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The Secret Heiress

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A fabled house. A fabulous fortune. Beautiful, identical twins...

Dark shadows fall across the golden summer of 1886. Naive country girl Ida Garfield longs to escape the farm and when Miss Matilda Gregory, the elegant mistress of Summersby House, offers Ida employment as a housemaid, Ida leaps at the chance. Yet it’s not for her servant’s skills that she’s wanted.

It’s her inquisitiveness...

But before Ida starts her first day, Miss Gregory is found dead. Fearing her one chance of bettering herself lost, Ida goes to the funeral, hoping that someone else from Summersby will still want her.

Someone does. Handsome blond Englishman Mr Samuel Hackett is the late Miss Gregory’s fiancé. He expresses a keen need for a housemaid – and a friend.

But Miss Gregory’s will brings to light an extraordinary deception and a terrible wrong from the past. Summersby has a secret heiress, whose name is also Matilda Gregory... A strange, ethereal girl with an irrevocably broken memory.

Could Samuel Hackett be responsible for his fiancée’s death? A pact made with Barker, Hackett’s dark and dangerous valet, is effective in silencing tongues. The two young men return the second Matilda to her inheritance – and set off a series of bizarre events.

Secretly in love with Samuel, yet determined to aid the fragile heiress, Ida uncovers eerie messages from beyond the grave hinting at Summersby’s disturbing past – and its foreboding future.

And Ida learns the terrible truth about the secret heiress … and an even more shocking legacy.

422 pages, Paperback

Published April 1, 2016

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About the author

Luke Devenish

6 books50 followers
Luke Devenish lives with his partner and pets in the historic town of Castlemaine, in the heart of the beautiful Goldfields region of Victoria, Australia. Originally from Western Australia, where he often returns, Luke grew up in the Perth Hills where he attended Eastern Hills Senior High School and Curtin University in the 1980s. He moved to Melbourne to pursue writing opportunities in 1988 and has lived in Victoria since.

Luke’s ‘Empress of Rome’ historical fiction novels are an international publishing success. Book 1, ‘Den of Wolves’, was first published in Australia and New Zealand in 2008, before being released in the United States and Canada, and later translated into Spanish, Serbian, Russian and Turkish editions. Book 2, ‘Nest of Vipers’, was released in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2010, with non-English language editions following in 2011.

Before writing novels, Luke wrote for television. From 2001 to the end of 2007 he held key creative roles including Script Producer, Story Editor and Supervising Script Editor on the long-running Australian TV drama series, Neighbours. Luke oversaw 1,500 episode scripts for the internationally broadcast serial, creating dozens of much loved characters and long-running storylines. He represented Neighbours at the UK National Television Awards in London and spoke about its ongoing success at drama industry conferences in Cologne and Amsterdam. He also appeared in a series of behind-the-scenes programs about the show made for BBC 3. Before joining Neighbours, Luke was Script Executive on Something in the Air and, as Assistant Commissioning Editor for Drama with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he worked in the writing and development of SeaChange, RAW FM and other television series. He has also written for Home & Away.

Luke Devenish is also a playwright. Working at Melbourne’s St Martins Youth Arts Centre in the late 80s and early 90s, Luke’s plays were regularly staged for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Productions of his work then went on to be commissioned by Melbourne’s Playbox Theatre, the Adelaide Festival, the Sydney Festival, the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the National Institute for Dramatic Arts, among others. Luke returned to the theatre in 2010, adapting (with Louise Fox) Dario Fo’s ‘Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman’ for Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. This adaptation was also staged by the Queensland Theatre Company in 2012.

Luke was a student of Curtin University’s creative writing stream in the mid-80s, studying fiction under renowned novelists Elizabeth Jolley and Tim Winton. In 2008 he appeared in an ABC TV documentary, IOU Elizabeth Jolley, where he spoke about his creative debt to the late author. Luke is now a lecturer himself, having taught creative writing subjects for the Australian Film Television & Radio School, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Monash University and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. Since 2013 Luke has lectured and coordinated 1st Year undergraduates of the Bachelor of Fine Arts Screenwriting degree at the University of Melbourne's Victorian College of the Arts - a job he loves.

