I don’t tend to read historical fiction unless it’s intermingled with the present, so this book didn’t jump out at me when it arrived (despite the Australian edition’s beautiful cover). However, I decided I’d give it a go as there was something about the blurb that made me think about Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Evil Under the Sun or The Mystery of the Blue Train.
Fatal Inheritance by Tammy Cohen (writing as Rachel Rhys) wasn’t really a hardcore whodunit requiring a Belgian detective or woolly but whip-smart spinster however. Instead it’s an intriguing story with delightful characters and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.Fatal Inheritance
by Rachel Rhys
Published by Doubleday
on July 26th 2018
Source: Penguin Random House Australia, NetGalley
Genres: Romantic Suspense, Historical Fiction
ISBN: 0857524720, 9780143783213, 9780857524720
1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey London suburb.
Then, out of the blue, she receives a solicitor's letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance. And to find out more, she must to travel to the glittering French Riviera.
There Eve discovers that her legacy is an enchanting pale pink villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Suddenly her life could not be more glamorous. But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.
Alone in this beguiling paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly . . .
In reality there was no edge-of-the-seat suspense or murderous mystery to be solved (other than one that pops up toward the end). There is the intriguing question though of ‘why’ Eve has been left money in the will of someone she’s never met. Naturally the family initially assumes she’s one of Guy Lester’s many (many) trysts, then later…. perhaps a resulting lovechild?
Which was a bit awkward cos – I was kinda hoping she was going to leave her boring and belittling husband (Clifford) for Guy’s oldest son… the Mr Darcy-like brooding and slightly-contemptuous-but-secretly-nice Noel. (And of course the brother-sister thing would put the kibosh on that!)
Although once the mysterious Victor Meunier appears on the scene Eve is quite bewitched.
As Eve’s enjoying her Cannes escape (Shirley Valentine-style) and soaking up all the French Riviera has to offer, there remains the background fascination of the source of her good fortune and Eve finds herself intrigued enough to go against her husband’s wishes, deciding to stay and sort it out.
The backcover blurb hints at danger, but it’s probably an overstatement, though there is an evil (of sorts) afoot – completely separate to the mystery of Eve’s inheritance. Kinda.
We do eventually uncover that mystery. It’s probably something that’s hard to solve although we’re given a few hints as to the potential past secrets.
Rhys offers readers some great characters: perhaps a little cliched at times, though I loved the droll American author (Sully) who befriends Eve and the Hollywood starlet set to marry a well-bred local, as well as the fairly down to earth (and very kind) family Eve meets on The Blue Train.
Guy, his wives and children were understandably suspicious of Eve and not-all-together pleasant… and I was reminded a little of a TV show I watched, Riviera – which also centred around the
beneficiaries (ahem) family of a wealthy man after an unexpected death.
I liked that Rhys takes Eve out of her comfort zone and into a world of aristocracy as well as the rich and famous but keeps her feet firmly planted…
How must it be to dream of a life of luxury and society lunches and charity balls and a handsome, wealthy husband, and then to get it all and more? How great a vacuum must the loss of that dream in a life that has been entirely geared up to its attainment? p 257
I particularly enjoyed the ordinary-ness of Eve.
Sure, she was apparently lovely with a kind and pleasant disposition, but there were no secret talents or expertise, or anything in particular that set her apart from her contemporaries.
Depressingly she’d ‘settled’ for marriage after her previous fiancee was killed in the war.
For years, growing up, she dreamed of someone coming to rescue her from her life, but no one came, and she settled for Clifford because he was the best thing available. p 177
I bookmarked this sex scene between Eve and Clifford. I’m usually a serial eyeroller when it comes to awkwardly blunt or overly flowery sex scenes – this one however I ADORED!
He reaches up suddenly and switches off the light so that they are plunged into darkness. There follows the usual silent manoeuvring of pyjama bottoms then he is inside her so abruptly she exclaims ‘Oh,’ and then just as abruptly he is finished and out again, with only a trickle on her thigh to show he was ever there. p 15
This is an enjoyable read with a really likeable lead, an interesting central plot and enough other stuff happening in the background to keep readers intrigued. Rhys’s writing is really accessible and engaging and hit the mark in terms of reflecting the language and feel of the post-war years as there was indeed a strong sense of newfound frivolity mixed with gratitude and relief.
I received copies of this book from the publishers for review purposes.