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Bride of a Distant Isle

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Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge. Annabel protes Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge. Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe. She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart? And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?


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Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge. Annabel protes Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge. Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe. She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart? And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

30 review for Bride of a Distant Isle

  1. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    After reading the first two novels in the Daughter of Hampshires series, I have moved Sandra Byrd onto my list of authors that I will always read. Bride of a Distant Isle is a delicious concoction of history, mystery and romance. I love how each of those pieces interact with one another throughout the story; one is never overshadowed by the other. There is also a good bit of suspense and tension that made this book nearly impossible to put down. Sandra excels in creating an intense atmosphere, d After reading the first two novels in the Daughter of Hampshires series, I have moved Sandra Byrd onto my list of authors that I will always read. Bride of a Distant Isle is a delicious concoction of history, mystery and romance. I love how each of those pieces interact with one another throughout the story; one is never overshadowed by the other. There is also a good bit of suspense and tension that made this book nearly impossible to put down. Sandra excels in creating an intense atmosphere, deftly weaving a tone of hope throughout this Gothic tale. I love the look at different cultures that this story and the first book provide. Annabel is the daughter of an Englishwoman and a Maltese father. Her heritage and that of Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua provide a compelling cultural background. As an illegitimate daughter, Annabel’s future is not her own, but depends on her cousin Edward. The mystery of her legitimacy is a dangerous thing for her to attempt to uncover. Annabel is in a precarious position, and the reader truly doesn’t know which characters to trust and which ones is a threat. Not only does her supposed illegitimacy put her at a disadvantage, but she must fight the stigma of being the daughter of a woman that perished in an insane asylum. Annabel’s helplessness is frustrating to modern readers, yet feels true to England in the 1850’s, a time when a woman’s pedigree and family background were of utmost importance. The first-person narration is always consistent to her character and makes this a very personal tale. Annabel’s heritage and parentage make her diminutive in her family’s eyes, yet she continues to hope that they have her best interest at heart. Complicating her situation even more is the appearance of mysterious Maltese items, beginning with a necklace that hints at her legitimacy. As the story continues, she realizes this isn’t the case – she must find fortitude within herself, and her strong faith is tested to its limit. Her inner strength is admirable and entirely believable. Whether it was mist-shrouded estate home of Highcliffe, a Victorian asylum, or the Great Exhibition in London, the different settings always feel authentic. Sandra’s meticulous research shows through the time period specific descriptions of the setting; the unique details of Maltese traditions and the sad nature of life for the institutionalized are just two of the fascinating pieces of this story. The ending is one of the best that I’ve read this year. Though the hero of the story is mysterious and dashing, the romance endearing and their chemistry evident, Annabel is her own rescuer, in a way that is both fantastic and realistic. It is wholly her story, one that is complemented by a tender romance, but not overpowered by it. I am eager to meet the next “Daughter of Hampshire” in book three and am a happy reader for having found such a gem of an author in Sandra Byrd. Richly complex, atmospheric and compulsively readable, Bride of a Distant Isle is one of my favorite reads of 2016 and one I highly recommend to readers of historical fiction.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    One of the things I’m really loving about Sandra Byrd’s current series, Daughters of Hampshire series (you know, besides fabulous writing and intriguing stories with mystery), is how she brings different cultures as key parts of the stories (the first, Mist of Midnight, had hints of India. Also it was one of my favorite reads last year, so go read it!). It’s not something I have really seen in books written about 1850s England, but I absolutely love love love it. Like I mentioned, I loved how By One of the things I’m really loving about Sandra Byrd’s current series, Daughters of Hampshire series (you know, besides fabulous writing and intriguing stories with mystery), is how she brings different cultures as key parts of the stories (the first, Mist of Midnight, had hints of India. Also it was one of my favorite reads last year, so go read it!). It’s not something I have really seen in books written about 1850s England, but I absolutely love love love it. Like I mentioned, I loved how Byrd brought about another culture and how it was for those in England. This book focused on Malta and since I knew next to zero about it, I loved learning more and how she weaved it perfectly in the story. Not only that, but the look at Catholicism during this time in England was fascinating too. I also have to say the thread of mystery was done so well too. And our Annabel and Captain Dell’Acqua? Loved them! “All will be well in the end; if it’s not well, then it’s not the end.” This book also gets you, how shall I saw, “involved.” I wanted to be in the book, so I could have punched some people in the face (not really internet, I’d go for the kneecaps. I kid people. Kid!). Oh man, did some folks in this book make me angry…And I absolutely loved it! So yes, if you couldn’t tell, this series continues to get better and better and I’m already looking forward to more. Fans of Sandra will absolutely love this one and historical fans, if you haven’t read any of Sandra’s book, get on it! (She also has a fabulous contemporary novel series you should read as well!) What’s a recent favorite Victorian novel you’ve read? (Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review) See more at: http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/03/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Staci