When he’s not writing or lecturing, Luke spends his time gardening, reading, travelling, cooking, watching, talking and listening.

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5 stars
47 (22%)
4 stars
68 (32%)
3 stars
65 (31%)
2 stars
19 (9%)
1 star
8 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum.
977 reviews104 followers
March 30, 2016
Australian author? Check
Gothic setting? Check
Twins? Check
Manor house? Check
Servants? Check
Inheritance? Check

The six elements mentioned above make for a very enjoyable read and those who love seeing these topics penned in any Kate Morton novel, will enjoy this offering by fellow Australian author Luke Devenish.

The Secret Heiress is a deeply layered mystery set in central Victoria in two time frames with two main characters, Ida in 1880s and Biddy in the 1900s.

The mystery kept me guessing and the complex layers of lies and deceit were difficult to unravel, making for a satisfying read in a 'whodunnit/whydunnit' kind of way. I highly enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs environment, and I think this is the first gothic historical fiction novel I've read set entirely in Victoria.

My only complaint would be the lack of chapter breaks. There were very clear breaks between time periods, however these sections were quite long with no chapters to break up the pages. (There were a few sentence breaks but I always like to stop reading at the end of a chapter and I wasn't able to do that here).

Luke Devenish is an accomplished writer and this was an impressive and refreshing read in a genre generally dominated by female authors. Recommended for historical fiction fans far and wide; particularly those who haven't read a gothic Australian novel before.

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *
Profile Image for Katrina.
935 reviews64 followers
May 3, 2016

The Secret Heiress is An Australian Gothic novel by Luke Devenish a relatively new genre for me.

I found it to be a refreshing read, something new and exciting and with all the underlying factors one would expect within a gothic novel I found it delivered.

I was not disappointed.

Doom, inheritance, darkness, mystery, two beautiful women, mysterious men, past, and old buildings. The tone of the story is well presented throughout the book, giving the reader that Gothic feel .

The Secret Heiress contains a lot of mystery within the pages one that will have you page turning to find out which way it goes. Mysterious servants, grand and beautifully detailed house , dark and eerie and lots of unfolding within the pages. Layers of story line added it to , gives it depth and added intrigue.

The Secret Heiress first follows a young woman Ida in the year 1886, who begins work as a housemaid at Summersby House, which is set in Victoria - Australia.

17 years later Biddy makes a move from Melbourne to wait upon a secret heiress In Summersby house - Both narratives are set 17 years apart both working within Summersby house .

Luke Devenish pens his story well, the plot is well delivered, giving us dark, eerie with that gothic - macabre or other darker elements entwined.

The Secret Heiress has a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. I found this evident between the upstairs and downstairs staff .

Throughout the entire novel I had a feeling that something bad will happen; fearful apprehension. so to speak.

This alone had be hooked to find out more. Luke created the atmosphere well between the pages, by also giving us well defined characters, a love triangle - treachery , lies and often slight confusion to the mystery of the twins status . But upon reading further this all pans out.

Not knowing what will be thrown in or coming next - completely UNPREDICTABLE.

A perfect read for all those dabbling in this genre,a challenging but highly gratifying read.

23 reviews
April 28, 2016
A little hard to get into at first, but then kept trying to make the connections between the chapters. challenging , a good read and all the answers in the end@!!
Profile Image for Monique Mulligan.
Author 17 books99 followers
June 20, 2016
Secrets, mystery lies, betrayal, deception, an inheritance, a love triangle and a confounding mystery are at the heart of The Secret Heiress – all elements I love to find in a book. The dual narrative explores the mystery in two different generations – Ida’s perspective alternates with her daughter Biddy’s. There’s also the upstairs-downstairs element that adds a bit more depth – the mystery involves them all, rather than the upper class only.

