Review: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

The second book in the Quercus Summer reading scheme is Florence Grace by Tracy Rees. I absolutely loved her debut novel Amy Snow, so I was really excited to read this! And I wasn't disappointed. Quite the oppsite in fact - Tracy has surpassed herself!
Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It's a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie's life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Avid readers will know the feeling - that moment when you read the blurb for a novel and know instinctively that you're going to love it. Such was the case with Florence Grace.

From the opening page I was transported utterly into Florrie's world; I was with her for every step of her journey and I was sad to have to leave her at the end. She is an incredibly likeable character, one who isn't afraid to speak her mind, one who refuses to be beat into submission by society and its conventions.

The landscape, the people, the lifestyle - in London Florrie couldn't be further from her homeland, and yet she is a survivor. She weathers the storm that is the Grace household and begins to forge her own path in Victorian society.

The plot is full of surprising twists, with events and revelations that quickly turn the story on its head. I love Tracy Rees' writing style, and although her novels are on the long side I race through them in no time at all.

I became oddly fond of all of the characters in this book, both the good and the bad. Old Rilla was full of pearls of wisdom, some of which I may well adopt for myself. Hawker was small yet foreboding, Aunt Dinah a force to be reckoned with. I especially loved Sanderson, and the contrast between he and his brother couldn't be starker. Light and dark, day and night; he is as fair and open as Turlington is dark and brooding. But as we learn even the kindest of people have their own secrets to bear, their own dreams and disappointments.

This is far more than just a love story, it is a coming of age story, a story of family, of friendship, and of finding your place in the world.

Florence deserves happiness, and that was all I wanted for her by the novel's end. Her transformation from country bumpkin to city darling is apparent, and yet we never lose sight of the true Florrie, the girl beneath it all who longs for nothing more than to run barefoot across the moors. This is her story, and I enjoyed every minute of it with her. My novel of 2016 so far.  

*Thanks to Quercus Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review!*


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