REVIEW of The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley

At the beginning of this month, Historical Tapestry celebrated Susanna Kearsley week with reviews, interviews, and discussions–all about an author I had never heard of before. I was intrigued. All five of Historical Tapestry’s contributors seemed to agree that Susanna Kearsley was tops. It was a high recommendation–I had to investigate further.

The Kearsley novel I chose is titled The Shadowy Horses, a phrase taken from a W. B. Yeats poem (the significance of which is explained in the book). Verity Grey, an attractive female archaeologist, has been invited up to Scotland by her former boyfriend Adrian to participate in a dig. Adrian refuses to fill her in on any of the specifics, so when she arrives in Eyemouth she is greeted by many surprises. The man directing the dig is Peter Quinell, an eccentric, dazzlingly rich, amateur archaeologist who is around seventy years old. Quinell has been ridiculed for years by the archaeological establishment for his half-baked ideas, but this time he is certain that his excavation is going to pan out.

Verity soon discovers what Quinell trying to find: The Hispana, the lost Ninth Legion from the second century. She also learns that his only basis for thinking it is at Eyemouth is the word of an eight-year-old boy named Robbie who has the “second sight.” Robbie has repeatedly encountered a ghostly sentinel from the Roman legion wandering the fields near his house.

Joining Peter Quinell and Adrian is a young, curly haired professor with smolderingly good looks. David Fortune has known Quinell all his life and is willing to believe in the old man’s dream. Quinell’s granddaughter Fabia, a flirtatious blonde who has been estranged from her grandfather for most of her life, completes the team in the capacity of photographer.

At first, Verity is skeptical of the venture but mysterious events unfold that give credence to Peter Quinell’s theory. Her growing attraction to the handsome David Fortune–which provokes Adrian to some dog in the manger jealousy–gives her another reason to stay in Eyemouth. She becomes committed to finding hard evidence that will prove to the world that this was the final resting place of the lost legion.

The Shadowy Horses was a delightful read that kept me turning pages long after I should have turned out the lights and gone to bed. The romance between Verity Grey and David Fortune was very tastefully depicted (a rarity in many modern novels). The historical elements of the story were well woven into the rest of the novel. I am very pleased to have discovered Susanna Kearsley, and since we are reaching the end of 2010, I think I can safely say that she is my favorite of all the new authors I have discovered this year.

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