    What a good novel! I thoroughly enjoyed this second book of the Daughters of Hampshire series. I liked it even more than the first, Mist of Midnight. I enjoyed the history regarding the Catholic religion and asylums in England. The heroine, Anabell, was likable and it was a delight to watch her story and history unfold. I recommend this novel for readers that enjoy mystery with their historical romance.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bookish Ally

    I love Sandra Byrd! I have, to date, never read anything she has written half heartedly. Instead, I am so thoroughly transported by her historical fiction, that I find her books to be the kind which I hurriedly finish tasks to get back to the tale she spins. In this story we are not only told a story in which we grow to love the heroine of this story, but we learn about some of the culture and customs of Malta and their people. We are also forced to look at the fates of countless Victorian women I love Sandra Byrd! I have, to date, never read anything she has written half heartedly. Instead, I am so thoroughly transported by her historical fiction, that I find her books to be the kind which I hurriedly finish tasks to get back to the tale she spins. In this story we are not only told a story in which we grow to love the heroine of this story, but we learn about some of the culture and customs of Malta and their people. We are also forced to look at the fates of countless Victorian women accused of madness for any number of reasons, often having nothing to do with mental health, but more likely for being inconvenient. As these asylums were barbaric at best, and this novel doesn’t go into great detail, I will leave it to your imagination the innumerable ends that these women, who were buried alive in such places, faced. There are also many other period appropriate references to customs, practices and mores. 4.5 stars for another splendid book by Ms. Byrd

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane Estrella

    This story compelled me along from the first page to the very last. Few books are able to keep me on edge like this. This story is definitely suspenseful and even can be labeled a "thriller" during some moments. There were definitely some twists and turns that I did not see coming and the author went to some "dark" places that many do not dare to tread. Mental insanity was a focus of the book along with greed and even the cloud surrounding death. This story was well researched for this time and This story compelled me along from the first page to the very last. Few books are able to keep me on edge like this. This story is definitely suspenseful and even can be labeled a "thriller" during some moments. There were definitely some twists and turns that I did not see coming and the author went to some "dark" places that many do not dare to tread. Mental insanity was a focus of the book along with greed and even the cloud surrounding death. This story was well researched for this time and it also gave me a thorough love for the land of Malta. Beautiful indeed. The hero of the story was in my opinion only an accessory to the story as the heroine was definitely the main star. Her story is deep and rich and filled with mystery and intrigue. The strength she found in herself and her faith was astounding at times and entirely believable for this time period. Her story was complex and her mind's inner workings were a delight to have revealed to the reader. This is a new author to me, and I will keep my eye out for her future books as I am sure they will be filled with as much promise and excitement as this one was. I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caity

    Written in a style of equal gritty Bronte and elegant Austen, this novel played out like an Elizabeth Gaskell BBC drama in my head! Rich. Engaging. Vividly misty and cold. Emotional farewells between reader and characters. Story and setting were brilliant! Intricate and intriguing with plenty of eerie mystery and singular situations. The element of insanity is not one commonly written in historical fiction (that I have known), and I was impressed with the layers it lent to this book. Well writte Written in a style of equal gritty Bronte and elegant Austen, this novel played out like an Elizabeth Gaskell BBC drama in my head! Rich. Engaging. Vividly misty and cold. Emotional farewells between reader and characters. Story and setting were brilliant! Intricate and intriguing with plenty of eerie mystery and singular situations. The element of insanity is not one commonly written in historical fiction (that I have known), and I was impressed with the layers it lent to this book. Well written and hand-in-hand with the singular and slightly odd style that "gothic" is. While the essence and style of the novel is consistent with the rest of her works, there was a theme of Catholicism throughout, which didn't lend itself necessary to the story and felt out of place for Byrds writing. That being said, Bride of a Distant Isle was like a brilliant collision between Jane Eyre, North & South (Elizabeth Gaskell), and the upstairs/downstairs element. Another Byrd masterpiece for all fiction lovers!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Serena Chase

