Book review: latest in Seven Sisters saga


The Story of Pa Salt

Lucinda Riley and Harry Whitaker

Pan MacMillan

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Desperate Seven Sisters fans can finally get their satisfaction with the release of the long-awaited final chapter in the series that started in 2014.

This is the second posthumously published story by Riley and the one that many fans thought would never come because the best-selling author succumbed to a long battle against throat cancer in 2021, shortly after releasing what was supposed to be the final book in the complicated series.

Book 7 ended with a cliffhanger and a bombshell author’s note saying that Riley had decided to expand the series into an eighth book.

Harry Whitaker, Riley’s eldest son, and previous collaborator, explains in the foreword that Riley had written extensive notes and timelines on the series. The notes were for a Hollywood company that had considered developing the story into a movie franchise in 2016.

He further adds that shortly after her diagnosis, Riley had discussed with him the possibility of finishing the series “if the worst were to happen”.

For me, the main attraction of this romantic, historical fiction series, is the hidden plot. Early on, readers guessed that the hidden plot, which runs through the first seven books, revolved around the mysterious Pa Salt, the titular sisters’ adoptive father.

Online videos and discussion boards abound with theories on how the enigmatic plot would play out.

“Arguably Lucinda’s greatest achievement is that no one correctly identified the secret driving force behind the series − and there have been thousands of theories,” Whitaker writes in the foreword.

The story of Pa Salt starts with two boys in 1925, in the frozen European north. It then moves to the diary that Pa Salt had left to his only biological daughter, Merry, from the Missing Sister.

As usual, the story then flip flops between past and present as the diary is read and discussed on the Titan superyacht which is cruising towards Pa’s assumed burial spot out at sea for a memorial wreath-laying.

Along the cruise, surprises are revealed, origins explored, truths are bombed, tears are shed, loves are requited and babies conceived.

If you’ve never read this series, Book 8 is not a good place to start. The other books can be read in any order − which I did − but Book 8 is designed as the mystery solver, so reading it first would spoil the allure of the other books.

I enjoyed the book but I missed Riley’s artistic flair. Riley’s stories have a magic touch that would probably be impossible to emulate and while Whitaker does a good job of tying up loose threads, this book didn’t have that same sparkly feel.

The only thread Whitaker leaves untied is the true meaning behind the coded letter that Elle sends to Horst and Astrid.

Perhaps Whitaker wanted to leave the online discussion boards with a new crumb to chew on.