For American actress Rebecca Bradley, it is the role of a lifetime: She will star as a 1920s debutante in a film shot entirely on location at a magnificent English country house. The remote setting and high walls of Astbury Hall will provide a much needed refuge from the media glare that surrounds her every move. When Lord Anthony Astbury sees Rebecca in costume, he is stunned by her uncanny resemblance to his grandmother Violet. And when Rebecca discovers a manuscript written by a young Indian woman who visited Astbury Hall in the 1920s, she learns of a love affair so passionate and forbidden it nearly destroyed the Astbury family; a secret Lord Astbury himself does not know. As Rebecca is increasingly cut off from the modern world, Violet’s presence starts to make itself felt in unsettling ways. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life and inspire a romance for the ages. As Rebecca tries to understand her connection to a tragic love affair sixty years in the past, the story of Donald, Anahita, and Violet unspools to its own shocking conclusion. For Rebecca to find a way back to the life she was meant to lead, she will have to put to rest the ghosts of Lord Anthony’s ancestors or risk repeating their downfall herself. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Yummy, yummy, yummy. Like a chocolate dipped macaroon – but better – The Midnight Rose is rich, deep, dark and delicious. I loved the intertwining of the stories – actress Rebecca’s doomed relationship, Lord Anthony’s secrets, Ari’s life-changing decisions and of course, the long ago romance between Anahita and Lord Astbury. It’s like “Downton Abbey” meets “The Far Pavilions” meets “Beverly Hills 90210”. Awesome.

Sissy: Great metaphor, Bubby. I completely agree. This book starts at the very end of the story and then jumps back and forth between stories and ages. I generally get uneasy when a book starts at the end, because then I think “Who cares? Why should I read this if I already know the end?” The answer to this question, however, is that by reading the book, you learn the whole story and all of the delicious twists and secrets therein. Then the ending you thought you knew looks completely different in context of all you’ve learned.

Bubby: Let’s just talk about the end, shall we? Never in a bazillion years would I have predicted the REAL ending of The Midnight Rose. Let’s just say that there are multiple surprises awaiting you! I so wish I could say more, but I wouldn’t want to be a spoilsport!

Sissy: There’s also a sickly entertaining sociopathic interlude for one of the supporting characters.

Bubby: Yes, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!

Sissy: Actually, it reminded me of early Mary Higgins Clark. But that’s just one small secondary storyline. So disturbing that I was disturbed that I liked it! The main character Anahita’s life is so exotic, exciting, rich and lush and Lucinda Riley writes it like full color cinematography. It reminded me of the when I was 11 except for not so exciting or rich.

Bubby: What was so exotic about when you were 11? Isn’t that the year you moved to Idaho?

Sissy: It was one of the years we lived in Fiji (those years when Bubby spent the entire time naked) where more than half the population was of Indian descent. So the foods, the clothes, the smells, the memories were evoked by The Midnight Rose. The only things missing were the maharajahs, wealth, castles, and servants.  Also I did not have a nose jewel, although the neighbor asked my mom if I could and she said no.  Where was the fun in that?  This book is a fabulous saga rich in contrasts–wealth and poverty, love and heartbreak, India and England, fame and ignominy, etc.  It is something I imagine as a movie, with one of those breathtaking Bollywood starlets in the main role and Kate Beckinsale as the beleaguered actress Rebecca.

Bubby: Oh, it would make a fabulous movie! And just for the record, I was NOT naked. I usually had at least a diaper on. Usually. I loved The Midnight Rose so much that I went out and bought myself another Lucinda Riley book – for full price! 4 bubbles from me!

Sissy: Maharani Sissy gives it 4.5 bubbles. And an elephant.

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We received a copy of The Midnight Rose from the publisher in return for a fair review. No other considerations, monetary or otherwise, were given.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013