    Why you should read it: Fans of Victoria Holt and Charlotte Brontë will be enthralled by Byrd’s atmospheric storytelling, while those new to the Gothic style will find themselves transported to Hampshire, navigating a murky landscape of greed, desperation, madness and romance alongside Annabel. And speaking of romance … what reader is immune to a dashing seafarer? Captain Dell’Acqua is quite the fascinating, romantic sailor, and his descriptions of Malta, his homeland, are touched with sigh-worth Why you should read it: Fans of Victoria Holt and Charlotte Brontë will be enthralled by Byrd’s atmospheric storytelling, while those new to the Gothic style will find themselves transported to Hampshire, navigating a murky landscape of greed, desperation, madness and romance alongside Annabel. And speaking of romance … what reader is immune to a dashing seafarer? Captain Dell’Acqua is quite the fascinating, romantic sailor, and his descriptions of Malta, his homeland, are touched with sigh-worthy tenderness. Made even more charming by questionable motives that will keep readers guessing, it’s no wonder he snags Annabel’s attention (he most definitely snagged mine!). Lush with Gothic detail and subtle touches of the supernatural, Bride of a Distant Isle, book two in The Daughters of Hampshire series, is a beautifully eerie Victorian romance that should not be missed. (from my recommedation at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    "Will you walk into my parlour?", said the Spider to the Fly, . . . . . . . . ."Oh no, no" said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain, For whoever goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again." - Mary Howitt Miss Annabel Ashton is trapped within innuendos, whispers, memories, accusations; all stemming from her questionable past. As the supposed illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an asylum, she has no inheritance and is at the mercy of those who do. When her cousin begins using A "Will you walk into my parlour?", said the Spider to the Fly, . . . . . . . . ."Oh no, no" said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain, For whoever goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again." - Mary Howitt Miss Annabel Ashton is trapped within innuendos, whispers, memories, accusations; all stemming from her questionable past. As the supposed illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an asylum, she has no inheritance and is at the mercy of those who do. When her cousin begins using Annabel's exotic beauty to attract the attention of potential business partners, she meets a handsome Maltese ship captain, Marc Antonio Dell'Acqua, whose smooth manners and engaging conversations are a welcome reprieve. Sadly, resisting dark forces soon occupies Annabel's every thought, for she is being forced towards marriage to a hideous man whom she does not love and questioning her own sanity in the process; meanwhile, the only man who might save her is destined to sail. Enjoy this intriguing glimpse into the lives of those whose ancestry meant everything, whose faith had to rise to the occasion, and for whom, "all will be well in the end; if it's not well, then it's not the end".

  9. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Chind

    Originally posted on Creative Madness Mama. Last year, I found myself captivated by the writing in 's first book in the new Daughter of Hampshire series. I knew from reading that one as well as others in the past of Sandra's historicals that I needed to plan some time. When I read Sandra's books I'm not satisfied with a few minutes and done. I want to sit and pour in the details and get enveloped within the story. I have found that to be completely true once again with this latest book, Bride Originally posted on Creative Madness Mama. Last year, I found myself captivated by the writing in 's first book in the new Daughter of Hampshire series. I knew from reading that one as well as others in the past of Sandra's historicals that I needed to plan some time. When I read Sandra's books I'm not satisfied with a few minutes and done. I want to sit and pour in the details and get enveloped within the story. I have found that to be completely true once again with this latest book, Bride of a Distant Isle. Intrigue, friendship, romance, hardship, pride, adventure, feminist independence, and gentlemanly flirtations all reside within these pages.  In addition to these first two books, a third in the series, A Lady in Disguise is tentatively scheduled to publish in 2017 and I can already tell you that I eagerly await that next release as well! It just so happens that I have had this book in my stack of to be reads for a little longer than usual. As you may have noticed, book reviews have slowed down a little bit as homeschooling has picked up. (Plus there is that Rascal as a toddler reigning a bit of havoc as well...) While still a book in the Daughters of Hampshire series, Bride of a Distant Isle stands completely on its own. This is once again a page-turning gothic Victorian romance with a good bit of mystery. While we had a flare of India in Mist of Midnight, in Bride of a Distant Isle our flavor is decidedly Maltese. While I do not know much about Malta yet, it was interesting to learn snippets of this near Greek and Italy isle. (AppleBlossom will be studying Greece and Rome history next year, so I'm sure to be reaching for more books featuring such locales.) I was captivated from the first page is an earnest statement. I started reading Bride of a Distant Isle one evening and enjoyed myself that I hated to put it down. Later that night, we had storms and scared children and an insomnia mama and I read and read until finally around 5:30 in the morning I put the book down and blissfully got a few hours of sleep. Sandra Byrd's writing continues to impress me with each new book of hers that I read. While I haven't read her contemporary or youth titles, her historicals are fascinating and entertaining. Filled with vivid details that bring the characters alive and right off of the pages and into my imagination. I always know that with Sandra's books I will not be disappointed and I could definitely recommend this one highly. I'm disappointed that it had to end and now while I will await the next book in the Daughters of Hampshire series, I will attempt to find something to hold me over until then. What is your favorite Victorian Romance novel?     More Sandra Byrd on Creative Madness Mama…    This review was originally posted on Creative Madness Mama.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Turner

