The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley is a compelling mystery of family secrets and forgotten pasts from the author of The Seven Sisters.
Thirty years have passed since Greta left Marchmont Hall, a grand and beautiful house nestled in the hills of rural Monmouthshire. But when she returns to the Hall for Christmas she has no recollection of her past association with it – the result of a tragic accident that has blanked out more than two decades of her life. Then, during a walk through the wintry landscape, she stumbles across a grave in the woods, and the weathered inscription on the headstone tells her that a little boy is buried here . . .
The poignant discovery strikes a chord in Greta's mind and soon ignites a quest to rediscover her lost memories. She begins to piece together the fragments of not only her own story, but that of her daughter, Cheska, who was the tragic victim of circumstances beyond her control. And, most definitely, not the angel she appeared to be . . .
*First published as Not Quite an Angel under the name Lucinda Edmonds, now extensively rewritten*
U.K.-based bestseller Riley (The Seven Sisters) applied years of writing perspective to this rewrite of her 1995 novel, Not Quite an Angel (written as Lucinda Edmonds), and the story shines through her smooth prose. But its expansion into a nearly 700-page behemoth is unjustified even by its sweeping melodrama, stretching across three generations of women from WWII into the 1980s. The story is too shallow and linear for an extended family chronicle and not nearly tight enough for a thriller. Greta Marchmont, who's had amnesia for 20 years following an accident, returns with her best friend (and nephew by marriage), David Marchmont, to the estate in Wales where she spent her early adulthood. She stumbles across the gravestone of her young son, Jonny, and suddenly begins to recall her life's events. She remembers that she struggled to raise Jonny's disturbed twin sister, child star Cheska, by herself; to her shock, she realizes that she harbored romantic feelings for David. The novel's framing, the roughly chronological revelation of decades of history, and the book's length leave readers slogging through endless details to get to the plot points they know must be there.