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House of Shadows

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The wooded hills of Oxfordshire conceal the remains of the aptly named Ashdown House--a wasted pile of cinders and regret. Once home to the daughter of a king, its secrets will unite three women across four centuries in a tangle of romance, deceit and destiny...

1662--A queen

Bound by sex and birth to live for everyone but herself--and to love always in secret--Elizabeth Stuart entrusts a pair of arcane artifacts to her faithful cavalier to keep safe for her rightful heir. But fate will not be generous to the Winter Queen, throwing the question of succession into turmoil, the aftermath of which will resonate through the generations.

1801--A courtesan

Lavinia Flyte wanted so much more from life than to be a courtesan at the mercy of the cruel Lord Evershot. He has brought her to Ashdown, the home of his ancestors, for reasons he guards greedily. But the maids' whispers of hidden treasures--a pearl with the power to foretell the future--consume her with a curiosity she confides only to her diary, unaware of the misfortune that threatens.

And the mystery that binds them

Alarmed to hear her brother has gone missing at Ashdown Park, Holly Ansell is inexplicably drawn to the clues contained in the journal of a Regency courtesan who was living at the historic home when it burned to the ground two hundred years ago. Lured by the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly's search leads her not only to the truth about Lavinia, but deeper into her own connection with the Winter Queen.

For fans of Kate Morton and Barbara Erskine comes an unforgettable novel about the power one lie can have over history.

464 pages, Paperback

First published December 5, 2015

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About the author

Nicola Cornick

231 books1,067 followers
International bestselling author Nicola Cornick writes dual-time historical mysteries that draw on her love for genealogy and local history. She studied History at London and Oxford and worked in academia for a number of years before becoming a full time author. Nicola acts as a guide and researcher at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown House and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Lydiard Park in Swindon. She gives talks and tours on a variety of historical topics.

Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog. She also loves hearing from her readers and chatting to them. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter @NicolaCornick and Instagram.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 426 reviews
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,717 followers
October 10, 2017
3 stars to Nicola Cornick's House of Shadows, an ARC I received through NetGalley last week in exchange for an honest review. I realized it takes time to build up a good rating before publishers choose you to read new releases by famous authors, and so I set about choosing books by new authors or unknown authors that I might enjoy. Little did I realize, Cornick has several published series I could have gotten familiar with. While this book's plot and setting initially attracted me, I feel it could have been stronger in the execution. Let's get to the details of this one:

Holly receives a phone call from her 6-year-old niece in the middle of the night, noting her father (Holly's brother), Ben, has gone missing. Holly takes the long train from London to a distant Oxfordshire town where their family owns an old English home. Ben had been staying there for a few days doing research on the family tree when he disappeared. Holly's just separated from her fiance and chooses to stay at the country home and search for Ben. As she traces clues, she learns he may have stumbled upon (1) the pearl and (2) the crystal mirror that the Winter Queen of a German duchy, Elizabeth Stuart, of the English Stuarts (Charles and James, Scottish kings) used with her husband, Frederick, as powerful objects to create fire and floods when in their wars. They were originally given to Mary Queen of Scots by her cousin Elizabeth I of England, as a wedding present after being previously stolen from another member of the family. The story is told through three time periods: (1) 1630's with Elizabeth, (2) 1800s with Lavinia and (3) 2000s with Holly. Somehow they are all connected, and it seems someone used the power of the pearl and the mirror to wreck havoc over the centuries. But how it all comes together, who is related to whom, and what happened to Ben are at the crux of this multi-level story.

1. The story is intriguing. Real people (Elizabeth, Frederick, Mary, etc.) are woven with fictional people to create an imaginative story to capture readers attention. You'll find yourself flipping between the book and Wikipedia trying to figure out which parts are true. Did the pearl exist? Was the affair real? Did she really go on to have 11 children that eventually gave rise to most of the European thrones?

2. The story is very descriptive and you will clearly picture all of the setting and backdrop. It seems quite beautiful. You can separate easily from the views of the house in 2 of the 3 time periods, given it didn't exist in one of them. The best word I can use is to say it is "pretty." It sounds like the author has been dreaming of this story for a long time, so kudos to her for bringing it to full fruition.

It felt like something was missing, and the parts that were present didn't fully line up for me. I love telling stories over multi-time periods, trying to figure out the connections among each of the characters. And some parts of this story handled it well; however, the ending was rushed which felt like I didn't have time to absorb the consequences of each lie, affair or murder that occurred over the 400 year period. I think there should have been less focus on the current story's secondary characters (Ben's potential affair, Holly's hook-ups, the multiple friends who didn't really contribute much) and more focus on drawing out the connections among the different families over the years.

Final Thoughts
Given it had some good parts and some so-so parts, I give this one a 3... I'd recommend it for fans of this genre who like things a little open-ended, who like royal and non-royal connections and who love the English countryside.

I'd read a sample of this author's work again, as the writing and language was good (a little slow at times), but the plot would have to be pretty strong for me to jump on the next one. That said, it is a fair book -- just not as good as others in this genre that I've read and loved.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
November 21, 2017
3.5 stars rounded up to 4!

HOUSE OF SHADOWS by NICOLA CORNICK is a romantic, fascinating, suspenseful and a compelling historical fiction novel that was an enjoyable and entertaining read.

