Winner of the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, MARIANA is a wonderful tale featuring remarkable characters and a colorful historical backdrop; the kind of story that picks you up and sweeps you away.
Since childhood, Julia Beckett has been entranced with a 16th-century farmhouse in Wiltshire, and when the opportunity arises she buys Greywithers without hesitation. With the help of her new friends-the squire, Geoffrey de Mornay, the local gardner/farmer Ian, and the pub's landlady Vivien-Julia learns the history of her home and the story of the ghost known as the "Lady in Green."
Suddenly Julia begins sliding through time between the present and a past in which she was Mariana, a young woman visiting the village during the turbulent years after the English Civil War-when plague struck London, bringing hardship and terror in its wake.
Mariana and Geoffrey's ancestor, Richard de Moray, fall in love and soon Julia realizes that she must continue to return to the 16th century and take her part in the past before she can find her soulmate in the present to complete the circle.
This cleverly crafted, extremely well-written debut novel may remind readers of the Anya Seton's Green Darkness or Daphne DuMaurier's The House on the Strand as Ms. Kearsley merges the drama of the past, rich historical details, delightful characters and a few surprises in a rather original work. (Sept., 379 pp., $5.99)