Title: The Little Shop of Found Things
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Romance/ Mystery/ YA/ Time Travel
Favourite Quote: “Every soul that once trod this brutal earth leaves their imprint upon the things that mattered to them. The things that they held, the things that once echoed to the beat of their hearts. That heartbeat may yet be felt, faint but clear, transmitted through the fabric of those belongings, linking us to the dear one long gone through however many years passed.”
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Xanthe Westlake was 8 years old when she discovered that she could feel the vibrations of a past life through antique objects. A fluttering singing rhythm that allowed her to see the previous owners past story through the object she was close too. It didn’t happen all the time, but as her mother raised her around antiques, she gradually grew more tuned to the specific objects that would sing their stories to her, whether it was an old teapot, a vintage wedding dress or pieces of jewellery from centuries ago.
The past year hasn’t been kind to Xanthe and her mother Flora, Xanthe being accused of a crime she didn’t commit and Flora’s difficult divorce with Xanthe’s father left them both with a desire to start fresh away from the city. They purchased an antique shop in a quiet Wiltshire village and began hunting for antiques to add to their little shop.
It was at an antique market where Xanthe began hearing the song of a particular piece, a chatelaine, unlike anything she has heard before. The feeling of anxiety, fear, urgency and sadness with a powerful vibration that she couldn’t escape from that she knew she had to have.
She came to realise that the chatelaine would only send her visions of the past when she was close to the mysterious hidden building in their back garden, only they weren’t just visions. Xanthe found herself being transported back to the seventeenth century to the origin of the chatelaine. Her life became even more complicated when a ghost starts appearing in a malicious nature demanding that Xanthe needs to travel back in time to rescue her daughter who has been accused of thief and sentenced to death. The ghost ensures that she doesn’t let her down by threatening Flora’s life. With no choice but to do as she is told, Xanthe travels back to 1605 to rescue the innocent girl.
‘She struggled to take in the enormity of what was happening. She had traveled into a place other than where she had started. The ghost of Margaret Merton had meant her to go there, had been determined she would. Xanthe knew as soon as she had entered the blind house she had been powerless to stop herself falling back through the centuries’
This was the first book I had picked up by Paula Brackston and I can assure you that it won’t be the last. Her writing had me hooked from page one right up until the ending which had me craving more! It was a perfect mixed blend of Mr Darcy meets Time Travelers Wife. Who wouldn’t want more of that!
The story had a nice pace with fantastic settings which felt like you were in the scene itself, whether it was walking down the comforting cobbled streets of Marlborough in the present day market place or taking a horse and carriage through the beautiful countryside to the busy city of Salisbury with it’s timber houses, unsanitary open sewers and muddy roads in 1605.
‘The room itself did look wonderful. There were flowers everywhere, from pink and white posies on the tables, to swags of ivy and tiny white flowers over the fireplace, to Clara’s requested rose bower above where she sat. Pale green silk had been unfurled on the walls, covering the dark tapestries, giving the illusion of grass or perhaps leaves, so that the whole place felt like a flower-filled garden in summer, rather than an imposing stone house in October. It smelled a great deal sweeter than the kitchens too, with herbs strewn over the floor, releasing their uplighting scents as they were crushed under foot.’
The contrast in the two different time frames was great. Something that made the story different from other time travel books I’ve read was that Xanthe had more control over when she would travel. She had time to prepare what she could in order to go back to the seventeenth century to rescue Alice. Obviously she wouldn’t get it perfect and it was strange that her unusual looks went unnoticed for the most part, even with her excuse as a traveling minstrel, but she made it work.
The details in each time frame was clever and well thought from the historical settings with the lack of modern amenities that Xanthe is used too, as well as the spoken language and expectations of the levels in society, to the contrasting slang and carefree lifestyles in the present day. The author managed this distinction well by making the present characters unique in their own way, Gerri as a bright and eccentric single mum who collects antique china for her cafe and never had a hair out of place, to Harley the burly Scottish barman with keen interest in the history of Marlborough and it’s hidden treasures.
Most of the characters were really well written, even with the small build up to each one. You felt you knew who could be trusted and who couldn’t. Xanthe knew the importance of the chatelaine and pursued to risk everything to travel back in time to save Alice and her mother from the malicious ghost of Margaret Merton. She was scared, helpless, exhausted and in a new world with no one to help her with her secret mission. Not to mention she had to keep up appearances as a girl from the future with the different expectations of a woman in the seventeenth century. Xanthe remained strong for her mother, even if she did unintentionally try and pass the responsibility of Alice’s rescue onto the Applebys at one point. I wasn’t sure what to think when she began using Liam to help her find answers. I could see why she did it, but it didn’t sit right for me with her feelings for the dashingly handsome Samuel in the picture.
Master Samuel Appleby. A product of Mr Darcy with his dark smouldering looks, his antisocial behaviour with a lovely dash of loyalty and intelligence which he used to his advantage when it suited him. Even though Xanthe appeared as nothing more than a kitchen maid in the Lovewell manor, to Samuel, she was his saviour to help him complete his work.
Their connection in the 1600’s is so sweet and pure that you’ll begin to wonder how Xanthe will ever be able to leave him behind. I wont spoil it for you though! You’ll have to find out for yourself!
‘She turned to go, but as she did so Samuel put his hand on her arm. It was a fleeting gesture, a reaction to the thought of such a valuable resource leaving him, no doubt. Still the contact was startling, his touch firm, and the look he gave her suggested it surprised him, too.’
Needless to say that I was surprised by how much I adored this story. I will definitely be hunting for more from Paula Brackston.
Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.
It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.
While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.
With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.