Despite the sense of foreboding that was established early on, it took me a while to really feel connected to this book. It could be because there were so many things to keep track of. However, eventually the story had me in its thrall, and I was caught up in the mystery, guessing here and there. Devenish included a good mixture of characters, from the feisty to naive, from amoral to repulsive. It worked well!

It’s funny how with some books you have a theory and pages later you have a new one, and a new one…it was a bit like this in The Secret Heiress, albeit with some confusing moments keeping track of the twins. Most of the loose ends tied up well by the end.

Overall, an enjoyable read and a good addition to the Australian Gothic genre.
Profile Image for Kerry.
26 reviews13 followers
July 12, 2016
I enjoyed this rather a lot. Described as Australian gothic, it's a very entertaining story of deception. The story jumps back and forward between the 1880s and 1904-ish at the beautiful Summersby House, a rural residence in Castlemaine, Victoria. Devenish gives us a plot full of twists and layers of deception that even if you can't keep up with at times, still delivers because the story has two delightful vivid main characters, both servants. Ida is taken on as a housemaid at Summersby, Miss Margaret George is adamant that she wants a girl who is more inquisitive than bright but even before Ida can start her new job the mistress is dead.
Sixteen years later, young Biddy who has fallen on desperate times arrives from Melbourne to try nabbing the job of cook.
April 6, 2017
For lovers of country-house drama and mysteries, here is one with that Aussie twist - cheeky servants and people who won't stop asking questions! This plot twists and twists again, and even when we've sorted out who the Secret Heiress is, there's still another surprise in store.
Told from the view of Ida the housemaid and Biddy her daughter, it tells of twin sisters, a beautiful house, and those who will give anything to possess house and a lovely girl's heart - but which girl?
I've filed it on my bookshelf next to Luke's compatriot Kate Morton, who I think would have been proud to have written such a story.
More please, Luke . . .
Profile Image for Tracie Griffith.
Author 1 book7 followers
August 24, 2017
Knowing Mr Devenish's ability to weave a plot around the dichotomy of good/evil twins, I knew I was in for a great read - and he didn't disappoint. What can I say without inadvertently creating a spoiler? Loved the language, the humour, the characterisation and the setting of historical Castlemaine. Aren't small town's delightful? And I also love leading female characters with the name Bridget!!
Profile Image for Nikki Haskell.
30 reviews1 follower
April 27, 2019
I actually really enjoyed this book. A few times i got confused but still i didn't care i didn't want the book to end
Profile Image for Anna Plishak.
145 reviews4 followers
May 8, 2023
Ця книга давно вабила мене обкладинкою та цікавою аннотацією. Я дуже люблю вікторіанські романи та романи, стилізовані під цей період, тому, придбавши книгу, одразу взялася за читання.

Автор використовує відомий і улюблений прийом оповіді у двох часових відрізках. Сімейні таємниці, скандали, дивна історія близнючок, потаємні кімнати, загадковий флакон, що живе своїм життям, обман, насилля, отруєння - все це причаїлося у похмурому австралійському маєтку Саммерсбі.

