The Sister's Secret by Jennie Felton - book review
A shocking mining accident still casts a long shadow over families in a nearby pit village in the last book of a powerful and moving saga series that has won the hearts and minds of thousands of readers.
Jennie Felton’s Families of Fairley Terrace stories have been a resounding success since the first book in the series, All the Dark Secrets, hit the shelves in 2014, and this final chapter delivers the same gripping blend of romance, tragedy, mystery and drama.
A real-life mining disaster in 19th century Somerset was the inspiration behind these addictive page-turners. Only a few miles from Felton’s home town of Radstock in Somerset, 12 miners died at Wells Way Coal Works in 1839 when a rope snapped as they were descending into the pit. Popular belief has it that the rope was maliciously cut, although nobody was ever arrested.
Set decades later in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the stories chart the fortunes and misfortunes of the people who live at the Ten Houses, the row of miners’ cottages at Fairley Terrace in South Compton, a tight-knit community bound together by the colliery, the legacy of the terrible accident and an uncertain future.
It’s 1905 and ten-year-old Rowan Sykes is overjoyed when her beloved older sister Laurel moves back to Fairley Terrace. Laurel has been employed by a private investigator in Bath but she now has a new job working in the office at the cottage hospital.
Laurel has always been fiercely protective of her clever younger sister who has constantly struggled to fit in. Bullied and teased at school for being fat, Rowan is now being entered for a scholarship to the local grammar school, a move which could give her a better future.
Whilst she is happy to be home again, Laurel is keeping the real reason for her return to herself but, unlucky in love, she seems destined to keep repeating the mistakes of her past when it comes to matters of the heart.
Both Laurel and Rowan long for excitement and a fresh start, and when familiar faces return to Fairley Terrace, along with an enigmatic new resident, it looks like they might get their wish. But their harmony is about to be shattered by a mysterious stranger who threatens to expose a long-kept secret… and is prepared to stop at nothing to wreak revenge on the family.
Felton has proved herself a master storyteller, delivering novels brimming with fascinating characters, upheaval and personal struggle, and the kind of rich period detail that has made her one of the nation’s favourite saga writers.
With plot lines that highlight the harsh realities of working in a mining community, and the social difficulties still faced by women in the opening decades of the 20th century, these books have been a reading delight and the good news is that some of the Fairley Terrace residents will be making cameo appearances in future books.
(Headline, paperback, £6.99)