    Find my full review at http://aliteraryvacation.blogspot.com. I have long been a fan of Sandra Byrd's writing and have read and enjoyed all three books in her Ladies in Waiting series (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, and Roses Have Thorns) as well as the first book in this Daughters of Hampshire series (Mist of Midnight). I always know that when I see a new historical fiction book by Sandra is coming out I'm going to want to read it and I'm going to Find my full review at http://aliteraryvacation.blogspot.com. I have long been a fan of Sandra Byrd's writing and have read and enjoyed all three books in her Ladies in Waiting series (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, and Roses Have Thorns) as well as the first book in this Daughters of Hampshire series (Mist of Midnight). I always know that when I see a new historical fiction book by Sandra is coming out I'm going to want to read it and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm happy to say that Bride of a Distant Isle kept her on this streak and once again provided hours of entertainment. From the get-go I knew I was going to like Annabel. Right from the start she is thrown into one horrible situation after another - from being ripped from the school she loved teaching at to being thrown at a man she couldn't stand to having her very freedom ripped out from under her - and at every obstacle she refused to give up and barreled through to try and find the best outcome of each dire situation...and she did it all with more grace than I believe I could ever have had. I found her to be such a well drawn character, along with Captain Dell’Acqua and a most of the other secondary characters. I have to admit I wasn't as big a fan of the development of Mr. and Mrs. Everedge or Mr. Morgan (the man her cousin tried to force her to marry and who I didn't think necessarily warranted the vile disgust she seemed to feel for him, but that could just be me) but all of the other characters seemed very realistic. I also really enjoyed the development of the surroundings our characters found themselves in. Sandra Byrd did an exceptional job of immersing me in the dark, slightly decaying Highcliffe Hall as well as the asylum we get to peek into. This whole world was so easy to see and experience along with the characters and I'm always delighted when an author is able to make me feel like I'm actually seeing the situations play out in front of me. It makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable! I do have to say that I didn't have a very hard time figuring out the mysteries surrounding Annabel and who was involved in them. I don't want to say too much and spoil any surprises for other readers, but for me I had most of it figured out pretty soon, even if I didn't know the exact why's and how's. There weren't any big surprises or gasp-y moments, but that isn't to say that it wasn't enjoyable going along for the ride and seeing Annabel figure out what was really going on and whom she could really trust. I should also mentioned that this is clearly Christian fiction, so if you do not enjoy those elements in your historical fiction please take note. I think Sandra did a good job of never becoming too preachy (which I've experienced in other Christian fiction books and didn't enjoy) but I thought it should be noted. I really do mean it when I say that I always know I'm going to enjoy a Sandra Byrd historical. She hasn't disappointed yet and this being my fifth book of hers I've read I have the upmost confidence that she'll continue to entertain me. Any reader who enjoys Christian fiction will especially love her books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    3.25 stars. (Sorry to downgrade my rating from 3.5 stars to 3.25 stars. I just didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book.) It's strange how I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed this author's writing. Given that she seems to exclusively tell her stories from the first person perspective, it never ceases to amaze me that I can't put her books down. The Gothic spookiness, the possibility of becoming insane or merely being declared insane, and the overall mystery of this book was enjoyable 3.25 stars. (Sorry to downgrade my rating from 3.5 stars to 3.25 stars. I just didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book.) It's strange how I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed this author's writing. Given that she seems to exclusively tell her stories from the first person perspective, it never ceases to amaze me that I can't put her books down. The Gothic spookiness, the possibility of becoming insane or merely being declared insane, and the overall mystery of this book was enjoyable and compelling. I liked the clean the content, the faith at the center of this story, and the resourcefulness that the author finally lent the heroine. However, there were quite a few aspects of this book that were missing for me. I didn't like that we don't know much about the hero. He's not very developed and since we never have a chapter in his pov, I didn't feel like I knew him very well. Was he a merely flirt or a rake? What about the other woman he's seen with around the village? Hm. Also, the overwhelming circumstances and helplessness that the heroine finds herself in was a little OTT after a while. It just seemed so hopeless. Oh, the despair. The despair almost did me in after a while. And I understand why the author built up that feeling until the heroine's major revelation that she could only depend on herself to escape her crazy circumstances, but the events following her epiphany tempered my admiration for her abilities. Of course, I would argue that historical accuracy matters, which means the heroine can't be a feminist or too much of a bluestocking, but I do wish that the author didn't make her languish for quite so long. Overall, I still really enjoyed the reading experience this book provided. I liked the epilogue and look forward to reading more from this author.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Timerman