NICOLA CORNICK delivers an atmospheric and vividly descriptive novel here with interesting and complex characters told in three different time periods from three different women. I found all time periods equally intriguing and enjoyed the journey as I was transported into this fascinating tale of romance, discovery, danger, love, mystery, and even a hint of the supernatural.

To sum it all up it was an interesting, well-researched, unique, and an entertaining read that had me totally engaged from start to finish! Would recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Harlequin Books, and Nicola Cornick for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review.

All of my reviews along with Brenda's and our Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Hirdesh.
399 reviews87 followers
April 13, 2017
Thanks for Netgalley and respective publishers.

O o o o o o o o o o
MY GOODNESS.................................................
Magnificent , Wonderful, Incredible and Mysterious Historical Fiction.
Highly highly recommended not only for Historical fiction lovers, but Romance lover and mystery lovers too.
* It would be became a great movie, A perfect Drama movie.......
If screenplay would be great, it would turned a psychological mystery..

It had persuaded me with its cajole writing and theme.
This book possess huge no. of content of all the above and they are contented about the Topic.
I've got this book since 15 days or more, and I was expecting like normal kind of Historical book.
Because, I had read starting chapter they were like Warming up for the game.
When I went forward, It was so mysterious and comprehensive when 3 Parallel stories moves like step by step. However, I move in stories with time, but this book didn't give me much time to delay further and playing the game with abundant energy.
The greatness among stories were interconnection of them, which surprised and astonished me.

* It shows gratitude of Love and importance of Magical Mirror and Pearl.
This book defines about History of Britain, about Elizabeth I and her lover.

Her lover's cousin and his lover.
and his lover's Husband.
Sorry, If the last line may confused you, It was important in order to sustain the storyline for those who didn't go through it yet.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,694 reviews595 followers
May 20, 2017
This book tells the story of three women, and three relationships, linked by a crystal mirror and the Sistrin pearl, which were used by the Order of the Rosy Cross – an order which believed in the rebirth of the spirit. There is Elizabeth Stuart, wife of Frederick of Bohemia, sister of King Charles of England and known as ‘the Winter Queen,’ as her husband’s reign lasted only one winter before she found herself exiled. Then we have present day Holly Ansell, who idolises her brother Ben and is devastated when he goes missing. She finds herself surprised to discover he was investigating their family history and relocates to their holiday cottage, where he was staying, try to continue his research for clues of his whereabouts. During her search, she comes across the journal of Lavinia Flyte, who was the mistress of the owner of Ashdown Park – a country manor located close to where she is staying, which burnt to the ground in 1801. There is a new development, being built by the handsome Mark and, despite her attempts not to get involved, Holly finds herself drawn to both Lavinia’s story and to Mark himself.

As we learn about these three women, throughout history, we also learn of their loves, hopes and concerns. We have Elizabeth in the 1660’s, with her weak husband, lack of power and her desire for the devoted William Craven. Craven is keen that Elizabeth rid herself of the mirror, and pearl, which she believes have magic powers and he thinks are superstitious nonsense. Meanwhile, we have Lavinia, who is reliant on the owner of Ashdown Park for the roof over her head, but whose life as a courtesan is thrown into disarray when he meets Robert Verity, who works for Lord Evershot. Then you have the present day relationship between Holly and Mark, plus the mystery of the missing Ben. This is a little out of my comfort zone, but I found it an enjoyable read. Historical mystery, ancestry, magic, a little time slip storyline, some romance, the pomp and ceremony of the past, the present day storyline where Holly is out of her own comfort zone, in a small village, where everyone knows her business, all combine to create a really enjoyable story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,345 followers
May 4, 2016
“A house with old furniture has no need of ghosts to be haunted.”

----Hope Mirrlees

Nicola Cornick, an English international best-selling writer, pens her new deeply touching yet intriguing historical fiction, House of Shadows, that unfolds two stories layered over one another centered around an old house with three women from three different timeline connected by an antique mirror, an old diary and with their same-pattern of love stories. This is the perfect kind of tale which demands a readers to get lost into its elegance, beauty and evocative history on a sunny afternoon.


London, 1662:
There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

Present day: Holly is in search of his brother, Ben, who disappears while researching his family tree in the Ashdown House in Oxfordshire. That is when Holly stumbles upon Lavinia's diary that takes the story back in the 1800s as Lavinia narrates her story of life along with two precious yet cursed possessions that claimed the lives of many in the past as well as in her time too, and from there the story moves back to the 1600s to the winter Queen and the cursed objects that she desperately needs to get rid off.

This is the kind of novel which can exclusively enjoyed by a historical fiction buff, as three stories are laced with family history, family artifacts with a tang of love stories that are expressively depicted. Well, as for me, i enjoyed this novel thoroughly and was transported to the Ashdown Houses and along with the shifting timeline, I too moved along with it. The book cover image is taken by the author herself when she was working in the Ashdown Houses ans researching its history. And just one look at that book cover, is bound to elude the readers inside the very core of the story.

