Three women with three very different stories all connected by one mystery.
Ellie Brooke has been hired to restore a memorial garden on the island of Porquerolles. Her arrival is marred by a shocking tragedy but the job is inspiring. Unfortunately things turn out to be quite different than they seem and the island is both steeped in history and haunted by a dark past.
For Marthe, being taken on at the Distillerie Musset is a dream come true. But WWII brings danger to Provence and Nazi occupation leaves everyone vulnerable. Marthe knows the people around her are keeping secrets, but it is only later that she learns the truth and it's one that places them all at risk.
In England, Iris's part in the war effort involves winnowing out possible spies to send into enemy territory. It's a job that's highly secretive and highly stressful. Then she meets and falls for one of the overseas agents. Their relationship is one that can never exist beyond the war, but that doesn't stop Iris from seeking him out after he's declared missing in the liberation.
Oh, I loved this book! This is not my first outing with Lawrenson. Her 2011 debut, The Lantern, was one I'd greatly enjoyed both for its lush setting and the vivid imagery. You can imagine then that I'd be looking forward to The Sea Garden with great anticipation. (You'd be correct.) And it almost completely lived up to my admittedly high expectations as well.
Yet again, Lawrenson's settings and imagery are wonderful. The story moves from the Porquerolles (an island I was previously unfamiliar with and would now desperately love to visit!) to Provence and then to London. Time wise we move from present day to WWII and back again and I found that Lawrenson - at least to my mind - perfectly evoked the feelings of the respective eras and the emotions of each of the characters we meet along the way.
The book is cleverly built as three interconnected novellas - "The Sea Garden," "The Lavender Field," and "A Shadow Life" - and it's not until the end of the book that you really understand all of the connections. It's also not until the end of the book that you learn the fate of many of the characters, with one exception - folks who have read Lawrenson's The Lantern will recognize Marthe as one of the characters from that book. You don't have to have read it to dive into The Sea Garden but it was a nice sort of return to that earlier story.
My only issue - and it's not really an issue at all - is that there still seemed to be some unanswered questions at the end of "A Shadow Life." Or just as likely, some things I maybe missed as being resolved somewhere along the way.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on the author and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her blog here.