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Friday, 6 March 2015

Aerendgast by Rachel Berman

Aerendgast Blog Tour

Today the blog tour for Rachel Berman's 'Aerendgast' stops here with a review of the book. For further posts on the blog tour, please see the schedule below my review.

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New cover: Aerendgast by Rachel Berman
Violet Desmond has a full life. She doesn’t have much family, since she is an only child, brought up by her grandmother. She led quite a solitary childhood, but she now has good friends, a job as a lecturer, and she is the owner of a historical house that she is in the process of sourcing antiques for and restoring. Her grandmother, Millie, is terminally ill but still in good spirits. Violet visits her one day and Millie gives Violet a very unusual cameo necklace, which belonged to Violet’s mother, and since Violet has nothing of her parents, not even a recollection, she is very pleased to have something to link to them. Millie impresses on Violet that the necklace is important and that it will help her find what she’s searching for, though Violet doesn’t know what is meant by this. After handing over the cameo, Millie takes a turn for the worse, and although Violet calls an ambulance, Millie can’t be saved.

While still reeling from Millie’s death, Violet discovers documentation that shows that what she was told about her life was a lie; she isn’t Violet Desmond, but Violet Atherton. She has two birth certificates, so one of them is fake. There is also a newspaper cutting detailing a fatal car crash in which Martin and Gwen Atherton and their daughter Violet all died. There are pictures of the Atherton family and Violet recognises the young girl as herself. The name of Violet’s godfather is mentioned in the article, Lord Blake Lockhurst. Violet is determined to find out the truth of the situation. Googling Lockhurst brings up the name of his home, Aerendgast, a National Trust property, and so she contacts him under the guise of seeking a job. She is offered a paid job working for Lockhurst as an archivist where she hopes to find some answers. Things aren’t helped by the fact that since the day Millie died Violet has started having some very vivid dreams about one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen:
‘Through Violet’s dreams, Austen revealed her life story, only it was much darker than the familiar tale ... and Violet felt Jane’s pain and pleasures as acutely as if they were her own. It haunted Violet during the day and hounded her at night as she struggled to understand what was happening.’
Why is Violet having these dreams? Over time they begin to manifest as visions in the day as well. Violet begins to wonder about the truth of Austen’s life. Could it have been very different to what is currently believed? Does this connect with Violet’s family? Who can Violet trust? And what secrets can be found at Aerendgast?

The story is mainly a treasure hunt story with a dash of romance thrown in, but it’s interspersed with Violet’s dreams and visions of Jane Austen. I always find books with Austen as a character quite melancholy – the thought of how short her life was, and how she didn’t find a lasting love herself despite writing about her heroines finding love. In this book, Jane’s story is worse than melancholy, she is treated appallingly and goes through some real heartrending misery. She has a secret love, and it’s fair to say that by not very far into the book at all I was very angry with him for being so utterly spineless and selfish!

Violet works together with a treasure hunter, Peter, to look for clues to help her discover the truth of her visions. Whether she can trust Peter remains to be proven... This part of the story reminded me somewhat of those Nicolas Cage treasure films, National Treasure, although here the ‘national treasure’ being searched for is the truth of the life of a well-loved writer. There were some very exciting moments and puzzles to discover. The only thing with this type of high drama is that I didn’t find it particularly believable. It sounds odd to say it, but the visions from 200 years ago seemed more real than the action taking place as the actions being described in the visions were more prosaic. I was also surprised by how some events unfolded because the behaviour of the characters sometimes seemed illogical to me. This meant that it took me quite a long time to connect with the story set in the present day, because the passage of events sometimes didn’t seem likely.

