Book review: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Florence Grace byTracy Rees
Florence Grace byTracy Rees
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When a teenage girl raised in the wilds of 19th century Cornwall finds her life transformed by a family revelation, she must adapt to a new world of wealth, privilege… and dark desires.

Prepare to have your heart captured and your senses aroused by an enthralling tale of romance and mystery from Tracy Rees whose debut novel, Amy Snow, won the 2014 Richard and Judy’s Search for a Bestseller competition.

Cambridge graduate Rees, who had a successful careers in publishing and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer, excels in her evocation of both atmosphere and landscape, and this new saga sweeps us away to the wind-blasted moors around Bodmin.

Florrie Buckley is an orphan. Her mother died in childbirth and her father was killed in a mining accident. She lives with her beloved Nan at Braggenstones, a remote hamlet on the Cornish moors where everyday existence is tough.

But Florrie is happy. She runs wild in the countryside she regards as her magical kingdom, a place that has been her refuge through every trial and tragedy in her young life and a landscape that is home to her in a way that nobody else could understand.

Except perhaps Old Rilla, the local wise woman and charmer, who says the moors are Florrie’s ‘soul-home’ and recognises that the girl has special gifts which endow her with the power of premonition and an ability to sense acutely what others are feeling.

Florrie is convinced her destiny lies in this untamed corner of Cornwall but when she is fifteen, she discovers that she is related to the Graces, a wealthy and notorious London family headed by the patriarch Hawker Grace whose home in London’s Belgravia is desperately short of heirs.

Overnight, Florrie’s life – and her name – change. Transported from country to city, from poverty to wealth and cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florence Grace struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world.

Beset by the animosity, jealousy and ambitions of her new relatives, Florence must also try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a young man whose face unaccountably tugs at her heartstrings but whose dangerous secrets could destroy them both…

Feisty Florrie is a delectable heroine, seducing us with her passion, her mystique and her resourcefulness, as she is drawn inexorably into the life of troubled Turlington, a man of dark secrets who seems torn between good and bad.

Our heroine’s journey from Florrie Buckley the country girl to Florence Grace the society woman is beautifully drawn by Rees whose stunning, dreamlike portrayal of the Cornish countryside is the perfect foil for the unrelenting ‘desert of brick’ that is London.

Packed with intrigue and drama, a cast of colourful characters, and a feast of mystery, mysticism and emotion, this is a compelling, absorbing story just perfect for holiday reading.

(Quercus, paperback, £7.99)