The author's writing style is exquisite and is laced with deep, heart-felt emotions that has a power to make the readers move deeply. The narrative is equally enthralling and will keep the readers glued to the very heart of the story. The story is addictive from the very first page itself even though the author has narrated her story with so many layers those are peeled away page-by-page. The pacing is quite fast despite the fact that the author has penned the story with in-depth details that will make the readers experience the story with their very own eyes.

The author captures an old house that stores heritage, lost stories, with the atmospheric feel that anyone gets when they enter an old house. Through the story the author also vividly arrests that how an old piece of heritage becomes an antique and how hold so many stories passed down from one generation.

The characters a re very much inspired from the real-life characters who were once a part of the Ashdown House. The three main and central women of the stories go through a lot of pain and aspire for one thing that binds the three women tightly with a knot is love, an old mirror and a cursed pearl. The demeanor of each and every character a re quite strikingly and the author has etched out her characters with lots of realism into them.

In a nutshell, this compelling yet poignant and at times frightening story calls out to every historical fiction lovers out there to read it and enjoy its glory forever.

Verdict: Historians are going to adore this book and as for regular readers, they are going to treasure this masterpiece.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Nicola Cornick, for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
January 13, 2021
Have you been to a museum and wondered about the all the beautiful artifacts, about the stories that each item would say, if at all they had a voice? I have visited the Mysuru Palace (https://www.mysorepalace.gov.in/) in India umpteen number of times and each time the display has managed to bewitch me. The magnificent aura that those old palaces exude is frankly, beyond words.

House Of Shadows by Nicola Cornick is a book written with love for all fans of historical fiction. The story is so beautifully immersive and utterly compelling that Ashdown House burns bright for a reader. There are 3 parts in the book with actual historical facts interwoven so brilliantly that it feels like walking alongside each character in the story.

It was fascinating to read about the winter queen and her devoted cavalier and truthfully, the historical facts that make the story is even more spectacular and stranger that the story itself. Nicola Cornick has explained her passion for Ashdown House after having worked there and it is easy to see the allure that the rich history of the house holds for the author. To weave 3 strands of story with suspense and mystery adding to the intrigue, House of Shadows succeeds in keeping the reader mesmerised and entranced.

Each segment of the story, with Elizabeth in 1662, Lavinia in 1801 and Holly in the present is captivating as the Sistrin Pearl and the jewelled mirror binds these women across centuries with its cursed prophecies. The mystery of Holly’s missing brother and the ensuing drama which is the main point around which the story begins, in fact begs for attention as the story of Lavinia and the winter queen takes precedence. I loved the romance between Holly and Mark even though all that insta-love and bound for centuries connection had me rolling my eyes.

Absolutely enthralled with the flawless story-telling by Nicola Cornick!

This review is published in my blog https://rainnbooks.com/, Goodreads, Amazon India and Twitter.
Profile Image for Ashley.
501 reviews229 followers
October 8, 2017
Reviewed on: 5171 Miles Book Blog.

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but the beautiful cover of House of Shadows immediately caught my attention, making me want this book in my hands. The image alone could sell the book without the interesting blurb or story inside! Upon flipping this book over, readers will learn it is set throughout the hills of Oxfordshire and partially in London, England. I don’t know about you, but I was sold! Since airfare is quite pricey to hop across the pond, I have to settle for being taken there by the hands of authors. Luckily, Nicola Cornick was up for the challenge and created stunning imagery through her writing, easily transporting me not only to another country, but to multiple time periods.

Woven through three separate centuries, this tale begins with Elizabeth Stuart, The Winter Queen, warning her lover, William Craven, to destroy an ornate mirror which brings doom to greedy men. Her life has turned to shambles, she believes, due to the power the mirror possesses. A power many underestimate.

In the present day, Holly learns of the disappearance of her brother, Ben. She decides to leave her cozy life in London and help in the hunt to discover what could have possibly happened to her brother. Upon arriving, she learns Ben was researching the family line at their old Mill house in Ashdown, something he didn’t seem particularly interested in prior in his life – a mystery in itself. Holly soon discovers the handwritten journal of Latvinia Flyte among Ben’s things, telling of her scandalous 19th century life. Shortly thereafter, Holly acquires a mysterious looking-glass deeply connected to the past and expanding the history Holly must sort through.

The story takes readers through time and history, connecting three different women’s lives in the modern era. One of my favorite things about Historical Fiction is being able to absorb the facts through an interesting tale, mixed with just enough fiction to keep the story exciting. This is one of my favorite ways to learn of the past because it keeps my interest, rather than the dull monotone life stories we often get through Non-Fiction. I had no knowledge of the life of Elizabeth Stuart, also known as The Queen of Bohemia prior to reading this novel which alternates between time periods. I was eager to fact check which parts of this story were real with the fiction within the pages, allowing me to further my knowledge of an incredibly interesting historical woman. I enjoyed being able to get to know Elizabeth as a living, breathing woman, rather than a fancy queen in a big dress, painted as a work of art.

Another great aspect of this tale was being able to learn of Latvinia through Holly’s reading of her diary. It added the third perspective in a unique way, allowing readers to experience both Holly in the present and Lavinia in the past simultaneously. Like Holly, I couldn’t help rooting for Lavinia and hoping her trials in life would turn into success. I was constantly on the edge of my seat hoping to learn more about her mysterious life and how she could possibly be connected to the story.