Being a huge admirer of Jane Austen, I really enjoyed the connection to her works. The idea is put forward that parts of Austen’s novels were inspired by events that she had lived through, which is a really interesting concept to explore:
“Maybe she covertly wrote her own life into her books because she wanted someone to discover everything she’d had to hide. Maybe there’s something in her books, something we’re meant to find?”
Violet is a pretty likeable character, although she sometimes seems a bit too trusting and open for her own good. I liked her habit of talking to herself while she was reading, she often had the same thoughts as me, although she expressed them with more swear words! The reader gets to know Violet better than the other characters in the story, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to who she can trust and who is trying to manipulate her for their own ends.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy plenty of action and excitement in their reading. The mystery is very fast-paced so I don’t think it’s the type of thing you can work out while you’re reading, as clues keep being uncovered.  There was a lot of focus on Austen and her works which I really enjoyed. Her hidden story made me feel quite sad and angry on her behalf, but it was very inventive, and meshed with some of the known facts about Austen, such as her dislike of Bath and the reason why so much of her correspondence was destroyed, which I thought was a nice touch. The story is concluded in this book but there could be scope for further adventure. I thought this was an entertaining read and I’d rate it at 3½ stars.

3.5 star read

*Many thanks to Meryton Press for providing an e-ARC and Leatherbound Reviews for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for 'Aerendgast'.

Buy links:

Blog tour schedule:

2 March: Guest Post at Austenprose 
3 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club 
4 March: Author Interview at The Little Munchkin Reader
5 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at BestSellers & BestStellars
6 March: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm 
7 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen 
8 March: Review at The Delighted Reader
9 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time… 
10 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged 
11 March: Review at Austenprose 
12 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice 
13 March: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
14 March: Review at Margie's Must Reads
15 March: Review at Warmisunqu’s Austen
16 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
17 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
18 March: Guest Post at Laughing with Lizzie

14 comments:

  1. Terrific review, Ceri. Isn't' the cover gorgeous? I'll probably pass because of the swearing. It's not something that I like to hear or read. Thanks for letting me know. I hate to spend the money and then have to quit reading it for that reason.

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    1. Thank you Joy! There wasn't masses of swearing, but there was enough that I noticed it, which is why I mentioned it, because I know that it's a big no for some people.

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  2. Glad you liked it. I am reading it this weekend!

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    1. Hope you enjoyed it Christina!

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  3. Good in-depth review Ceri, I am yet to read a mystery Austenesque book, I think Death comes to Pemberley may have made me reluctant (tv version I might add). So this may be my first.

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    1. Thank you Tamara! I have a few Austenesque mysteries to read this year, If you fancied ones featuring Austen's characters instead of Austen herself there is a series by Carrie Bebris where Mr and Mrs Darcy investigate and find themselves meeting characters from the other books.

      Death Comes to Pemberley is an odd one. I had really high hopes of that book, but to me, the characters were just so flat. I really struggled to get through it.

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  4. Thanks for such a well-written review, Ceri! It is always nice hearing your thoughts on a book. :)

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  5. The concept for this book makes it sound very intriguing. I'm eagerly looking forward to it. I also anticipate trying to determine the actions you felt were illogical and the parts that you thought were not believable, and whether I agree or not. I'll have to cross my fingers for that though, because I typically get so caught up in a story that I have a hard time being 'aware' of what I'm reading!

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    1. I know just what you mean. My mum reads murder mysteries and very often she can successfully pinpoint the killer, but I tend not to analyse, but just watch the story unfold in front of me so I'm far less successful!

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  6. Sounds like an interesting read, Ceri. I quite like a bit action and adventure from time to time. It would fascinating to see how well it blends in with the rest of the plot.

    angmardee ( at ) hotmail ( dot ) com

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    1. There was quite a bit of action Anji, it reminded me of those Nicolas Cage National Treasure films!

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  7. It's certainly a unique and interesting take on Jane Austen's life. I too wish that she could find her man to love and love her in return but from your review, I gather that his man does not deserve her. Thanks for sharing your honest opinion of the book, Ceri.

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    1. It's fair to say I wasn't a fan of the character of Jane's love interest, maybe you will like him more than I did though!

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