This book reminded me of The House Girl. So much so that I had to go and look it up to check if they were written by the same author. They're not.
Both books alternate chapters between a really compelling story from the past and a modern day character who is somehow tied to the historical story. In both cases, the modern day character adds very little to the overall story apart from making you wish you could get to the next chapter already to get back to the good parts.
I liked this book, but I'd have liked it more without so much intrusion from the present.