Bride of a Distant Isle
By Sandra Byrd
Published by Howard Books
372 Pages
REVIEW: The first line grabbed me and never let me go, “I had no warning before evil befell me.” I instantly cared for Miss Annabel Ashton as the novel is told through her eyes in first person, making the story very personal and at times intense. Annabell has been a teacher at the Rogus School for young ladies in Winchester. The year is 1851. Annabel plans a short visit with Edward and his wife but they have other plans. Edward Everedge is her cousin who has recently gained her mother’s inheritance when she passed. Annabell was an illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum. She would have no claim to the inheritance.

Things quickly change and Edward seems to have her trapped. The social structure of that time period had little opportunities for a single woman to have a say in her future. I loved how this author weaves historical details and culture into this story that were intriguing and at the same time didn’t bog the reader down. I also liked learning about some background of the Catholic Church and how it played out in society.

Strange things start to happen to Annabell when they arrive in the home of her childhood. Things go missing, then things appear! The servants start to treat her funny and start whispering behind her back. Annabel recalls, “I had been encouraged to forget all about my mother, to not think of her or speak her name, for fear of reminding others of her condition and set them wondering if madness was to be my legacy.”

Annabell makes friends with Captain Del’Acqua at her cousin’s request. Edward wants her to obtain information from the Captain that will help in his business dealings. Annabell doesn’t much like this new turn of events but begins to like the Captain very much. She’s hoping he can help her get out of the mess she finds herself trapped in.

In author notes I was surprised to learn how easily someone could be put in an Asylum and never get out. The author says, “The trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum,… listed some reasons for admission from 1864-1889 and they included: Reading novels, Nursing too long, Political excitement, Time of life (perhaps related to another reason for admission, Uterine Derangement), Laziness on conversely, Hard Study, and yes, Immoral life, or Moral Madness.”

What an eye opener. I couldn’t believe how easily someone could be committed (most of the list tailored to women).  Annabell digs deep into how her mother was admitted into the Asylum. She is also in search for her birth father. The things she uncovers rock her world. The author has a few surprises for readers that I didn’t see coming. Oh, My!! Buckle up and enjoy this fascinating, suspenseful adventure back in time as this courageous woman, Annabell learns how to navigate the system; as she learns who her real friends are and who will help keep her secret as she desperately tries to search for answers that might lead to freedom.

I highly recommend this read for pure enjoyment and for your book club pick. There is so much to talk about. This book is not for the faint of heart. There are nail biting parts and things that make you say, “What?” “No way!” I look forward to reading the next book in the Daughters of Hampshire series.

ABOUT AUTHOR: SANDRA BYRD. After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books.

Sandra's new series, Daughters of Hampshire, historically sound Gothic romances, launched in 2015 with best-selling Book One: Mist of Midnight. That book earned a coveted Editor's Choice from the Historical Novel Society. The second book in the series, Bride of a Distant Isle, releases in March 2016 and has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. Her latest nonfiction title, The One Year Home and Garden Devotions, published on October 1, 2015.

Check out her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, which was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Sandra has published dozens of books for tweens and teens, including the best-selling, The One Year Be-Tween You and God, Devotions For Girls.

She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year via

Please visit 

BACK COVER: An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother's honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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