From the author of Sweet Hollow Women comes a new novel about friendship, surprises, and the secrets that hide in the shadows of even the most ordinary-seeming lives.
It’s been five years since the idyllic oceanside town of Port Elspeth was rocked by tragedy. Shortly after their high school graduation, Evangeline Maddingly, daughter of one of the town’s wealthiest old-money families, and Oliver Prescott, son of one of the town’s wealthiest new-money families, were found dead in an isolated cabin in the woods outside of town. The circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths are murky at best, thanks in large part to a coroner with connections to the town’s founding families and a sweeping effort from those in power to shut down any negative publicity that could harm the reputation of their pristine community.
Five years later, a small group of strangers gather to create jewelry for one of Port Elspeth’s many fundraisers. Before long, friendships are forming and old secrets are being revealed. Along with solving the mystery of how to make a perfect pair of chandelier earrings or cabochon necklace, these unlikely friends find themselves at the heart of solving the murders that took place half a decade earlier.
Dont’ get fooled by the warm palette going on in the book cover. Or the cozy-sounding title. Sure, the book has its share of fun conversations over tea, dessert and jewelry-making sessions. But so much of it skates over an undercurrent of tensions and awkwardness due to the women’s family dynamics.
This story focuses on six women – Margo, Pearl, Cadence, Olivia, Audra, Vivienne – Through them, themes of non-conformance, personal validation in a relationship and the desire for acceptance is explored. It also gets discomfiting to see the near-comical lengths people try to change and adapt to get accepted. But, in the end, most of them help see the other how they are shortchanging themselves and can script a different tale.
This is a book which does the multiple-PoV well. It employs some elements of unreliable narration which not only goes well in building up the mystery but also works well in showing all the dysfunctional dynamics – of parenting, dating, marriage and friendships. It flowed with the storytelling and so it never felt like all the different voices were unnecessary. This also has Tierney-Bedord’s trademark commentary on social appearances and an almost satirical view of the hoity-toity politics of a society comprising the rich, privileged families in a small town – and we are also talking about its founding fathers here.
The murder-mystery stems from and builds on all these factors and pushes the plot to a darker space. It isn’t the most unpredictable whodunit but it is compulsively readable – even at 400 pages.
I am not sure if any spinoffs are in the works, but I can totally see it happening. There is a lot that can be explored further.
This is my second Tierney-Bedord book and once again, I am taken aback by what the book turned out to be. She always manages to write stories that, going by their covers, seem to be in the “chicklits-known-for-their-sunshine-and-rainbows” space, but ends up taking up a wholly unexpected direction. Yet, you never feel bogged down as a reader because it never gets heavy or preachy. There is always this extra zing to her stories that I wish more “chicklit/women’s fiction” had. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the fun ones too – which is all about wedding crashers, bridal parties and old exes. But, well, you get the drift – it would be nice to have more books that don’t need to be a RomCom+ChickLit .
*I received an e-copy of this book from the author, Holly Tierney-Bedord in exchange for an honest review*
How often do you judge a book by its cover? How often have you been wrong in guessing the vibe of the book based on its cover?