I found all three time periods within the pages to feature quite interesting storylines. When the setting would switch between chapters I was often so caught up in one perspective, I would be disappointed with the change and wanted to continue reading about the characters I was with at the moment. The changing perspectives were done so well by the author and was a great tactic in keeping the reader’s interest throughout the book. Only occasionally would I find the present storyline with Holly to be dragging and not quite as exciting as the past perspectives of Elizabeth and Lavinia. This was the sole reason I knocked a star off of my final rating, giving four stars instead of the full five. However, the addition of a love interest for Holly and being able to experience the unexpected tidbits of romance within her story was a pleasant surprise, allowing her viewpoint to be more of an experience, rather than the search for her brother being the only aspect of her story.

House of Shadows was an interesting story across the board — full of romance, mystery, history, superstition, and heartbreak. I highly recommend this unique and fully immersing novel. This will be one I reflect on for months to come.

The release date is set for October 17th, however, pre-ordering is available now. This book will not only look lovely on your shelf, but will keep you captivated until the very end.
Profile Image for Evelina | AvalinahsBooks.
878 reviews446 followers
January 16, 2018
The historical part was good. The story was okay. I was almost going to give it three stars, but then by the very end... suddenly it was not okay anymore.

The novel suffers the "main character is a helpless fawning ditz" syndrome that many a historical novel has, and that on its own would be okay. I can quietly roll my eyes every time "the room temperature goes up" when the love interest enters. Who is apparently good at everything, by the way, and is also instalove. But one thing I can't tolerate. And I spoiler tag it for you. That is utterly depressing and very disappointing. And harmful to young women as well. Clearly after so much tribulation, all a woman wants is to be validated through that sort of attention from a love interest. Seriously?

The novel could not redeem itself after this. Yes, it's readable. The historical parts are interesting. But no thanks, no god complex please. And no damsel. We need to stop promoting damsels.

I thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange with my honest review.
Profile Image for Zoe.
1,902 reviews197 followers
October 17, 2017
4+ Stars!

Romantic, fascinating, and exceptionally absorbing!

In Cornick's latest novel, House of Shadows, she immerses us in an incredibly intriguing historical time-slip tale of love, life, duty, honour, friendship, family, passion, desire, and mystery.

The writing is fluid and vividly descriptive. The characters, in all time periods, are complex, independent, and strong. And the blended plot is a captivating, sometimes dangerous journey, from the Winter Queen's exiled court in The Hague to the beautiful, wooded countryside of Sussex, England.

Overall, House of Shadows is a well written, exceptionally researched, entertaining novel that highlights Cornick's knowledge and passion for history in a tale that interweaves historical facts, compelling fiction, suspense, and romance effortlessly and I can't wait to read what she publishes next.

Thank you to Harlequin Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

All my reviews can be found on my blog at https://whatsbetterthanbooks.com
Profile Image for Kim.
2,031 reviews52 followers
November 5, 2015
A beautiful story set in 3 timescales, starting in the 1600’s, then 1800’s and up to the present day. It really is beautifully written and truly atmpospheric.
In the present day Holly is looking for her brother who has disappeared, whilst researching their family tree. She travels to the Old Mill house and finds a diary from the 1800’s written by Lavinia. She looks for clues in the history that might help explain. She’s also drawn to a beautifully decorated mirror- just what connection does that provide?
It is really lovely to read more about the different characters in time and be transported into different worlds. Love runs through the book and shows how different times affect whether relationships can work.
With many thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Daniel Myatt.
625 reviews54 followers
September 6, 2022
I enjoyed the book and found that it certainly was well written and researched but I found it just "went on a bit" so a 3.5 rounded up 👍

I loved it's multi historical period timelines and it's clever interlinking stories and I'm sure many people would compare the book here to a Kate Moreton, but this had much more historical depth.

The author certainly knows her stuff and you could tell that in all the detail that was included. I enjoyed it but I'm not sure I'll seek out any others just yet.
Profile Image for ♡ ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ♡.
2,724 reviews447 followers
December 16, 2017
Hollys Bruder Ben ist spurlos verschwunden. Holly macht sich große Sorgen und reist nach Oxfordshire, wo sich Ben zuletzt aufhielt und nach ihrer Familiengeschichte forschte. Was hat er herausgefunden? Holly versucht, Bens Nachforschungen nachzuvollziehen und so möglicherweise Hinweise auf seinen Aufenthaltsort zu entdecken. Dabei stößt sie auf das alte Tagebuch einer Frau, die 1801 in Ashdown House lebte. Die Geschichte von Lavinia nimmt sie gefangen, und außerdem fühlt sich Holly auch von dem gutaussehenden Mark sehr angezogen...

Mein Leseeindruck:

Mir hat dieses Buch sehr gut gefallen. Es gibt gleich drei verschiedene Handlungsstränge. Einmal befinden wir uns mit Holly in der Gegenwart, dann mit Lavinia im Jahr 1801 und dann noch einmal mit der "Winterkönigin" im 17. Jahrhundert.

Alle drei Geschichten sind miteinander verknüpft, auch wenn es anfangs gar nicht danach aussieht. Es ist der Autorin aber sehr gut gelungen, am Ende alles passend zusammenzufügen.

