Book Review: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

24 Jul

UnknownWhen Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.


MDobson-314Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.


My Impressions:

Family secrets are at the center of Melanie Dobson’s newest novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Taking place over a span of 65 years, this mystery/family saga was slow to capture my attention, but as more and more was revealed by the author, I found myself having a hard time putting this novel down. If you are looking for a good end of summer read, then this book could be just what you are looking for.

Maggie and Walter Doyle’s early days of marriage are happy, but shadowed by secrets kept by Maggie. When deceits come to light they escape to a new place and a new life. But just as they think that their family has a chance at lasting happiness, their daughter Libby’s strangeness and the attentions of the Lord’s son bring new worries. Forty-five years later, Maggie and Walter’s second daughter returns to sort through the remains of her late parents’ life and to find a peace that has eluded her. But more secrets have a way of coming to light.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was slow and a bit confusing to me at first. Points of view shift between Walter’s journal, past events and present day. It took me a while to get into the book’s rhythm, but once I did, I immersed myself in the twisting and poignant tale of love, betrayal, deceit and forgiveness. The characters are very flawed. They make huge mistakes. And it is the message of forgiveness that makes the story so encouraging. Despite our mistakes, we have a Father who will forgive and set us on a right path again. My favorite character, Walter, was the one I most disliked at the beginning, yet came to love for his sacrificial love and care of the women in his life. Dobson’s exploration of the lies that people tell to protect the ones they love, which instead cause greater damage and invite division and estrangement, is excellent.

Complex in its writing style and themes, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a deeply moving novel that I recommend.


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to LitFuse and Howard Books for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



One Response to “Book Review: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor”

  1. rbclibrary July 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    It was interesting to see how the autism spectrum was viewed in the 50s-70s. Libby was weird and despised and bullied by peers and teachers. Would have been heartbreaking for a parent.


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