Robyn Doherty’s debut novel Elmhurst Park incorporates elements of history, action and romance over a timeframe of nearly 20 years.
Set in medieval England, the book tracks the travails and trials of Esme, a strong, intelligent and resilient character who is kidnapped from her parents’ estate at the age of four. She spends the following 14 years with different names and homes, all the while searching for her true identity.
In relating that long journey, Doherty take cues from a wide array of genres. With its attention to detail and rich language, the book summons the in-depth, dense feel of a Jane Austen tome. Doherty also offers up plenty of action. Esme (also called Rose through the course of the book) is skilled with a sword and a bow and arrow; her search for her family and her roots comes with some exciting combat scenes. Finally, there’s an element of romance: As Esme starts to come to terms with her true identity, she also finds a connection with Edmund, a friend of her long-lost brother James, who never abandons his search for his lost sister.
The central conflict of the story is relatively simplistic, but Doherty has a knack for painting vivid and compelling characters. As she juggles different narrative elements, the author always retains a prime focus on the joys, challenges and inner workings of the cast of characters. This is true in the drawn-out trials of Esme, the determined focus of James, the agony of Esme’s bereaved parents or the sinister intentions of Lord de Glanville, Esme’s would-be suitor.
These well-drawn characters help keep the myriad elements working. Fans of romance and historical fiction will find many familiar cues to enjoy here, but the real rewards come in vivid personalities that remain compelling over a timeframe of many years.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.