Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Mariana

Author: Susanna Kearsley

Genre: Time Travel

Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia.

This book was actually originally published in 1994, although only this year was it published in the US by Sourcebooks. I’d heard good things about Ms. Kearsley’s other books (specifically, THE WINTER SEA and THE ROSE GARDEN), and while I own both, I haven’t yet made my way around to reading them. This book has made me move them to the top of my TBR list and made me anxious to have more time to read them.

MARIANA was not at all what I expected. In truth, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I was a bit skeptical because I knew it wasn’t a straight romance but rather a mainstream novel with romantic elements, and while I venture out of the romance genre from time to time, I always seem to enjoy books straight from the romance genre more.

Well, here’s the truth: I was blown away by this book. From the very first page, Ms. Kearsley captured my attention and held on so that I took this book everywhere with me, just for the chance to read a little bit more whenever I could. This is by no means a fast-paced book, but MARIANA reminds me that fast-paced doesn’t always equal better; this is one of those books you want to curl up with on your favorite couch before the fire and just indulge in for a while. There is a familiarity–almost an intimacy, you could say–in which the author writes, as though the reader is friends not only with the author but with the characters themselves. The language is not necessarily simple, but it flows simply. If I must make a food or drink analogy, I would compare it to a fine wine. Comforting, easy, and addictive.

The above paragraph relates how I felt while reading this book. The story itself is equally as engaging. The book description gives a fairly good overview of the story. What it leaves out, though, is that romance is at the core of MARIANA. The reason Julia has been drawn to Greywethers is because she lived there as Mariana in a past life and she and her love interest then were never able to be together. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past in that Julia “moves” into the past from the point she’s at in the present. Thus, her body is still in the present (so her neighbors might see her wandering about, as if sleep-walking), but she’s really experiencing the past. This is a unique way of presenting the time travel structure, one I hadn’t read until this book, and I think it’s far more believable than other time travel set-ups. In the present, we are introduced to two men who might turn out to be Julia’s previous star-crossed lover.

And that, actually, is the reason why I feel like I can’t give this book a perfect grade (although I’d like to). If this had just been a mainstream novel with romantic elements, it wouldn’t have mattered so much. But because I felt like the romance was truly at the heart of this book, the grade is lowered slightly to an A- because I felt that the ending of the book–in which the identity of Julia/Mariana’s lover is revealed in the present–wasn’t very well developed. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because I don’t want to give any possible spoilers.

Grade: A-

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