Top critical review
Forgotten Room May Take Some Pains to Remember
Reviewed in the United States on December 27, 2015
The Forgotten Room is a collaboration by three well-known authors of romantic suspense that enjoy using the device of time-shift. The story is told from three different perspectives from three different points in time--three generations starting in 1893 and ending in 1944. Beatriz William's Schuyler family is entwined with the women of this novel--unfortunately, I have read only two of William's Schuyler sister-themed stories, so I am not quite sure as to where the Schuylers in this tale fit into the family tree. William's feisty-woman character is easy to pick out as is Lauren Willig's prose. As I am not at all familiar with Karen White, and not at all sure that each of the authors decided to choose and concentrate on a particular time period and character for this collaboration or if they all sat down and contributed to each of the narratives when they felt the inclination. My guess is that Williams wrote Kate, White wrote Olive and Willig wrote Lucy. Not sure about this, just basing it on my reading experience with these authors.
Because the novel has three authors, it tends to be a little choppy in terms of style and flow. It took me a few cycles of the three characters perspectives to fully get into the story--and even then it took me a while to figure out the relationship between the characters. From the start the only connection besides the mural of St George and the Dragon is the old Pratt Mansion which has gone from private estate to boardinghouse to hospital all within the span of a few generations. The Forgotten Room holds its secrets, but for the most part the secrets that it holds are rather superficial as by the time its secrets have been revealed, the reader already has it all figured out. The ruby necklace is what really ties the characters together; the forgotten room is pretty much forgotten . . . .
For those who enjoy this type of read, "the Forgotten Room" will compel you to keep the pages turning until you get to the very end where the social pressures and sadness of the past finally come together for one of the characters. The last chapter as an Epilogue seems redundant. The reader already knows what it will reveal; it seems like more of a writing exercise than a necessary point in the plot denouement. What would work better would be a Prologue where the character featured looks back from that moment in the room and sets the whole drama in motion rather than have the three women start things off, allowing the reader to flounder a bit as to what their relationships are and how their issues will be rectified.
I thought the Kate segment a little too pat; the part with Dr. Greeley being such a dreary skirt-chasing character a little too 2-dimensional. Kate as the doctor comes off a little too Pre-Raphaelite model and the character of Prunella Pratt not utilized to its full potential by any of the perspectives.
Bottom line? Interesting idea--a collaborative effort by three novelists. Does it work? It does, but the result tends to be a little redundant, a little choppy and a little foggy in terms of who the characters actually are and how they impact each other. The plot is typical; those who like the three featured authors will enjoy figuring out their respective contributions. Not a particularly memorable book; give me "That Summer" by Lauren Wlllig or "Along the Infinite Sea" minus the framing story by Beatriz Williams any day.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
"Buzzard's Eye View"