Das Buch ist eine schöne Mischung aus Liebesroman, Historischem Roman und Familiengeschichte. Eine perfekte Mischung, wie ich finde.

Mir hat es sehr viel Spaß und Freude gemacht, dieses Buch zu lesen. Es ist leicht geschrieben, dabei aber sehr spannend, fesselnd und gefühlvoll.
Profile Image for Sara.
227 reviews36 followers
February 24, 2018
I want to thank the publishers and the author for giving me the opportunity to read this in advance.

This was a nice story, intermixing the past and the present in a way that didn't aggravate me (!!), where I cared for both sides of the story equally. That's not an easy thing for me to do, I usually choose sides and get bored with the side that doesn't peak my interest as greatly.

I enjoyed the historical aspects of this novel, the English peerage and royalty that spanned nations and empires, marriages rarely for love, almost entirely for political purposes. I liked the romance between the Winter Queen and the Earl of Craven. This tale of forbidden love was very enjoyable, albeit tragic. I also enjoyed the relationship between Holly, Ben and Mark, and how that played out. It wasn't anything that I expected at the end there and I like to be surprised.

This story did have a touch of trade paperback romance where a long-haired, tanned shirtless hunk named Fabio graces the cover and is off to save his damsel in distress. There is NOTHING wrong with that, it's just not for me. It's not very believable, in my opinion, and it moves too fast, somewhat out of nowhere. Again, not hating on this genre or those that enjoy it, it just isn't my preferred reading material.

Overall, House of Shadows was a good read. Definitely would recommend for any royal/history/romance buffs.
Profile Image for Barb in Maryland.
1,892 reviews119 followers
July 21, 2022
This reader can always count on the author for an entertaining, well-researched, mix of contemporary and historical fiction.
This time around Cornick is juggling three time-lines: modern-day England, where Holly is coping with the disappearance of her brother Ben; 1801 England, where we meet Lavinia Flyte, a courtesan; and 1630s The Hague, where Elizabeth Stuart (daughter of James I, sister of Charles I of England) and her husband, King Frederick of Bohemia, are living in exile as he fights to regain his counntry. Uniting the three stories are two arcane objects; a pearl, and a diamond encircled crystal mirror, reputed to show the future. Both are considered dangerous and both prove very hard to destroy.

I came to like Holly, and I was happy to learn more about Elizabeth, who I knew only as an adjunct to the lives of her father and brother. Lovely Lavinia is a delight, but she doesn't get as much page time as the other two. Of course there are romances involved; I shall not spoil this by indicating how many happy endings there are.
The modern mystery of Ben's disappearance is nicely done.
I'm always looking for Cornick's 'newest' books, and have been for years. I don't know how I missed this when it came out. I'm glad I found it.

Profile Image for Angie.
1,117 reviews76 followers
July 10, 2017
Intriguing! History, family secrets/mysteries, royal entanglements, historic buildings, love affairs... this book has a little of everything I love to read about!

There are 2 main storylines with a third told through a diary. Holly is our modern gal who is glass engraver. Her brother Ben whom she is very close to has suddenly gone missing and her world is turned upside down. Elizabeth (Stuart) of Bohemia, also known as the "Winter Queen," is the historic voice. I knew little to nothing about her, so this book was enthralling as I got to know all about the life she led. Before Ben disappeared, he had been researching their family tree. Holly stumbles across a diary Ben had that was written by a Lavinia Flyte. She desperately wants to find a trace of how to locate her brother through clues in it, and what link, if any, she has to their family.

There is also a small time-travel/time-slip element and talk of a magical mirror and pearl that together wreak destruction, especially if put in the wrong hands.

There is a lot going on in this book, and it's very interesting and held my attention! Highly recommended to readers of this genre, and particularly historical fiction lovers.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Bailey.
Author 142 books264 followers
November 24, 2015
This is a departure for Nicola Cornick, who is best known for her big sprawling historical romances. The story crosses three timelines, interweaving three separate stories, three different heroines. A fascinating mystery and a touch of the supernatural underlies the artefacts that tumble down through history, spreading mayhem and disaster wherever they land. Which of these heroines' passionate love affairs wins through to happiness I will not reveal, but they are all heart-rending in their own way.

I loved the distinct voices separating the narrative which were true both to the period and the characters Nicola Cornick creates. My heart went out to Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, of whom I had never previously heard. I think her story touched me the most, although I was drawn to modern Holly and suffered her losses with her, as also the ill-fated Lavinia, though she was a survivor. As the strands unravelled, so the tension built and Nicola Cornick held it to the end, keeping me glued to the page.