    Once I became totally involved in this book, there seems to be non-stop moments of terror or intrigue, what is going on? Annabel Ashton has grown up an orphan, but with family, that is, her mother’s sister and her family. A constant companion at their estate was her cousin Edward, and now seems to be at his mercy. Annabel is Catholic and at this time period the papists have to more or less hid underground, England is Anglican. Her cousin is interested in money and his right to own the family home Once I became totally involved in this book, there seems to be non-stop moments of terror or intrigue, what is going on? Annabel Ashton has grown up an orphan, but with family, that is, her mother’s sister and her family. A constant companion at their estate was her cousin Edward, and now seems to be at his mercy. Annabel is Catholic and at this time period the papists have to more or less hid underground, England is Anglican. Her cousin is interested in money and his right to own the family home Highcliffe, and their may be proof that this all belongs to Annabel. We watch, as Edward and his wife seem to go to all lengths to claim the heritage, including committing Annabel to a mental hospital. They try to marry her off to a very distasteful man; they also use her to get information. If you enjoy a story that is full of action, seems there is never a dull moment, and a bit of romance thrown in, but even then we don’t know for sure, if it true or some other form of the evil that seems to follow Annabel. I wondered if I would like this book from the first, but I loved it, it is full of history, and really keeps your attention. I received this book through Howard Books Blogger Program, and was not required to give a positive review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was a highly intriguing and entertaining historical novel with many Gothic overtones; however, unlike most Gothic romances typical in the 19th century, this novel had a great deal more mystery because several of its characters are full rather than flat, so it made it harder to tell who some of the villains were in the story, which in turn made the story more interesting and suspenseful. In any case, it was a well written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it has earned a place on my favor This was a highly intriguing and entertaining historical novel with many Gothic overtones; however, unlike most Gothic romances typical in the 19th century, this novel had a great deal more mystery because several of its characters are full rather than flat, so it made it harder to tell who some of the villains were in the story, which in turn made the story more interesting and suspenseful. In any case, it was a well written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it has earned a place on my favorites' list.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen R

    An intriguing tale of mystery, danger, and romance set in Victorian England. Recalled to her ancestral home Highcliffe Hall, Annabel Ashton leaves her teaching position thinking she will return soon, but her cousin Edward and his wife have other plans for her, which seem to be more sinister than she'd ever imagined. While forced to remain there, she hopes to find the truth of what really happened to her mother before it's too late. The second book in the Daughters of Hampshire series definitely An intriguing tale of mystery, danger, and romance set in Victorian England. Recalled to her ancestral home Highcliffe Hall, Annabel Ashton leaves her teaching position thinking she will return soon, but her cousin Edward and his wife have other plans for her, which seem to be more sinister than she'd ever imagined. While forced to remain there, she hopes to find the truth of what really happened to her mother before it's too late. The second book in the Daughters of Hampshire series definitely has a Gothic feel to it, with references to Edgar Allan Poe, the bleak setting of a manor house perched on a cliff looking out towards the sea, named the Edge of the World by Annabel, a genuine heroine in need of a serious rescue on many levels. Told from Annabel's point of view, the descriptions of the dark manor house, surrounding countryside, and windswept seashore, coupled with the threats to her life, made me feel like I'd stepped into a scene from Jane Eyre or a Victoria Holt novel. It felt so somber at times, especially as it seemed more and more that she had no one to defend her, with few friends to count on, and the web of deception laid by her cousins is cinched tighter. Then, the hope of faith shines through, as Annabel prays that God would help her, reminded that He will never leave nor forsake us. The touch of the supernatural or divine intervention added a mystical sense to her story, plus some interesting twists. The mention of a visit to the Great Exhibition was interesting, learning more about the Maltese culture that had such an impact on her mother's story, as well as her own identity. The Maltese Captain Dell'Acqua was an elusive hero figure, one that left me guessing a lot at his true motives. The treatment of the mentally ill, or those suspected as not being mentally stable, was a sad historical feature. Also the religious prejudices against Catholics that lingered even into the 1800's seemed a strong influence on how Annabel was treated, making her fate seem even more unfair. I found the author notes included at the end about the history of the area at the time to be quite interesting. Readers who enjoy a good Gothic tale full of mystery, sinister characters, with a genuine heroine, a little romance, and a divine touch, will like this story. Recommend! 4.5 stars (Book provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kav

    I'm basking in the warm glow of Gothic Romance Reader Bliss right now. I've mentioned before how much I adore this genre, right? Ever since junior high when I discovered Victoria Holt. And good Gothics are few and far between in the Christian market. So you can just imagine the sweet ecstasy I've been in since I first opened this book. Each page is steeped in mystery. Deliciously thrilling plot twists, sinister foreshadowing, and a bevy of intriguing characters who run the gamut from bad to good I'm basking in the warm glow of Gothic Romance Reader Bliss right now. I've mentioned before how much I adore this genre, right? Ever since junior high when I discovered Victoria Holt. And good Gothics are few and far between in the Christian market. So you can just imagine the sweet ecstasy I've been in since I first opened this book. Each page is steeped in mystery. Deliciously thrilling plot twists, sinister foreshadowing, and a bevy of intriguing characters who run the gamut from bad to good. And it's up to Annabel to figure out where their loyalties lie. I adore Annabel. She refuses to allow herself to be defined by her circumstances. As a woman, she has little say in her future but that doesn't stop her from digging in her heels and engaging in her own game of subterfuge. Her faith is the beacon of hope that sees her through the most trying of times. I loved her dedication, her desire to seek divine counsel and her strength to stand for what she believes to be true. Very inspiring. And now it's time for me to wax poetic over the Maltese captain. A swoonworthy hero with his own agenda. Even though Annabel can't be certain whether he is friend or foe, she can't resist his charm...and either could I. Oh goodness, but you'll need a fan for this read. Or maybe just stick your feet in the freezer periodically. This captain exudes toe-curling masculinity at every turn of the page. Be. Still. My. Heart. Sinister tension builds as the story progresses. Who is for Annabel? Who is against her? And who will emerge triumphant at the end? With all that page-turning intrigue, Byrd held me captive right up to the very last page. .

