The Seven Sisters series was always going to be an ambitious undertaking and far from buckling under the pressure of producing a thrilling blockbuster every year, Riley has not just risen to the challenge but taken time-slip novel-writing to an exhilarating new level.
From Rio de Janeiro and the icy beauty of Oslo to the stunning Lake District of Beatrix Potter and the red, dusty heat of central Australia, each magnificent book has transported us to some of the world’s most beautiful locations, exploring real people and real history alongside gripping personal stories.
The Moon Sister is the much-anticipated fifth saga in this seven-book series in which we follow six young women seeking out their hidden heritage. Each was adopted as a baby by an elusive Swiss billionaire, known to them as Pa Salt, and each is in now in search of their true family history using tantalising clues left to them after his mysterious death.
The novels – already optioned as a multi-season Hollywood TV series – feature cleverly woven, past-and-present plotlines and heart-stopping emotion as Riley brings us the dramatic life journeys of the six very different D’Aplièse sisters, with the seventh sister unaccountably missing.
Here we meet the gentle, sensitive Tiggy, the spiritually aware sister whose affinity with animals and gift for natural healing take her on a drama-filled journey from the snow-covered mountains of the Scottish Highlands to the heat, colour and vibrancy of the Spanish city of Granada.
When Tiggy is offered a job researching and introducing indigenous breeds to the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate in the Scottish Highlands, she knows instinctively that she must accept it. Her beloved father, Pa Salt, always told her: ‘Trust to your instincts, Tiggy, they will never let you down.’
Every day she wakes up to the raw beauty of the landscape and it makes her heart sing because this is a world where she knows she can ‘blossom and grow.’ But Tiggy, who knew from an early age that she had a special ‘gift,’ also feels a connection to the handsome Laird, Charlie Kinnock, even though he is a married man.
What she didn’t expect was to come face-to-face with her unknown heritage. Living on the estate is Chilly, a gypsy who fled from Spain seventy years ago during the country’s civil war, and he tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada.
And it is there in 1912, in the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, that we meet Lucía Amaya-Albaycín, born into the impoverished, outcast gypsy community living in the seven caves of Sacromonte outside the city walls. She is destined to be La Candela, the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation, named for the invisible flame that burns through her when she dances.
At the tender age of ten, Lucía is whisked away by her ambitious and talented guitarist father to dance in the flamenco bars of Barcelona. Her mother is devastated by the loss of her daughter and as a civil war breaks out in Spain, tragedy strikes the rest of her family.
Now in Madrid, Lucía and her troupe of musicians are forced to flee for their lives, their journey taking them far across the water to South America and eventually to North America, and New York… Lucía’s dream destination. But she is a driven woman and soon she must choose between her passion for her career and the man she adores.
As Tiggy follows the trail back to her exotic but complex past, she comes under the watchful eye of a gifted wise woman, a gypsy bruja, and begins to embrace her own talent for healing. But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird… and to Charlie.
The Moon Sister is a sensational Seven Sisters sizzler as Riley unleashes the full force of her imaginative powers on Tiggy’s unforgettable family story, a breathtaking adventure brimming with cruelty, tragedy, passion, obsession and, most of all, the music, rhythm and spirit of Spain’s gitano community.
As Tiggy battles to understand the extraordinary sixth sense that she has inherited from her gypsy family, and decide where and with whom her restless heart lies, we travel back in time to join her fiery grandmother Lucía whose dancing feet and inner flame seem always in danger of burning her into extinction.
The gitanos, eking out an existence in the cave houses built into the rocks of Sacromonte, are at the beating heart of this moving story… the hardships and hard-won triumphs of a banished and persecuted society, whose life blood belongs in their music, dancing and culture, are brought to vivid life through war, loss, love and social change.
There is a real fire to this exciting new chapter in the captivating Seven Sisters odyssey, an extraordinary sense of drawing inexorably nearer to solving the intriguing conundrum of Pa Salt’s death and the tantalising mystery of the missing sister.
The next journey we embark on will be with Electra, the troubled, enigmatic sister whose life has barely touched the edges of the series so far… and with an author firing on all cylinders, we can expect something truly spectacular!
(Macmillan, hardback, £18.99)