Susanna Kearsley's characters are always both intriguing and engaging. She often only shares a small group of important characters in each story and develops each one to the point where they seem like real people who could come right off the page. In Mariana, we have Julia/Mariana, Iian, Vivian, Geoff, Tom, and Richard. I was invested in all of them right from the beginning of the story. Their personalities, their compassion and caring for one another, and their relationships. The settings are also always beautiful and make me want to pick up and travel. In this book, Julia buys an old 16th century cottage in England with a rich historical background, which makes a perfect backdrop for the time travel element in the story. One thing that consistently attracts me to these books are the stories that accompany the settings. That many of these place really existed fascinates me. Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genre but Kearsley seems to have the perfect combination of history, romance, and just a touch of the supernatural in the form of time travel. I was completely enthralled.
Not only did I love the present day story with Julia, but the past story where she traveled back in time and became Mariana was lovely. Julia's time slips flowed seamlessly and I was able to easily tell when she arrived in her past life, and when she returned to the present. The comparisons between the two times were absorbing, especially the details concerning the settings of the manor house, dovecote and surrounding area. The romance in both time periods was endearing, as in most of Kearsley's books. Both Julia and Mariana experience love but Mariana's story is more passionate. Unfortunately, it is also more tragic and bittersweet than Julia's present day relationship. The intrigue develops as Julia finds herself traveling more and more to the past and finds herself in danger of losing herself to the person she used to be.
In my opinion, Kearsley's entire style of writing is captivating. Her attention to detail and the haunting yet "fairytale" feel of the story make you want to go back and reread passages over and over, which I did on several occasions and will most likely do again.