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Spencer

    4.5 stars Another good, moody gothic from Sandra Byrd. The plot relies a bit heavily on coincidence, but I found this a mesmerizing read nevertheless. Annabel Ashton has come to her family home for what she believes will be a visit. However, she soon learns that she is basically a prisoner of her cousin, who is determined to marry her off to an unsavory acquaintance in order to shore up his own precarious financial situation. I liked Annabel as a narrator, but I often felt frustrated for her situ 4.5 stars Another good, moody gothic from Sandra Byrd. The plot relies a bit heavily on coincidence, but I found this a mesmerizing read nevertheless. Annabel Ashton has come to her family home for what she believes will be a visit. However, she soon learns that she is basically a prisoner of her cousin, who is determined to marry her off to an unsavory acquaintance in order to shore up his own precarious financial situation. I liked Annabel as a narrator, but I often felt frustrated for her situation. Much of the gothic creepiness in this book comes from the fact that laws and mores of the time (mid-Victorian era) allowed Annabel's cousin to remove her from her teaching job and essentially hold her prisoner in the family home. Annabel is the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of Edward's aunt and an unknown Maltese man, so she has few options and little power over her own life in many ways. Yet not all is doom and gloom. Annabel has been tasked with entertaining (and basically spying on) a handsome Maltese captain. As she gets to know Captain Dell'Acqua, Annabel finds herself very comfortable in his presence and the two form a friendship and deeper connection. The result is a romantic and very entertaining story. One last note: Readers often mention that "inspirational" seems include only conservative Protestant books. However, the lead characters in this book are Catholic and their faith does play an important role in their lives. If you're interested in inspies from different religious traditions, you may want to check this one out for that reason, too.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    Bride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd is a second novel that actually surpasses the first in a series. Exceptionally dark and conniving characters as well as the eerie settings of a Victorian asylum and misty estate lend an air of authenticity that make this novel seem as if it were written by a Bronte contemporary. Annabel Ashton is certainly as memorable a character as Jane Eyre and the rakish Captain Dell'Acqua is as mysterious and unpredictable as a storm-tossed sea. Details unique to the p Bride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd is a second novel that actually surpasses the first in a series. Exceptionally dark and conniving characters as well as the eerie settings of a Victorian asylum and misty estate lend an air of authenticity that make this novel seem as if it were written by a Bronte contemporary. Annabel Ashton is certainly as memorable a character as Jane Eyre and the rakish Captain Dell'Acqua is as mysterious and unpredictable as a storm-tossed sea. Details unique to the period from the Great Exhibition down to the Maltese lace wedding cap, show just how dedicated to research the author is. Bride of a Distant Isle is an example of refined storytelling that's never tedious. Each tiny detail lends to the story as a whole. I've come to expect nothing less than the best from the pen of Sandra Byrd and this installment in the Daughters of Hampshire series is certainly that. A stellar novel! If you are searching for quality historical fiction, you've found it! *I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.*

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Morgan

    Mystery and suspense mixed with romance on the Coast of England. Illegitimate and dependent on her cousin's good graces, Annabel Ashton awaits her fate in her cousin's house. She is further ostracized by her mixed heritage. She only has a home as long as she is useful to Edward, her cousin. I really enjoyed Bride of a Distant Isle, the plot was very engaging and the characters were quite realistic. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book and Sandra's love of historical Eland was quite eviden Mystery and suspense mixed with romance on the Coast of England. Illegitimate and dependent on her cousin's good graces, Annabel Ashton awaits her fate in her cousin's house. She is further ostracized by her mixed heritage. She only has a home as long as she is useful to Edward, her cousin. I really enjoyed Bride of a Distant Isle, the plot was very engaging and the characters were quite realistic. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book and Sandra's love of historical Eland was quite evident throughout the book. I hope there will be another book in the Daughters of Hampshire series. I was given this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paula Shreckhise

