book cover of Absolution by S Anne GardnerThe unknown engulfs Christina as she is yet to trigger memories from a horrific accident when she was a child

Tragedy overtook Christina Uraca Alacala when she was nine years old. Her socialite parents, linked to the Spanish Royal family, were killed in a road traffic accident along with her adored younger sister. Ever since her loving grandmother has shielded her from the world and refused to talk about her family.
But inside she seethes with the need to know what really happened. She knows there was a scandal, but nobody will explain why. She knows she has blocked memories – she didn’t speak for a year after the trauma – but nothing has yet triggered her recall.
Eventually, she breaks away from her grandmother’s enforced cocoon to search for the answers in America. Her research uncovers just one name, Annais Francesca D’Autremond. So when the opportunity presents to meet the woman who can explain her past Christina cannot resist.
She knows her life will never be the same, but has no idea how far her discoveries will take them both.
This is the third of S Anne Gardner’s books I have read and reviewed. They are all well written, well crafted and, most unusually, all completely different.
Unlike the more traditional lesbian romance of “The very thought of You” (which I loved), I complained that “Till there was You” was melodramatic and bodice-ripping. It was. But now I have read “Absolution,” I think there is also a trace of madness in the overwhelming passion.
“Absolution” was an interesting read. Almost the whole book is written in the first person. We only get Grandmother and Francesca’s emotions from Christina’s viewpoint. Inside Christina’s head is not a settled and balanced place to be. As the story unfolds her moods and emotions take increasingly wide swings which make it hard to follow and sometimes hard to empathise with. As her memories wake she is literally torn between the desire to forget and to stay in a cocooned ‘here and now’ with Francesca, and the history which is dragging her into reality and self-realisation.
I am not going to discuss the end of the book, not even close, as the concluding chapters take us somewhere I didn’t expect to go. No matter how clever you are, you won’t have guessed all the twists this plot unfurls. What I can say is that what we witness is a character unravelling as the truth invades her sheltered mind on all sorts of levels. From her own memories, the poignant reminders Francesca brings, visiting Spain, everything leads her to a tortured place which took me back to the “Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Having spent her life believing she was different from her selfish and uncaring parents she gradually recognises quite how like her family she really is.
What the book left me with was a sense of disquiet. I think I enjoyed it, I was certainly challenged by it. I am glad I read it. And now I can’t quite decide if I am really looking forward to Ms Gardner’s back catalogue or feel like following Christina’s example and walking away from reality.
Get it on Apple Books