Set during the English Civil War of the 1640′s, du Maurier retells a lesser known bit of Cornish history as an elderly Honor Harris reflects back on her life and love. Wooed by the charming, irascible but extremely flawed Richard Grenvile, eighteen year old Honor loses her heart and prepares to marry Richard until a tragic accident changes their lives. Richard and Honor separate (no spoilers, that’s in the first few chapters). They meet years later during the Civil War as Richard is now the King’s General in the West fighting the Parliamentarian rebels – although not all the Royalists think too highly of Richard’s high-handed approach to prisoners and discipline. While Honor refuses to marry Richard, her feelings for him are as strong as before and they begin a most unusual relationship as the tides of war ebb and flow around them.
Honor takes up residence at Menabilly, the family home of Honor’s brother-in-law Jonathan Rashleigh and things soon begin to go bump in the night in typical du Maurier fashion – mysterious comings and goings, a secret door, a mystery floorboard in the summerhouse and….more than that, I’m not telling – read it for yourself. Du Maurier once again weaves a magical tale, albeit this time with real-life characters. The dialogue between Richard and Honor sizzles off the pages, as does the enmity between Honor and Richard’s sister – and boy can those two swap some memorable barbs. The scene where those two sat and played at cards and witty repartee as the rebels sacked Menabilly to its bare walls was just brilliant, as was the bit when Richard over indulged in dinner and wine and called the troops back after retiring – simply priceless.
All in all a very unusual love story and an interesting glimpse at a footnote in Cornish history. I’d love to see this one on film – the actors would have a field day. As for Menabilly, du Maurier rented the home from the Rashleigh family and lived in it for some time and was the inspiration for her most famous novel, Rebecca. Five stars.