    Wonderful, delightful, superb. Sandra has done it again. So different from her contemporary light novels but great writing. Such interesting details of the era woven seamlessly into the narrative. Marco is ever the gentleman but very romantic. Bella is trapped by circumstances but shows herself to be very strong and resilient and resourceful. I Highly recommend this book and the others in the series!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Another good book by Sandra Byrd. She just knows how to write a good romance. As in the first book of the series, I love that it’s written in first person. This series contains a nice dose of mystery as well. I docked one star because I found the first half or so of the book a bit slow, but it did not stop me from enjoying the story. I’ve already bought the final book of the series and am looking forward to reading it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Deon

    "All will be well in the end; if it's not well, then it's not the end." Wonderful and suspenseful Gothic romance! Narrator was excellent! Elizabeth Jasicki "All will be well in the end; if it's not well, then it's not the end." Wonderful and suspenseful Gothic romance! Narrator was excellent! Elizabeth Jasicki

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandi aka Maudley

    I would give this book more stars for the premise, the complexity, and the wonderfully-presented characters. However, at times I found the story lagging and wished it would move along a little faster. So, three stars as I can't give 3.5. I would give this book more stars for the premise, the complexity, and the wonderfully-presented characters. However, at times I found the story lagging and wished it would move along a little faster. So, three stars as I can't give 3.5.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bluerose's Heart

    I always enjoy books by Sandra Byrd, but her "Daughters of Hampshire" series has taken my love of them to a whole new level. The first book in this series, Mist of Midnight, was one of my favorite reads of 2015(though I forgot to put it on the official list...that's what I get for not keeping up with my reading like I should). It's on my reread list, and I'm greatly looking forward to the revisit for many reasons. I have no doubt that Bride of a Distant Ilse will also be on my favorites list thi I always enjoy books by Sandra Byrd, but her "Daughters of Hampshire" series has taken my love of them to a whole new level. The first book in this series, Mist of Midnight, was one of my favorite reads of 2015(though I forgot to put it on the official list...that's what I get for not keeping up with my reading like I should). It's on my reread list, and I'm greatly looking forward to the revisit for many reasons. I have no doubt that Bride of a Distant Ilse will also be on my favorites list this year, and any year, for that matter. I loved every single minute of reading it! In Bride of a Distant Ilse, we get somewhat of a Cinderella tale. Annabel Ashton is considered the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died within an insane asylum. She depends completely on her cousin, Edward, and his wife, Clementine. When their money starts running out, Annabel's situation gets more and more desperate. When strange objects start appearing, things get more and more mysterious. I have to mention the romance. It was done to perfection! It wasn't overdone, but was incredibly sweet and melted my heart. I've had zero tolerance for romance within books lately, but I didn't roll my eyes one single time while reading this story. THAT is a huge compliment coming from me! ;) Sandra proves that one doesn't need all that extra "stuff" that most all Christian authors insist on these days to keep things "real". Seriously, it was perfect, and I'm grateful that I was once again able to enjoy a sweet romance without my sarcastic side coming out. Despite the fact that the romance portion was beautifully done, there's a great deal more to the story than that. That's really such a small portion of the book. There's also so much historically to learn from the book, and it's all done in an interesting way. That is another thing I love so much about Sandra's books. They're like "living books" for me! (Charlotte Mason/homeschooling term) While this book is considered Christian Fiction, I really do think that it will be enjoyed by a wide audience. Annabel is Catholic, and that plays a huge part of the story. I have to admit that my knowledge of Catholic things is hugely lacking, but this story gave me a small glimpse into that world, and I can't help but appreciate that. In the end, I have to say that Bride of a Distant Ilse is an amazing story, and one I can easily recommend, especially if you enjoy Gothic Victorian romances. I loved it, and I can't wait for more from this series! *I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    After reading 'Mist of Midnight' I was excited to see what Sandra had next, & 'Bride of a Distant Isle' did not disappoint. Thoroughly researched and written bringing a variety of historical true events into her fiction, not only do you feel like you're getting a glimpse into Victorian society, but also the harsh realities of the era. I loved the characters visits to the Great Exhibition, the discussions on trade & smuggling. How the desperate need to ensure the security of children, and future After reading 'Mist of Midnight' I was excited to see what Sandra had next, & 'Bride of a Distant Isle' did not disappoint. Thoroughly researched and written bringing a variety of historical true events into her fiction, not only do you feel like you're getting a glimpse into Victorian society, but also the harsh realities of the era. I loved the characters visits to the Great Exhibition, the discussions on trade & smuggling. How the desperate need to ensure the security of children, and future generations could lead to something as desperate as slander, murder or institutionalizing family members to get them out the way, to snag the inheritance is sickening, but likely very real to the time. I loved Marco's character - though felt very frustrated with his aloofness and apparent abandonment when Annabel was in her greatest need... Though all does get explained in the end. I loved the foreign angle with Malta, and the Maltese & Italian language spoken between the heroes was beautiful! I had hoped there would be some connection to the first book in this series, but it seems they are stand alone reads, with the only common factor being the location of the county & dates. Four stars instead of five, only because the pace was a little slow for me in the beginning. Fabulous story, fully recommend! I received this book from Netgalley & Howard Books in return for my honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hallie (Hallie Reads)

