The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Sally Armstrong

the-shadowy-horsesWhy I read listened to it: I’m up to date on my review audiobooks for AAR so I got to pick one from my own stash.   I really enjoyed Mariana and The Rose Garden and the excerpt on Audible intrigued.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  The dark legends of the Scotland were an archaeologist dream. Verity Grey was thrilled to be at a dig for an ancient Roman camp in the Scottish village. But danger was in the air — in the icy reserve of archaeologist David Fortune. In the haunted eyes to the little boy who had visions of a slain Roman sentinel. And in the unearthly sound of the ghostly Shadowy Horses, who carried men away to the land of the dead…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Okay, that blurb doesn’t really tell you much.  Verity Grey is a 29 year old archaeologist type who travels to Eyemouth in Scotland after hearing about a job opportunity from ex-boyfriend Adrian Sutton-Clark.  Adrian is a handsome devil but very immature when it comes to relationships.  Verity found they were much better as friends, and besides, he has a marked preference for blondes and she’s a brunette.  When she arrives in Eyemouth, she finds that the proposed dig is to be led by eccentric (some say mad) archaeologist, Peter Quinell, and supported by a sexy Scottish archeology professor from the local university, David Fortune.    Peter’s property, Rosehill is the site of the dig – he believes he will find there, evidence of the fate of the famous 9th Roman Legion.  The basis for his belief?  A 9 year old boy by the name of Robbie who has “second sight”. (I heard from the author that an adult Robbie features as the hero in her upcoming book).

The other Kearsley books I have listened to (my experience with this author has all be on audio) involve time travel of some sort.  This one doesn’t.  There is certainly a supernatural element to the story and it delves into some of this history of the town and of the Roman occupation, but it is set solidly in the present.    I also found it to be the most romantic book of Kearsley’s I’ve tried so far.  That’s a big call, because Mariana had some big romance – but most of that was about Mariana and Richard and they didn’t get your traditional HEA.  In this book, we see Verity and David slowly falling in love and yes, there is a traditional HEA.  The story is told from Verity’s first person POV but I felt I did get to know David.  It’s funny how just a few sentences can change your view of a person.  For the first part of the book David is friendly but guarded with Verity.  Later, Verity has a conversation with David’s mother (“Granny Nan”) and in one sentence, casts David’s actions in a new and very understandable (and sympathetic) light.  I love that.

Adrian was pretty much annoying.  He’s the guy who doesn’t want you but doesn’t want anyone else to have you either – so he makes sly comments that make people think there is more going on with he and Verity than there is and he puts his arm around her at strategic moments for the same reason.  All this when he’s got his eye firmly on Fabia, Peter Quinell’s beautiful 20 year old (and blonde) grand-daughter.  When Verity (finally!) puts Adrian in his place at the fish market, it was a thing of beauty.

The romance between David and Verity was a slow growing delight – the bedroom door is pretty much closed but there was definitely enough between them to satisfy my romantic soul and I totally believed in their HEA.

Robbie is a treasure and his mother Jeannie (the Rosehill housekeeper) and Granny Nan all add to a richly drawn cast of characters.The ghostly Sentinel who talks to Robbie in Latin, warns of a mysterious danger – and it comes from an unexpected source.  The fine threads were expertly woven together to make a wonderfully complex and engrossing story.  There were a few things at the end that I’m not 100% sure I understood but to go into them would be to head into spoiler territory so I won’t.  It didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story, it was just that a couple of things right at the end could have used a little more exposition (at least for my brain to fully compute anyway.)

What else?  The narration is excellent.  I’ve not listened to Sally Armstrong narrate before and, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much on offer for me from Audible with her narrating, but I so wish there was.  She’s the sort of narrator where you’ll listen to a book just to hear her performance.  Her characters were all distinctly voiced, she has a wonderful Scottish brogue as well as the various British accents and her voice for young Robbie was just wonderful.    There were a couple of times in the narration where she obviously thought a sentence had finished and then realised it hadn’t but other than that, from a technical perspective, she nailed the tone of the novel and the characterisations.I loved the lessons in Scottish dialect – Verity carried with her a pocket dictionary to translate the words people spoke which she didn’t understand and I think that this came across much better on audio – with the correct pronunciations and timing etc – than it would have in print.  I’m a sucker for a good Scottish accent anyway and when you combine it with a sexy hero like David (who looks fantastic in a kilt) it’s just an added bonus.   

I loved it.

Grade:  A-

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