“This unforgettable story of undying love combines mysticism, suspense, mystery, and romance into a web of good and evil that stretches from 16th-century England to the present day. Richard Marsdon marries a young American woman named Celia, brings her to live at his English estate, and all seems to be going well. But now Richard has become withdrawn, and Celia is constantly haunted by a vague dread. When she suffers a breakdown and wavers between life and death, a wise doctor realizes that only by forcing Celia to relive her past can he enable her to escape her illness. Celia travels back 400 years in time to her past life as a beautiful but doomed servant. Through her eyes, we see the England of the Tudors, torn by religious strife, and experience all the pageantry, lustiness, and cruelty of the age. As in other historical romance titles by this author, the past comes alive in this flamboyant classic novel.” (Source: Goodreads)
Having picked Green Darkness up from the local library bookstore sale for only a quarter, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. Historical fiction, in any form, is not a genre that I’ve spent much time with, and coupling that with paranormal romance? Well, we can safely say that I was in for a ride.
Green Darkness shares the harrowing tale of forbidden love in mid-1500s England between an unfortunate peasant girl and a Benedictine monk, betwixt the reigns of King Edward VI, Queen Mary I, and Queen Elizabeth – a time when Catholicism and Protestantism (depending on the ruler) were met with persecution. It doesn’t begin in that era, however; rather, the story starts in the 1960s, when Celia and her newly wedded husband, Richard Marsdon, arrive at his family’s ancestral estate in Sussex. A baffling illness befalls the Marsdons, leaving the unorthodox physician, Doctor Akananda, to unravel the mysterious past that haunts the pair from hundreds of years before.
The twisting tale that unravels of that love affair is only a small part of what I enjoyed about this book, as romance is not typically my cup of tea. What truly enticed me was Anya Seton‘s faithfulness not only to history, but to location, legend, and use of historical figures. Cowdray House and Ightham Mote are real places, and an unfounded rumor regarding the Mote suggests that a female skeleton was found within its walls – which Seton used as a basis for her story. Through Seton, I discovered an unknown love for Tudor England, and undoubtedly I will read more books set in that time period.
Despite my praise for the book, I was unable to give it a five star rating because of its conclusion: it was as if Seton ran out of fuel. The idea of reincarnation takes a more ridiculous turn when Doctor Akananda hints at more pasts that conveniently interlock the same people. As if that were not enough of an affront, the resolution itself fell flat. With the Marsdon family tragedy conveniently wrapped up, Celia and Stephen seem aloof and their interaction felt a bit too forced. It is for this reason that I gave the book four stars.