    This review is also posted on Book by Book. Sandra Byrd’s Bride of a Distant Isle is quite the intriguing read, as it incorporates great romance and mystery into a well-described Victorian England setting. The novel centers on Annabel Ashton, who returns from her teaching position to her family home, where family obligations and well-kept secrets disrupt her plans and set her on a course toward an unwanted arranged marriage, an insane asylum, and most importantly, the charming Maltese captain, Ma This review is also posted on Book by Book. Sandra Byrd’s Bride of a Distant Isle is quite the intriguing read, as it incorporates great romance and mystery into a well-described Victorian England setting. The novel centers on Annabel Ashton, who returns from her teaching position to her family home, where family obligations and well-kept secrets disrupt her plans and set her on a course toward an unwanted arranged marriage, an insane asylum, and most importantly, the charming Maltese captain, Marco Dell’Acqua. The well-paced storyline unfolds around Annabel with suspenseful and emotional twists and turns all the way to a very satisfying ending, and I really enjoyed it. Fans of historical fiction should not hesitate to add the captivating and gripping Bride of a Distant Isle to their to-read lists - I recommend it and now can’t wait to read more from Sandra Byrd in the future. Thanks to Howard Books, I received a copy of Bride of a Distant Isle and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.5 stars!!! What a delicious story! Byrd once again crafted an expertly gothic romance with mesmerizing characters and a mystery that kept me guessing to the end. The only thing that felt a little off to me was the asylum angle; it became a bit melodramatic for me, then felt rather promptly swept under the rug after Annabel's clever escape. But on the whole, I really lost myself in the story and found myself eager to get back to it when work and sleep forced me to put it aside -- true hallmarks 4.5 stars!!! What a delicious story! Byrd once again crafted an expertly gothic romance with mesmerizing characters and a mystery that kept me guessing to the end. The only thing that felt a little off to me was the asylum angle; it became a bit melodramatic for me, then felt rather promptly swept under the rug after Annabel's clever escape. But on the whole, I really lost myself in the story and found myself eager to get back to it when work and sleep forced me to put it aside -- true hallmarks of a great story, in my opinion! Full review to be posted on BookTalk closer to the books release date!

  27. 5 out of 5

    writer...

    5++* read! Superb storytelling so filled with suspense I repeatedly had to put down the book to make another cup of tea or hot chocolate or... anything to break the tension! What the dear Annabel endured at the hands of family , atmospheric and emotive writing par excellence. Then an ending that blazes fireside warmth to dispel all the mists and fog of despair for our heroine's past and future. Exceptional. 5++* read! Superb storytelling so filled with suspense I repeatedly had to put down the book to make another cup of tea or hot chocolate or... anything to break the tension! What the dear Annabel endured at the hands of family , atmospheric and emotive writing par excellence. Then an ending that blazes fireside warmth to dispel all the mists and fog of despair for our heroine's past and future. Exceptional.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    A different type of story that held my interest even through the painful trials the protagonist faced. A British young woman, Annabel Ashton discovers her past may not be what she always believed and her future appears uncertain. Will she be forced to marry an unsavory associate of her cousin Edward, who holds control of the family assets? Can she escape their plot, and could the Maltese captain she met assist, or is he just using her to help him prosper in business? Since her father was Maltese A different type of story that held my interest even through the painful trials the protagonist faced. A British young woman, Annabel Ashton discovers her past may not be what she always believed and her future appears uncertain. Will she be forced to marry an unsavory associate of her cousin Edward, who holds control of the family assets? Can she escape their plot, and could the Maltese captain she met assist, or is he just using her to help him prosper in business? Since her father was Maltese, she is attracted to the captain. The suspense and hope a positive resolution kept me interested in the outcome. Don’t read the blurb on the back cover before the book—it gives away too much of the story and robs the reader of the joy of discovery! The historical setting (1851) and life at that time was well presented and made me feel like I was there. Sandra Byrd is skilled at developing complex characters who leap off the page and are hard to forget. I received the book in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    2.5. I feel like I missed the first third of the book, but I read it from start to finish. Lots of background info missing. Not that impressed by the heroine- she seemed like a bit of an idiot at times- and not a fan of first-person POV. I did read through, though, and wanted to see what happened.

  30. 4 out of 5

    C.M.

    Nice, sweet clean romance with a bit of mystery.

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