Сюжет перегукується з "Тринадцятою казкою" Діани Сеттерфілд та "Доньками доглядача маяка" Джин Пендзівол, закручений, але передбачуваний. Втім читати було цікаво. Тож якщо ви не покладатимете надто високих сподівань на цю книгу, вона вам сподобається.
294 reviews
January 29, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. An intriguing mystery flicking between time periods with plenty to keep me coming back for more. Very readable, even if it may not be very memorable over time. A pleasantly enjoyable mystery set in late 19th/early 20th century Victoria.
Profile Image for Karyn.
234 reviews
May 9, 2016
Loved this book couldn't put it down . Intrigue, drama, deceptions, family secrets through generations are all wound together in a great story.
Profile Image for Zoe Whiting.
42 reviews
January 27, 2020
Devenish took the reader on an interesting journey across two generations. Good character development meant it was easy to flirt between the two eras without getting to lost. From a historical perspective he had clearly done is research as the changes where mentioned and noticeable across the two generations. Unfortunately I picked the ending (which I won't spoil) which made me feel a little disappointed. Well written a few red herrings wouldn't have gone astray.
66 reviews
January 27, 2018
This book has many extraordinary historical facts that will surprise you. If you loved Wuthering Heights, Gaslight, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and The Patty Duke Show you will like this. Undoubtedly this is the best Historical Romance written by a Castlemaine author I have read this year.
Profile Image for Tracey.
962 reviews7 followers
May 9, 2016
In this Australian gothic novel two young women 17 years apart, find themselves entangled in the mystery that surrounds the inhabitants of Summersby House.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints as we start with Ida and then switch to Biddy.
We start in 1886 with Ida, young, impressionable and highly inquisitive is about to commence employment at the most prestigious property in Castlemaine, Victoria. What Ida perceives to be a wonderful new career in housekeeping to work with a Mistress, who has personally selected her instead turns into uncertainty as her new employer had died. For Ida finds herself in a house racked with grief and a sinister man servant who seems to have too much influence and control over the running of Summersby House.
You then cut to 1903 years later to headstrong Biddy who is good at telling a yarn, gets into trouble too easily and she runs away to Castlemaine. Biddy finds herself employed at Summersby House and begins to unravel the mystery that surrounds the people who live there.
The mystery is well layered with lashings of sinister overtones throughout. The story weaves rather effortlessly through time keeping the mystery alive and keeping you engaged as you try to find the clues of what plagues Summersby House.
It was Ida’s story that I found myself drawn to and wanted to remain in her version of the mystery. Her voice resonates with you and her pain is raw. There is one scene that is traumatic and demonstrated the danger of being a female servant.
As for Biddy, while her story was engaging I was not as enamoured with her character. On a personal note as a reader there were times when I was annoyed when Biddy’s story came back into play as I really wanted to read more about Ida.
From Castlemaine in country Victoria to the hustle and bustle of an emerging Melbourne you can easily walk the streets and wander in the stores. As the world that Luke Devenish has created is well researched, deftly brought to life on the page and gives the story added depth.
There is some great twists and turns in and it is extremely difficult to review without giving the ending away.
Devenish has put to page a highly engaging Australian Gothic novel that should be included in future book club reading lists as the ending will bring about a great deal of discussion.
Profile Image for Sharon J.
442 reviews27 followers
March 23, 2016
Thank you to Netgalley and publisher Simon & Schuster (Australia) for an ebook copy to read and review.

The story starts with Ida who commences work as a housemaid for Miss Matilda Gregory at Summersby House near Castlemaine in north central Victoria of Australia in 1886 and moves back and forth from that date to the year 1903 where we have Biddy who has escaped to the countryside from Melbourne and finds herself at Summersby House as well. Strange and unusual happenings emerge as we find out more about who is who and what has taken place. The characters and their relationships are intriguing and there are certainly a lot of twists and turns as well as a lot of clues enabling the reading to pick up on some of the secret aspects of the story. There were certainly moments of incredible tension with the unfortunate effects of the little blue vial, the conflict between several characters and the connection between the time periods was obviously a key factor.

That being said I must admit I found the story became a bit too laboured, becoming bogged down with too much detail that detracted from the flow of the story. The letters of the twins Matilda and Margaret also provide insight into the story but I did feel that they intruded once again on the flow of the story.

Overall I enjoyed the story and the characters had a lot of depth and their relationships were quite intriguing.
Profile Image for Tamara.
86 reviews3 followers
June 20, 2016
Whilst relatively new to the"Gothic" genre, I found this multi layered, multi period Australian family saga engaging. With a nice balance of characters, the story twists and turns through the histroical time periods. Whilst at times I had difficulty distinguishing between the twins in the earlier period, feel this was more about the other distractions in my life at the time and not a reflection on the engaging writing style of the author.

It was refreshingly enjoyable to read of Australian locations in the novel, I felt transported to many of the familiar Victorian locations.

