Songs of Love and War, by Santa Montefiore

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This was a pleasant surprise to receive in the mail from Simon & Schuster Canada! I’ve been searching and pining for a book that was going to sweep me away and provide an all-engrossing reading experience, and Songs of Love and War arrived at a good time because it hinted at having that kind of potential. I was pinning a lot of hopes on this read and I hadn’t read anything by Santa Montefiore before. So, I was putting a lot of trust in her, hoping she lived up to her namesake and gave me the gift of an epic read. ;-) I’ve read her husband’s books however, and Simon Sebag Montefiore certainly delivers the epics, so I jumped right into Songs of Love and War anticipating the same.

It certainly was epic! Clocking in at a respectable 500-pages with the promise of three perspectives, ghosts, castles, WWI, the fight for Irish Independence, betrayal….said also to be for fans of Downton Abbey, it certainly had Downton Abbey-esque moments. There’s plenty of upstairs/downstairs shenanigans and Thomas Barrow-like scenes.

It’s a splendid saga and I was completely engrossed and raced through it in a few short days. I was fighting sleep, just wanting to read one more chapter, the pace was quick and I needed to find out what was going to happen next! I gave in to sleep though but I thought I gave it a worthy fight every night.

I thought I had it all figured out too. See, there is a Prologue which begins with a mysterious woman buying the Deverill Castle that was left sitting in ruins. I thought I had the identity of that mystery woman figured out all along, but at the very end, it wasn’t her! Silly me for thinking Montefiore would be that predictable.

Their lives were mapped out ahead of them. But love and war will change everything…

This is a grand story about Kitty Deverill, the Anglo-Irish daughter of the heir to the Deverill Castle. A castle which originally belonged to the O’Leary’s of Ireland and comes with a curse for the Deverill men to long inhabit the castle after their deaths. Only Kitty and her grandmother have this gift to see those Deverill ghosts though, something their family tolerates and thinks is only due to their over-active imaginations. Bridie Doyle is the daughter of a woman that works in the Deverill Castle, and Celia is Kitty’s wealthy and beloved cousin from London.

We follow the three girls, well for the better part of the book, really only Kitty and Bridie, through their close friendship, love, heartbreak, WWI and notably through Ireland’s fight for independence from British rule. Celia plays a bigger role as we near the end and all three girls are into their 20s. Kitty and Bridie’s stories are rich, epic and provides satisfying stories. There is jealousy, power struggles between being rich and poor, love and hatred, the Irish and the English, deception, murder, travels spanning from Ireland to London to America….it’s a gratifying saga for certain. The ending leaves you anxious to continue their story. There’s plenty that happened at the end to leave me begging for the second story! So am I being too persnickety in rating it a 4.5 star – why the absence of that little 1/2 star? Perhaps I wasn’t ready to unleash a 5-star rating just yet. ;-)

The next two in the series are being released with these snappy new covers too. I will definitely be continuing with series so I may spend more time with Kitty, Bridie, Celia and all the rest of the wonderful characters! Next up is Daughters of Castle Deverill (previously released as Daughters of Ireland) and the final in the trilogy is, The Last Secret of the Deverills.