time too rapidly. The stories ran along side each other very well and I liked each equally. Sometimes with books that use the time slip method the reader gets comfortable reading about the present and then all of a sudden it jumps back to the past with no warning and you end up confused but this is not the case with The Pearl Locket and I was eager to flit between the time periods to discover what would happen next.

This story moves between 2014 and 1944/1945. Ali Bradshaw has just inherited her great aunt Betty's house and is considering whether to sell it or renovate and move in with her husband Pete and two children Kelly and Ryan. Pete is out of work and feels he can do up the house whilst looking for a job, so the family move in and before they know it strange things start happening with Kelly. She discovers writing underneath her bedroom wallpaper saying Joan loves Jack. But who is Joan as no one in the family has ever mentioned her before? We then move back to 1944 where we read of a family living in a seaside town during World War Two. There are three sisters Betty, Margaret and Joan who are ruled by a strict disciplinarian father who wants everything his way and imposes rules and regulations upon his daughters. Even his wife seems to be under his thumb. But Joan is the slight rebel and despite worldwide events and restrictions at that time she is determined to do something to help the war effort and also have a little fun. Joan meets Jack at a dance (that her father has forbidden her to attend), he saves her from an over amorous Canadian airman and soon Jack and Joan have fallen head over heels in love. Normally this annoys me in books how couples who just meet can declare their undenying love for each other but I realise at the time people never knew if they would see each other again. What with soldiers going off to war uncertain of their futures, they felt the need to have someone at home who would be thinking of them and to whom they could write to. Jack soon enlists and Joan is left to harbour her secret love from her family.

In the present Margaret is still alive and living in a nursing home and she is not happy that Ali and her family have decided to stay on in the house. From early on the reader becomes aware that something happened with the sisters and I was dying to find out what. The author skilfully drip feeds us bits and pieces at just the right time leaving you rapidly turning the pages (or tapping the Kindle in this case) eager to know why the past has remained so hidden. At one point up crops neighbour Jason Bergmann and I did wonder why in god's name is the neighbour getting such prominence in the story. It wasn't until near the end was his role confirmed and it was quite a feat for the author to achieve as I never guessed his connection to the story. Things become even more intriguing when Kelly starts dressing in the style of the 1940's and even uses mannerisms and sayings from that time. She feels a presence in the house but only Margaret has the answers. When Ali and Pete discover a hidden door to a cellar they find a box containing photos and a locket. Could these items unlock the secrets that have remained hidden until now?

The story continued to move at a lovely natural pace and slowly the past and present became interwoven. I really developed a soft spot for Joan and her story and all that she was going through. How hard it must be to have a deep connection and love for someone. A love that has to remain secret for fear of not conforming to the times. Joan's father just came across as a big bully and tyrant and her fear of not living up to his expectations only caused further heartache and sadness for her. In the present I loved how Kelly's life began to mirror Joan's as the women became even more connected through time. It just shows how in some ways society has totally changed today but in others things have stayed the same and are not really poles apart. To go in to any more detail would ruin the fabulous story that awaits the reader if you pick up this magnificent book. You are certainly in for a treat as you read of Kelly's attempts to reconcile the past and the present. I loved how all the loose ends were tied up in a rewarding way and I never would have guessed the outcome but was pleased with the path the author took us on to reach the ending.

Don't hesitate to pick up this book,you will not be disappointed, I spent several hours completely enraptured by Kathleen McGurl's work. I'm only sorry I haven't read The Emerald Comb as judging by this book her first novel must be equally as good. The Pearl Locket has everything mystery, romance, suspense, history, family relationships, the time slip element, friendship, betrayals and trials and tribulations. All these elements rolled into one make for a rewarding read that I won't forget for a long time. Do yourself a favour and buy this book today.

I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.