The writer's research is clearly meticulous, and I felt fully rooted in the different eras, pulled into the stories as if I was there. More a reader cannot ask, but there is more. I was taken on a rollercoaster of a journey, never knowing which way it was going to run, but able to follow the threads throughout because the narrative was so well held together across the three timelines. Superb writing! And a story which resonates long after you've put it down.
Profile Image for Kiki.
908 reviews
April 29, 2016
This was really disappointing - it had been promoted as great for fans of Kate Morton, but whilst 'borrowing' some of the devices (e.g. linking past to present) this book could not be further from the quality of writing from Kate Morton. The plot of House of Shadows could have been really interesting but it was badly written and really lacked depth. Certainly the sections which dealt with Elizabeth of Bohemia, known as the Winter Queen, and her squire William, Earl of Craven were the 'most' (in relative terms!) interesting. But I never warmed to any of the characters or their situations in the present time, especially the weak and drippy Holly and her love-interest, a local architect. Holly's brother Ben has suddenly gone missing, but Holly's 'quest' isn't focused on actually finding him - in fact she spends her time just sitting around the local cafe or the mill house waiting for him to turn up and seems more interested in reading a rubbish 'diary' / piece of trashy 'erotica' by a 19th century mistress / high-class prostitute called Lavinia and somehow this is worth her time. The ending is hastily and carelessly written to tie up that loose end of Ben's disappearance.
Profile Image for Christina.
Author 32 books276 followers
February 14, 2016
This is one of those books where you can't stop reading in order to find out what happens, but at the same time you desperately don't want it to end because you're enjoying it so much - I absolutely loved it! The characters are still in my head, I can't let go of them, and I want to keep rereading the ending. A time slip book with not just two, but three parallel stories, and so much more - history (partly my favourite period before/after the Civil War), magic, destiny, twin souls, tragedy, romance and honour. And heroes you can't help but fall passionately in love with. If you like time slip, this is as good as it gets!
Profile Image for Doris Holtzner.
16 reviews7 followers
August 18, 2020
Another excellent read! It's very tastefully written! This novel is about a present-day love story with a twist of the 16th-century love, with betail, lust, and an excellent capture of history. This author has a way of capturing your attention and getting lost in the story. I find myself missing the characters in the story.
March 10, 2017
This book tells a story in three parallel timelines. All three connected by a house in Oxfordshire, Ashdown, and by 2 magical antiques, a mirror and a pearl.

The first timeline tells the story of a 19th century courtesan, Lavinia. Lavinia wants to find a way to live a life free from being a courtesan.

The second timeline tells the story of Elizabeth Stuart, the "Winter Queen" in the 17th Century. When her husband's land is taken from them and they must take refuge in the Hague, he takes the instruments in order to use their magic and see the future. Elizabeth turns to William Craven, a man who is suddenly there for her whenever she needs someone.

In the present timeline, Holly searches for her missing brother Ben. Holly finds an antique mirror and Lavinia's diary as she searches for Ben. She begins retracing his steps. While doing so, Holly meets a man; however, she's already involved with someone, but is he the one for her?

I was drawn to this book because I love books that have a good combination of history and romance. If it also has a little of the supernatural even better. I have also read many good things about this author and wanted to try her. The only issue I have is that the information from the Publisher's site compares her to Kate Morton. Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and while Cornick does write well and with all of the elements that Morton uses, Morton's books are a notch above Cornick's for me. They just have that special fairy tale element/ otherworldliness that this book did not have. Some people may prefer Cornick. The great thing is when you are waiting for one to publish a book, you can read a book by the other one.

Thanks to the Publisher and NetGalley for this free copy.
Profile Image for Lorraine.
1,065 reviews80 followers
May 3, 2018
Nicola Cornick’s House of Shadows is referred to as a ‘time slip’ novel. As this novel is my first by this author. I was not sure what to expect. The eras in this book are modern day England and the 1600s saga of The Winter Queen of Bohemia who was the first daughter of James I of England, heir to Elizabeth I. Elizabeth Stuart married Frederick of Bohemia at 16 years old. It became a love match which did not happen often with arranged marriages. The modern day part of the book takes place at 17th C. hunting lodge Ashdown House in Oxfordshire that was built by the 1st Earl of Craven for his love, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. The two time periods are connected through a possession of The Winter Queen. I did enjoy it, but I became a bit bogged down in the middle of the book. It seemed as though I was being bounced back and forth between the two eras too much. After a short rest from this book, I picked it up again and read to the end. Note: It is through The Winter Queen’s daughter, Sophia, that the British Monarchy went to The Hanovers of Germany.
Profile Image for Rosario.
892 reviews61 followers
July 7, 2016
House of Shadows tells the story of two beautiful and dangerous paranormal objects across three different time periods.

In the 17th century, Cornick fictionalises the story of a real historical character, Elizabeth of Bohemia. Elizabeth Stuart was an English princess who married Frederick V, Elector Palatine. Frederick lost his kingdom, and Cornick's story starts as Elizabeth and Frederick are in exile in The Hague. Cornick's addition is that Elizabeth inherited two powerful objects from Mary Queen of Scots: the so-called Sistrin pearl and a jewelled mirror. They can do a number of things (can you tell I was never quite sure what?), but the main thing is that they allow the user to scry the future. Frederick has taken to using them, together with the knights of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, to try to recover his crown. Elizabeth is completely against this, as the objects have a history of taking payment for their use in blood, but Frederick won't listen. The book follows Elizabeth's story over the years, particularly her relationship with William Craven, a soldier she's rumoured to have secretly married after the death of her husband.

In the present day, Holly Ansell's brother Ben has mysteriously disappeared from from the holiday house he and Holly inherited from their parents in a little village in Oxfordshire. That house used to be part of the estate where William Craven had his manor house (which has since burned down), where he's rumoured to have brought Elizabeth after their marriage. Holly discovers Ben has been researching their family history (very uncharacteristic of him), and through some of the material he left behind, deduces he was seeking the Sistrin pearl, which has been lost since the 17th century.

