Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerAt this point it should be obvious that I love Ms. Kearsley’s books. Mariana was first published before The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, and even though there are quite a few similarities, it’s obvious that this was written first. I found it a bit lacking when compared to her other books, though I’m probably to blame for it since I shouldn’t be comparing them in the first place. However, it is a beautiful book and I enjoyed it a lot.The first time Julia Becket saw Greyweathers, a beautiful farmhouse located in Exbury, she was five and immediately knew that it was her home. Ever since then, when she visits the place, the same feeling of belonging invades her. And after an impulsive decision she finds herself its new owner. While she settles in, she develops a series of relationships with her neighbors including Geoffrey de Mornay, the wealthy and handsome lord of the manor, farmer Ian Summer and the local pub’s owner, Vivien.And then strange things happen. At first she sees things, like a horse and the shadow of a man, and during a visit to the manor she experiences a deep sense of grief. She’s informed that there’s a ghost in the house and that where the feeling comes from, however, it doesn’t explain the vision. When the visions become longer and clearer, she realizes that she’s in fact traveling back in time to 1665 and experiencing the life of Mariana Farr, the woman who lived in Greyweathers during that time. The more Julia goes back, the most she becomes invested in Mariana’s life and in her love affair with Richard de Mornay, lord of Crofton Hall and Geoffrey’s ancestor. She can live through Mariana, but she can’t do anything about it, she’s just a spectator. And so the obsession begins. She wants to know how Mariana’s story ends and why she’s linked to her. Is she Mariana’s descendant? Her reincarnation? Is Geoffrey related to Richard? Are they meant to be? At one point she’s not even sure if she loves Geoffrey or Richard, or Geoffrey because he’s Richard. In contrast, Richard and Mariana’s story is much more simple and straightforward, though a lot more dramatic. Their love affair is forbidden and after experiencing it as a reader I understand exactly why Julia was so interested in finding out what happened to them. I wanted to know even though I feared the answer.As usual, Ms. Kearasley has created a story that slowly but surely enclosed me until I was riveted by it and could think of nothing else. This is one of those books that start slow but intriguing, and suddenly grab you until you can’t do anything but read. Her voice is so compelling and evocative that I felt like I was there with the characters accompanying them during their trials and tribulations. The historical romance was way more effective and sweet than its contemporary counterpart. Mariana and Richard are the classic tragic lovers. Their forbidden love is full of heart but also danger and it kept me on the edge of my seat while trying to balance the angst and the swoons. Julia and Geoffrey’s romance was the opposite, nothing dangerous, very subtle and slightly off. She was so preoccupied with the past, and trying to figure out how it all fit together in the present, that her relationship with Geoffrey ended up entangled and a bit lost in it.The secondary characters all have tiny but important roles. You have to pay attention because it’s easy to lose yourself in the story, but this is also a puzzle, and every character represents a piece. My favorite character was Julia’s brother, I had such a great time with him that I wish he had more page time. This is another testament to Ms. Kearsley’s talent, a cast of minor characters that are just as memorable as the main ones.And finally there's the ending. It deserves a mention because it’s quite remarkable. It’s a bit of a water-cooler ending, it makes you want to go and discuss it with someone to gather their thoughts. I read the book weeks ago, and I’m still not sure whether I liked it or hated it. I think it’s either perfectly fitting, of an evil copout. I know I’m being cryptic, but this is a reading experience that shouldn’t be ruined by spoilers, whatever you do, don’t read the final pages.If you’re familiar with Ms. Kearsley’s stories I think you will enjoy this one. Keep in mind that her style has improved since she first wrote it (1994, I think), so it looks a bit rough around the edges when compared to her latest books. It starts slow, one of the stories overshadows the other so there’s no real balance between them, and the ending is controversial to say the least. But it’s romantic and beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommended to fans of emotional romance and historicals in particular.Note: aren’t these covers gorgeous? I haven’t bought a tree-book in ages but I’m so tempted to buy all three of them and just put them somewhere visible to show them off!