With so many layers to the story, did not see the final secret reveal coming until quite late in the story, which makes my reading expereince all that more enjoyable.

A highly recommended read, partciuarly for those who love the family secret, mutli layered, historical gothic novels. Looking forward to more great reads from this author. Proudly supporting Australian authors.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
56 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2017
Absolutely revelling in this novel each word imprints the scene into my mind and the undercurrents are fabulously revealed. What a masterpiece, what an excellent writer! I will be gleefully seeking more novels from Luke Devenish.
I've finished the book and marvelled at how the author kept pace with all the tooing and froing, the story jumps about in leaps and bounds and builds to an exciting ending before continuing on with those extra little bits of insight that answers questions that you've already forgotten existed. A masterpiece of writing where the reader needs to stay and understand every word. I was sad to give this book up I have been thoroughly engrossed.
Profile Image for Lisa Neilson.
7 reviews
May 16, 2016
An amazingly, well-written and expertly crafted novel. I throughly enjoyed everything about this book; the characters, the history and the relationships throughout. Throughly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more books by this incredibly talented author.
Profile Image for Emma.
12 reviews
March 8, 2019
My God! This book! ❤ This is the kind of book you sit at work thinking about itching to get home to read, the kind of book that keeps you up well past your bedtime. I enjoyed this immensely and feel sad it is now over
Profile Image for Hannah.
271 reviews17 followers
September 28, 2017
Talk about suspense - this book has it in spades! All the pieces of the puzzle seem to appear before you, but putting them together is always just tantalisingly out of reach. When it all finally comes together, it downs on you slowly and then all of a sudden you are confronted with the terrible reality of what has happened in this mysterious house.

To be frank though, I thought to story of Biddy lacked the depth of Ida's - I felt Ida's story better developed, and (strangely, given what was happening) more believable. It felt like Biddy's story was added after, that Ida's was the one the author originally conceived. I'd even go so far in saying that the staunch housekeeper Mrs Marshall might have made a better point-of-view. The short glimpse we get into her side of things in the final chapter was actually my favourite - I was drawn to her throughout the book, and wished she got to see a little more action. Ida I found wanting as a character, with a false-seeming, rose-coloured glasses outlook. Until it all inevitably comes crashing down around her. As I mentioned, I just didn't believe Biddy's pathway to Summersby.

A great story that is well realised, but could have benefited from some greater insight into the feminine. Choosing to write a book from a young female perspective was perhaps not the best choice buy the author - certain nuances that can only come from being personally familiar with the perspective were lost. Perhaps, the novel told from the miserly Barker's perspective could have been interesting, though quite a different book.

I give the book three stars as I was certainly sucked in, but when looking back the writing itself was fairly lacklustre.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
285 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2022
I don’t always read fiction, but the book seemed intriguing - a bit of “Downton abbey” in rural Australia. I listened on audio and it was really long - so by the time I got to the unveiling of the many secrets in the last few chapters I was a bit fatigued, and may have missed some vital points. I’m really looking forward the the mini series! I’d watch that if it ever got off the ground, so if you’re reading this Luke, sell rights to a production company that promises a mini series because a movie will be too short and leave out too much. It was a well woven story and had some great characters, enjoyable but long read with many twists and turns.
Profile Image for Seadaz.
386 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2017
Confusing to read, I had thought what was happening in the house (when Ida) was what was happening (hard to write without giving the plot away), but the parts with Bridie I didn't click onto until the end (so was a twist for me).

I enjoyed the story, but did find it confusing to read, especially been split into Ida's story and then Bridie's story, the chapters were really long too, and the you're not Matilda your Margaret bits hard to keep up with.

First time I have read a book from this author. Set in Australia.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
408 reviews4 followers
June 8, 2022
Summersby House is a grand old house containing many secrets. I found I had to really concentrate to follow the story and try to work out what had happened and who was who, particularly as there were twins involved. Despite feeling lost at times with the story I enjoyed the story and it all wraps up at the end.
1 review
June 15, 2018
Enjoyable story line but characters became confusing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews

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