One of the things Ben left behind is a diary written by a courtesan in the early 19th century (here's our third time period), telling of her life as the mistress of a Lord Evershot, a spoilt aristocrat decended from William Craven. Evershot is clearly looking for something he believes is hidden in his estate. Could it be the Sistrin pearl?

Action moves between the time periods, but particularly the first two. A shame, because I particularly enjoyed the character of Lavinia Flyte, our 19th century courtesan. Like Holly, I thought she was fabulous: brave, pragmatic and determined to make the best of things, presenting a brave front but clearly hiding vulnerabilities. I would totally read a book all about her!

Elizabeth and William's storyline I liked less. I suspect we were meant to find their relationship oh-so-romantic, but I wasn't particularly engaged. Plus, there's a point when Craven allows his mistress to walk all over him in a way that helped the plot go in a particular way but felt completely unrealistic for the character (I'm not even sure why Cornick needed to do this, plot-wise, as there are plenty of other ways in which the same ends could have been achieved). I wasn't fussed about either of them, to be honest.

I liked the present-day story more. The mystery of Ben's disappearance is interesting and I liked Holly well enough. That said, I never really got a good sense of her. She's fine, I guess, and worked ok as the main character for the plot, which is the main thing here. Holly gets a romance as well, and quite a nice one. The guy was intriguing, a former soldier who now runs an engineering company in the village. I wish we'd got more of him. The romance is nice, but underdeveloped. And given that I picked up this book because it was mentioned by Susanna Kearsley together with In Another Time, I should clarify we do get a HEA!

This was diverting enough and mostly harmless. I enjoyed the history but didn't feel any deep emotions. It was fine.

Profile Image for Maria Grazia.
192 reviews57 followers
June 18, 2016
It is fast paced, intriguing, well written and thoroughly researched and it includes all the elements to make it my “cup of coffee” (yes, I like coffee more than tea): fascinating historical eras, beautiful English landscapes, gripping plot and, last but not least, passionate romance.
Three parallels narrative threads unroll in three different time settings keeping the reader hooked and, little by little, interweaving to form the tapestry that is the solution of the initial mystery: the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of Ben Ansell.

Nicola Cornick’s new time-slip novel champions three beautifully written heroines: Elizabeth Stuart, James I’s daughter and queen of Bohemia, the 17th century "Winter Queen” ; Lavinia Flyte, a 19th-century courtesan who wrote a memoir, and Holly Ansell, a present-day woman in distress to whom is truly easy to relate. Holly is desperate after her brother disappears and her long-lasting relationship with Guy wrecks.

The three women are connected one to the other somehow through a place, Ashdown House, a Dutch-style country house in Oxfordshire, and two magic objects , an Italian jewelled mirror and the Sistrin pearl .

A fascinating tale must also have fascinating heroes in order to counterbalance its charming heroines. House of Shadows has a great one, a historical figure who is not so popular but on whom Nicola Cornick has been obsessed since she started volunteering as a guide at Ashdown House: William Craven. After making his acquaintance in House of Shadows, I can truly sympathize with the author’s fascination: he is handsome, brave, loyal, selfless, resourceful and a passionate lover. His love story with the Winter Queen is a life-long, complicated relationship based on his total dedication.

(read my complete review at my FLY HIGH! blog http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspo...)
Profile Image for Clare O'Beara.
Author 21 books345 followers
March 2, 2018
I enjoyed the modern story, and the presentation of one of the less well covered figures in European royalty; the Winter Queen Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I, sister of Charles I, so-titled because she only sat on the throne with her husband Frederick of Bohemia for one winter before he was forced into exile. This move away from better-covered royal figures will have you Googling the lady and paintings of her appearance and clothing, looking for the mirror and pearl she carries in the story - artefacts with consequences and curses.

Upon the disappearance of her married brother Ben, lonely glass-engraver Holly Ansell goes to his Oxfordshire family holiday cottage to look for him, following clues he left and asking a professor from the Ashmolean Museum about Ben's research work. Nearby Ashtown House burnt down years ago, and rumour - in the diary of a courtesan - says a great treasure was hidden there, after the Winter Queen had left. Enjoy the woven story through three time periods and see Holly growing into her own woman, finding a future as she seeks the past. This was one of my favourite reads of the year.

I downloaded an e-ARC through Fresh Fiction and Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.
November 1, 2015
The story begins in the 1600's and centers around a very famous Elizabeth . She is gifted a mirror and pearl that would be the downfall of generations of her bloodline and almost all who had anything to do with them. In present day a woman called Holly gets a phone call from her niece saying that Holly's brother Ben has vanished and she is in need of help. From here we almost work backwards in learning all about Elizabeth's life as well as Holly's family history .
If you are a fan of Kate Morton like I am I think you would enjoy this story that goes back in forth in time while at the end bringing the two separate stories together combining love and heartache through the centuries as well as a crippling curse. Beautiful and tragic!

