A modern-day disappearance is combined with myths and a famous historical mystery, knit together in The Last Daughter by Nicola Cornick. This is a time-slip story involving true characters in history, a magical stone – the Lovell Lodestar – and the legend of The Mistletoe Bride. The latter is story of sorrow and grief attributed to many English mansions and stately homes in which a bridegroom and his bride, tired of dancing at their wedding, play hide and seek. She disappears and is never found until a skeleton is discovered many years later. It is eleven years since Caitlin Warren disappeared, presumed dead. Her twin sister Serena still struggles to move on from her loss, a feeling magnified by the lack of evidence and Serena’s worry that the cognitive amnesia she has suffered since that night may obscure the truth. When a skeleton is discovered during an archaeological dig at Minster Lovell, the country house where the sisters’ grandparents lived and where Caitlin disappeared, the memories come flooding back. Told in two timelines – Serena, present day; and Anne FitzHugh in the 15th century. Anne’s mother is from the powerful Neville family, a major power during the Wars of the Roses. Five-year old Anne is to be betrothed to eight-year-old Francis Lovell, best friend of Richard of Gloucester, younger brother to the Yorkist King Edward IV. History combines with myth when Anne is told the ghostly story of The Mistletoe Bride who disappears into a different place, a different time.
Serena returns to Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire in an attempt to confront her hidden memories and to be interviewed by the police. There she encounters old friends and visits her grandfather Dick, now suffering from dementia. How can Serena in the 21st century be connected to Anne FitzHugh and what bearing could this have on Caitlin’s disappearance?
A complex story full of so many twists, mysteries and myths that I occasionally floundered. When I surrendered to the flow of the story and stopped worrying about a few gaps and implausible connections, the pages flew by. I finished it wondering if the story would be stronger with slightly less myth and more of Anne and Francis.
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Read my review of THE FORGOTTEN SISTER by Nicola Cornick.
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