New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is back with a delightful novel filled with her sassy wit and dazzling charm.
He's a reclusive writer whose imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill his characters with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill an audience with laughs. But she's not laughing now.
Annie Hewitt has arrived on Peregrine Island in the middle of a snowstorm and at the end of her resources. She's broke, dispirited, but not quite ready to give up. Her red suitcases hold the puppets she uses to make her living: sensible Dilly, spunky Scamp, and Leo, the baddest of bad guys. Her puppets, the romantic novels she loves, and a little bit of courage are all she has left.
Annie couldn't be more ill prepared for what she finds when she reaches Moonraker Cottage or for the man who dwells in Harp House, the mysterious mansion that hovers above the cottage. When she was a teenager, he betrayed her in a way she can never forget or forgive. Now they're trapped together on a frozen island along with a lonely widow, a mute little girl, and townspeople who don't know how to mind their own business.
Is he the villain she remembers, or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It's going to be a long, hot winter.
When 33-year-old ventriloquist Annie Hewitt returns to a Maine island and the isolated cottage where she spent her teenage years, she only expects to recover her health and search for a legacy left by her mother. She doesn't expect to find widower Theo Harp in the manor house on the hill, or Jaycie Mills, the quiet woman who once saved her life, working as his housekeeper and raising a mute four-year-old daughter. Phillips (What I Did For Love) uses hints and references to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca to create a sometimes tense atmosphere, using the structure of the older book to both fulfill and subvert the reader's expectations. Theo fulfills his role as the stereotypical brooding hero, and Annie is much more independent than her counterpart as she learns about her past, helps Jaycie's daughter overcome trauma, and investigates the mysterious occurrences that are trying to drive her off the island. Details of smalltown New England life round out this powerfully successful homage.
the balance of information, humor, intrigue, tension and personalities just worked for me
Recommendations aside, how was it possible for me to refuse a story described as a modern-day Jane Eyre and set off the Maine Coast (I summered there for years). Short answer – no way. And I am so glad that I did, despite the slower than expected start to reach the ‘meat of the story.
Annie has returned to an island that she summered at as a kid, with several reservations: the island holds some bad memories of Theo Harp – an inveterate bully. Of course, the reasons for her return are mixed up with a legacy from her mother, and she’s not all that busy working now, so just how bad could it be?
Theo is a writer of horror, and the setting and his initial introduction was less than endearing: from his nasty childhood behaviors to his rather emo personality kept him at arm’s length for me for quite a while. Phillips’ writing and developmental arc for him, however, did give him that Heathcliff feel, even as I found him more intriguing by the end.
Of course, this is an island and in the middle of winter it should have felt claustrophobic, not as charming or endearing as in summer, but the interactions with the townsfolk, her never-ending interactions with her puppets (some quirky, others funny but always helping her to compartmentalize her own interior thoughts) and the moments with Annie and the Puppets and Livia, who at four does not speak, are wonderfully intriguing and full of life. While the mystery of who wants Annie off the island wasn’t overwhelming, the threads tied together nicely to keep a bit of additional tension.
Slow to start, with lots of information presented in Annie’s conversations with her puppets, her character shows a deeply developed interior life that impacts her desire and intrigue for Theo – the need to know his why was more important than anything else. And his silence caused from guilt and deep sorrows is a deep well that she shines a light into. Their chemistry was variable: I’d see it then not – best shown with the dialogue and jibes they threw at one another, their slower more sensual moments became more believable as the story progressed. I’m not a reader who gravitates to stories that keep me filled with tension waiting for the shoe to drop, and the balance of information, humor, intrigue, tension and personalities just worked for me. I’m now off to add more of this author’s books to my shelf.
I received a paperback copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility
Susan Elizabeth Philips is always a great read read. Her quirky heroines and strong hero’s always make me happy I picked up one of her books.
This book is great it has everything a fantastic read needs. I hope you’ll read it and love it as much as I do.
Heroes are my weakness
Loved this book. Very entertaining characters and stories.