About five years ago I read The Light Behind The Window (The Lavender Garden) for the first time. The minute I saw the cover in a magazine of an Austrian retail chain that sells books, stationary and electronics, I fell in love with it. So, of course, I had to buy it. It was the first time I had heard of Lucinda Riley and I immediately fell in love with her writing. I wasn’t even half way through the book when I had to buy Das Orchideen Haus (Hothouse Flower/The Orchid House) as well. Thus began my love for Lucinda Riley.
The Light Between The Window is separated into two different timelines. The present timeline is about Emilie de la Martiniére. Emilie’s mother has just passed away and she struggles with the responsibilities of her heritage. She has to decide whether she wants to keep her families château in Provence, France, or sell it. Just when she decides to keep it and take on the renovations necessary, she meets Sebastian Carruthers. They fall in love and marry after only a couple of months. During the renovation of the château, Sebastian takes her back home to Yorkshire. His brother Alex lives in the mansion as well. Sebastian warns Emilie about Alex before he leaves her there to go to London for his job.
The past timeline is about Sebastian and Alex’ grandmother Constance Carruthers. During the second world war, Connie is drafted into the SOE (Special Operations Executive). As a spy she arrives in the occupied Paris in 1943. Unfortunately, Connie’s contact in the resistance has been arrested by the Gestapo. She has to go to her last option. A rich aristocrat secretly working for the resistance. Édouard de la Martiniére, Emilie’s father, takes Connie in. Connie is both grateful for the safety Édouard provides and frustrated that she can’t help British Intelligence. Instead she keeps Sophia de la Martiniére, Édouard’s blind sister, company.
Connie’s past and the mysteries surrounding Emilie’s family in it, have a great impact on Emilie’s future. You can see how Emilie grows as a character during the book, how she gets stronger and more independent. Connie on the other hand was presented as strong and independent from the very beginning. With her you don’t get to see as much growth as with Emilie. If I had to describe Connie with one word, it probably would be role model (okay, technically those are two words, but you get the gist. Besides, in German it’s one word Vorbild, so it counts). Connie is willing to go to war. She tries her best in helping her home country of England as well as the country of her mother’s family (France). During her time in France, there are lots of obstacles thrown at her and she always manages to survive and help others along the way.
I adore both Connie and Emilie equally. Emilie has had a tough life. She might have grown up as the daughter of aristocrats with enough money to get everything she wants, yet her father was always absent – as we learn during the book, it was the horrors of the war and what happened to Sophia that made him distant – and died when she was barely a teenager and her mother was more interested in other things. This even resulted in Emilie getting infertile at age 13. Honestly, this was something that hit me incredibly hard. When I was around the same age, twelve, almost 13, I had an tubal inflammation too. I was lucky though and this female doctor at the hospital saw it straight away. But there was this short time, when I didn’t know if I could have children. So I really sympathise with Emilie here and can totally understand why she would retreat to herself more and more.
Apart from Connie and Emilie one of my favourite characters was Venetia. Venetia Burroughs is a friend of Connie’s from her time training for the SOE. She is a radio operator on mission in Paris, where they meet again. The wonderful thing about Venetia is that she also appears in Hothouse Flower. There you meet her before the war and get a better look at the woman Connie meets at training. Venetia mentions that she was stationed at Bletchley Park at one time, where British codebreakers worked worked during World War II. Since this part of her story hasn’t been told yet, I do have hopes to read about it one day as well.
All in all, I can really recommend The Light Behind The Window. The main characters are both lovely and the mystery gripping. What did you think about The Light Behind The Window? I would love to hear your opinion.