Set in the lush countryside of Provence, Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern is an atmospheric modern gothic tale of love, suspicion, and murder, in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Drawn to a wealthy older man, Eve embarks on a whirlwind romance that soon offers a new life and a new home—Les Genévriers, a charming hamlet amid the fragrant lavender fields of Provence. But Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house. The more reluctant Dom is to tell her about his past, the more she is drawn to it—and to the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful ex-wife. An evocative tale of romantic and psychological suspense, The Lantern masterfully melds past and present, secrets and lies, appearances and disappearances—along with our age-old fear of the dark.
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Amazon Exclusive: A TALE OF PROVENCE: The story behind The Lantern
I’ve been having a love affair with Provence for more than 25 years. The light, the views, the colors, the heat—I find them all intoxicating. I went for the first time with the college boyfriend who would become my husband; his family had had a house in the Luberon for some twenty years. We finally bought our own property in France five years ago after my husband decided to give up banking and realize his long-held ambition to compose music.
“Les Genévriers” (not the property’s real name) is described in The Lantern more or less as we found it. Its setting is as accurate as I can make it without giving away its precise location. The Luberon area is one of the most sought-after locations in Provence, known for its hilltop villages, lavender, abundant fruit and clear bright light. It is the area Peter Mayle famously chronicled in A Year in Provence.
In addition to the abandoned farming hamlet, the story has its roots in the lavender fields and perfume industry in the region. There are small lavender fields and tiny family-run lavender distilleries all around where we live, but the main centers are to the north in Sault and, as described in the novel, to the east at Manosque and the Valensole plateau.
The idea of a blind perfumer came from the realization that there were strips of Braille on the packaging used by beauty product brand L’Occitane en Provence, based at Manosque. In 1997 the company created the foundation Provence dans tous les Sens (All the Senses of Provence) to introduce visually-impaired children to the world of perfume creation. In the novel, Marthe Lincel finds her true talent as a perfume “nose” after a visit to the Distillerie Musset from the school for the blind she attends in Manosque, although this episode takes place in the 1930s.
For most of the 20th century in this region, there was a gradual erosion of traditional farming as young people moved to the towns to seek work in the new industries and factories. The struggle was intense for those left behind on the hill farms in a region that was poor until the advent of mass tourism. In The Lantern, as Pierre--the only brother--takes off for better-paid work, and Marthe finds increasing success in Paris, this is the struggle faced by Bénédicte at “Les Genévriers”—and the past which gradually comes to disquiet Eve, the heroine of the contemporary narrative strand of the novel.
Like Eve, I am an avid reader and worryingly prone to over-imagination. While at the house our first summer, camping on stone floors, I re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and was as captivated by it as ever--but my thoughts wandered... what if I had come to this place knowing less about the area, or perhaps, less about the man I was with?
A Look Inside The Lantern
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|Lavender field in sunlight||Garden door to the walnut wine cellar||View from Gordes to the Luberon ridge||A room with a view||Side door into the alleyway|
A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against thelush backdrop of Provence
Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les Genévriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.
But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.
Like its owner, Les Genévriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?
Eve does not know that Les Genévriers has been haunted before. Bénédicte Lincel, the house’s former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy—long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.
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