The Secret of Ravelston
By: Sergio Silveira
Jane Freemont is a British young lady with a very big problem. She is a modern girl…but she lives in early 19th Century. Jane has a critical, inquiring mind that is always ready to state her honest opinions- no matter whom she may inconvenience. This causes the young gentlemen to run away from her- for men surely can welcome women’s criticism so much more than they do. But that’s our loss.
Jane’s older brother, and only living relative, has sent her to live far away where he believes her critical and inquiring mind will no longer create problems for him. But as Jane arrives in beautiful Ravelston, she becomes determined to discover the fate of another, yet much less privileged, young woman who has mysteriously vanished. In Ravelston no one seems to care about what happened to Mary Hale, who was seen as unimportant because she was poor. But Jane will risk everything, even her future, to find out the truth.
And Jane will discover that powerful love, when not accepted in oneself, can be the cruelest thing there is.
It wasn’t that I disliked this book, it had elements that were quite enjoyable. But the overall tone of the book bothered me. Let me explain.
The book starts off likable enough. Jane has to leave her home because she has insulted the lady of the manor. When she tells the story to Mrs. P, her uncle’s head servant, it’s quite funny. Apparently the lady, whom Jane insulted, was a short woman standing only about four feet tall. When speaking to the lower class, all of who were taller than her, she did not want them to look down upon her so they were to address her over her head while the Lady spoke to the chests. The daughter of the Lady was the opposite of her mother. Standing at six feet tall, the servants had to look down to speak to her. In an attempt to ease a party in which Jane was to thrown for her brother, the pastor of the town, Jane made two chairs. One much taller for the lady to sit at so the guests would feel more comfortable looking at her rather than over her head. Then she made a shorter one for the daughter. The problem was, the chairs were mixed up and….thus began Jane’s exile.
Her brother sends her to live with their Uncle, the Rector of Ravelston. It’s upon arrival that Jane begins to feel the town is different. Something in the air and in her head tells her that something isn’t right. They pass a boarded up part of town with a beautiful tower that Jane inquires about to Mrs. P., but Mrs. P. is the master of deflecting conversation. Somehow all of Jane’s questions about that part of town are never answered, not by Mrs. P. or her uncle. But the mystery truly begins when Jane is in town gathering vegetables with Mrs. P. when a grand carriage makes its way through. The regal, Lady of Ravelston is riding through. Upon hearing a child taunt the makeshift parade with a song about a Mary Hale, and then reprimanded by her mother, does Jane wonder who this Mary Hale is that would cause such a reaction from the parent.
Jane starts to dig around for answers and continue to talk to herself, a lot. Jane has a lot of outward conversations with no one, but her.
She visits the tower and is immediately sent away by a mysterious man in a long black cloak. Her uncle avoids her, the other servant in the house, Annie refuses to speak about Mary and Mrs. P. acts as if she doesn’t hear Jane’s questions. In a twist of fate, the Lady Ravelston visits Jane and invites her to stay at their estate for as long as she would like. Being of not noble blood, Jane accepts and is thrown into a wonderful life of balls every night and beautiful gardens that flourish with the largest flowers she’s ever seen.
Here the story gets a little slow. Jane interacts with the “sarcastic” (as we’re told over and over again) Lord Andrew and his cousin Carla. Every night new guests arrive as they are wined and dined at the country estate. But unable to leave well enough alone after hearing the servants speak of Mary Hale, Jane is on a quest to find out what happened to the woman. She returns home to speak with her uncle and try to gain answers but all he does is get angry because a medalsome fly keeps landing on his forehead. I never really understood the point of that scene with the fly, but perhaps it was for comic relief.
It’s at this point that the story picks up to what it’s really about. Jane finds clues that lead her to what happened to Mary and in the end, everyone in the town has been keeping secrets but maybe none more than those that she feels the closest to.
The imagery of the book allows you to really feel as if you can see Ravelston Manor and the town that Jane is in. The large, beautiful flowers are described so well that I felt I could really see them. If you’re looking for a quick period read with a mystery thrown in, then this book is all for you.