I loved her first (and possibly second?) book, but not whatever came after. She was an author I’d kind of soured on, but had high hopes for this one,which features some of the same characters from the first book. Well, phew! I loved this. This was told in a format I really enjoy: two stories told in alternating chapters, the story in the present day is a character who is trying to figure out a story in the past (a bit of a mystery, or puzzle), and the alternating story, set in the past, is that mystery story happening. There was a Lisa Jewell story done this same way and I really enjoy it, especially when everything comes together in the end.
The characters in this story are the same characters from the first two books, but would you believe, despite some tidy summarizing, I really still can’t remember those books or what happens in them at all??! As you can see, though, it doesn’t matter if you knew those characters, you can read this as a full standalone novel. [*I just went back and read my 2008 post about Belong to Me, which did a tidy job of refreshing my memory. Interestingly the review also contains a nearly identical sentence to the one preceding this aside. I have no review of Love Walked In, so I must have read that pre-blog.]
In present day Clare is about to marry a seemingly perfect guy, but she bails on the wedding. She had misgivings about the whole thing and a conversation with a sweet old lady pushes her to take the step to cancel. Weeks later she finds out the sweet old lady has died and left her a beautiful seaside house. In the house she finds some mysterious ledgers and believes the sweet old lady, Edith, had something going on in the house that she is meant to figure out and embarks on a quest. Meanwhile, the alternate chapters show us Edith as a young woman, in love, in that house, and the fascinating story of her life unfolds.
A couple of the things I liked about this story were the historical take on domestic violence, and also the natural beauty of Delaware and the wildlife they observed, very beautifully woven into the story. Edith’s love story is a bit Notebook-y (that is to say, so perfect and you can kind of visualize it in a golden glow, and also so sad.)
I really liked how the two stories were woven together and I was even a bit surprised at the ending (and delighted.) And though it’s not obvious to Clare, it will be obvious to literally every reader from the get-go how her romantic life will turn out.
*One very exciting part was when the character said there was a scene in a book she loved as a child and I thought “oh I wonder if I’ll recognize the book” and not only did I recognize it, it was from The Four Story Mistake, which is one of my all time favorites. It felt like a wonderful personal detail just for me and made me like the author even more (because I assume that she personally loves that book, too.)