I received this book for review from the lovely people at Mira UK .
Profile Image for Bonnie.
259 reviews
October 29, 2017
Fun, interesting book.... Switches from Elizabeth, a Queen in 1631 to Lavinia Flyte, a Courtesan in 1801, to Holly present day London to Ashdown Park, manages to deftly handle the time changes, keeps things interesting & a very well written novel. The mystery that ties them together is a pear-shaped mirror set with diamonds & a pear-shaped Pearl hung on a heavy gold chain! The legend goes that when the two are together they can predict the future. Strong women are the story & some are fey strong women. I hope I've told you enough to tantalize you into reading a fascinating story, that I hope will have others centered around Holly, Mark, Fran & of course, Bonnie, Holly's beautiful well-mannered dog. Many Thanks to Harper-Collins publishers & Goodreads & of course, Nicola Cornick, the author.
Profile Image for Charlotte Miller.
Author 28 books19 followers
May 17, 2017
Evocative, enthralling and historically rich, Nicola Cornick’s House of Shadows captures the attention from page one and never lets go. The stories of three women across three different time periods interweave to tell an intriguing tale of romance, hope and destiny. Those who love romance mixed with mystery and a touch of the supernatural will not want to miss this latest offering from USA Today bestselling author Cornick.

(Advance Reading Copy obtained by request from NetGalley.)
Profile Image for Sheila.
972 reviews86 followers
October 21, 2019
3 stars--I liked the book. This is a pretty standard time-slip/past lives romance novel, standing above most in the genre due to the author's historical knowledge. This is the second Nicola Cornick novel I've read, and they both have demonstrated a solid grasp of history and ability to make it come alive on the page.

In this case, I found the modern day storyline and characters to be dull--in contrast with the historical narratives, both of which were fascinating.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
468 reviews51 followers
May 23, 2018
I could read this kind of book, all day, every day. It's multiple timeline, based in England, lots of beautiful historic ruins, magical artifacts (in this case a spectacular mirror & pearl), a secret Order, an old diary, etc., etc. I literally saw the cover, read the description blurb and said "count me in!" It appears this author has been very prolific in the realm of historical romances & mysteries. Not sure why I've never encountered her since I dabble in the historical romance genre from time to time ~ but this was my first exposure to her writing. I will absolutely be coming back to read her next book, 'The Phantom Tree.' It sounds every bit as intriguing as 'House of Shadows' did.

In the modern day timeline story, the protagonist Holly is blessed (cursed??) with the ability to see/experience flashbacks from the past. I've always wished I could experience that sensation but of course, it's never happened. It would probably be a bit freaky and surreal if it did occur, but fascinating once the feeling of being "spooked" passed? It seemed pretty obvious Holly had a connection to the other timeline stories when she repeatedly saw the long destroyed Ashdown House (as it was before it burnt centuries before ~ square, tall white walls, cupola with gold ball on the top.) Every time she saw it, it sounded so beautiful, I wanted to will it into existence ~ house, gardens and all. The other part of the story that was so fascinating to me (& I've actually had heated discussions with friends on this topic) is the theme of reincarnation. As the 'The White Queen's life comes to an end, she and her lover promise they will find each other in another lifetime. All three timelines are connected by that thread and the premise they are repeating lives until their quest is finished. I interpreted that to mean until they find each other & are able to love each other without impediments, even if that takes centuries to accomplish. The discussions that come up around this topic with friends are usually religion based. Christians don't believe in reincarnation yet it calls to me like a beacon & I find it very appealing that we could get more than one chance to "get it right." Because of that, if it's part of a storyline, all the better. Can a spirit be reborn or is there something recognizable passed down thru DNA?? I love entertaining these ideas and I certainly enjoy reading about them too. Maybe Holly & Mark will be the two that get "it right" and end the cycle?? The feeling of instant recognition that they both experienced (despite having never met before) seemed pretty powerful, which makes it a theory not easily dismissed.

As is usually the case in time slip novels, I found the stories in the older time lines more interesting than the present day one. Going back in history & delving into the world of Elizabeth Stuart, 'The White Queen,' was terrific. The same feeling applied after being introduced to Lavinia Flyte, a woman brought to life by her vivacious personality and sassy attitude. Perhaps creating a third character with a similar strong resolve was impossible? Something about Holly just didn't "grab" me. I had a hard time liking her and I don't know what that was about? I should have felt a lot of empathy for her considering her life but she seemed a bit too "flaky"? Sleeping with Mark the first time she met him then acting like a schoolgirl for a long time afterwards, didn't seem realistic considering her age? I also would rather have spent more time learning what happened to 'The Order of the Rosy Cross,' or seeing the fabulous 'Sistrin Pearl' in action, etc., instead of visiting with her friend Fran so much or some of the other newer characters.

I definitely enjoyed the book overall although it started out stronger than it ended. The author is clearly a skilled storyteller and does a fantastic job setting the mood, being descriptive and engaging the reader. I'm in awe of anyone who can throw in as many components as she did and not leave anything dangling at the end. Happy I picked up this book & discovered a new author.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sharlene.
416 reviews
February 17, 2018
Can not say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. Great book for mystery and historical fiction fans. I enjoyed the three time periods and could not put this book down as I wanted to know what was going to happen in each.
I would recommend this book to friends and looking forward to the next book by this author.
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