Lucinda Riley's latest novel 'The Light Behind the Window' is an entertaining dual time frame novel set in the 1990s and the 1940s. In the late 1990s, in the south of France, we meet Emilie de la Martinieres, an attractive, but naïve young woman from a wealthy, aristocratic family, whose sophisticated and emotionally distant mother has just died. Although not close to her mother, Emilie feels her loss, especially as she is now the sole surviving member of the de la Martinieres family and she is unsure about what to do with the beautiful, but crumbling family chateau and the vineyard she has inherited. Should she sell, or should she start to renovate the chateau with the proceeds of her inheritance? While trying to decide what to do with her life, Emilie, who is at a very low ebb, meets Sebastian Carruthers, a charming and seemingly kind Englishman who is keen to take charge and help Emilie to make decisions. Emilie quickly comes to rely on Sebastian and, after a very brief time together, they marry and Sebastian takes Emilie to England and to his family home in Yorkshire. There Emilie meets Alex, Sebastian's disabled brother who, Sebastian warns her, is the black sheep of the family and not all that he appears on the surface. However, as Emilie gets to know Alex better during Sebastian's long absences from home, and begins to enjoy her brother-in-law's company, she starts to realize that maybe it is Sebastian who is not all he appears to be. And when Emilie starts to delve into her family history, she discovers a lot more than she expected ....
In the 1940s we meet Constance Carruthers (Sebastian and Alex's grandmother) who is drafted into the SOE and, after a period of intense training, is flown into occupied Paris at the height of the Second World War. When her contact from the Resistance does not arrive to collect her, Constance finds her way to the Paris home of Edouard de la Martinieres and straight into the presence of two high ranking Nazi officers. Living on her wits, Connie finds herself in a very difficult situation, especially when one of the Nazi officers decides that he would like to get to know her intimately. And when she is put in the position of having to submit to his warped desires in order to save the lives of other people around her, Connie realizes there is more to war than fighting and more than one way to carry out her duty to her country.
(No 'spoilers' here - there is a lot more for prospective readers to discover during the course of this story).
I haven't read any of Lucinda Riley's previous novels - in fact this one was given to me - so I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. If I were wearing my 'literary head' I might just comment that some aspects of this story were a little predictable and that other aspects were not wholly convincing - however, once I had read past the first part of this novel, I found myself drawn into the lives of the characters and before I knew it I was more than halfway through the book. Despite the subject matter of the Nazi occupation of Paris, this novel made a pleasant, undemanding and entertaining read, and although it's most probably not the book to choose if you want to be challenged or if you wish to discover in any real depth the role of the SOE in occupied France, it is an enjoyable book for bedtime or downtime reading. If you are looking for something that is light, without being too lightweight, and you want a story based partly on fact, but blended with fiction, then this could be just what you are looking for.