Once again Luanne Rice has gifted us with an emotional tale set but this time she strays a bit from her familiar New England and gives us a Nova Scotia setting; she uses fictional towns and locations but my best guess is the Cape Breton area.
The very pregnant Mara Jameson had disappeared from the garden of her grandmother's home in Connecticut on the summer solstice nine years earlier. Every year on the anniversary of her death, the media brings her name up again, wondering what in the world happened to the seemingly happy young woman. Recently retired police detective Patrick Murphy has never given up his quest. He has always thought her husband, successful businessman Edward Hunter had something to do with her disappearance but has never been able to prove anything. Every year he visits her grandmother, Maeve, hoping for another clue; something else she might remember.
Up in Hawk's Cove, Nova Scotia two women have come to escape abusive marriages. Both women have nine-year-old daughters. Lily Malone and her daughter, Rose, have lived in Hawk's Cove for nine years. Lily runs a stitchery shop and her real love in her life is her daughter Rose who was born with a heart defect and has been in an out of hospitals her entire life. The other woman is Marisa Taylor who with her daughter, Jessica, has more recently come to Hawk's Cove. Marisa is more mysterious but the two young girls have become best friends. The two young women are a part of a larger group of women who call themselves the Nanouks, a group of friends who are always there for one another in this isolated but idyllic area which draws many visitors who go on whale watching trips to see the many different types of whales including the amazing beluga whales.
Then there's Liam Neill. Instead of captaining whale watching boats like the rest of the men in his family, he became an oceanographer, even after a terrible tragedy as a youth caused him the loss of an arm. He has become protective of Lily and Rose ever since they came to down and even though Rose cares for him a great deal, Lily and him have always remained at a distance emotionally. Then when tragedy is barely averted during what was supposed to be a fun whale watching outing for Rose's 9th birthday, everything changes.
I started this book Saturday afternoon while looking out at the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where I had just recently started the first whale watching trip I'd ever been on less than a month ago so of course was gripped to the pages from the beginning. I had the sound of the waves hitting the beach resonating all around me as I was reading, unable to put the book down. And a more emotional book I'd be hard pressed to find. I rarely have admitted this to others, so to do so in a review is really putting myself out there, but I have been in a relationship such as the one Lily and Marisa found themselves in. I could really identify with them.
And Liam. Ah Liam. Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series has often been called the most perfect hero in fiction written today. Liam Neill gives him a run for the money. He is sensitive, caring, and downright sexy. He is strong, intelligent, and loves children. What more could you ask for??
Luanne Rice's emotional writing brought me to tears more than once, and she gave a twist near the end that I never saw coming - one that had me sit straight up from my halfway-lying down position! I was completely exhausted from a stay spent doing a very tedious chore, arriving home at 11PM, but I had about 90 more pages to read and even though I knew I had to get up early to go to work in the morning, there was no way I could not go to sleep without finishing this book. It is that good.
If I had any complaint about this book, it's that I found it to not quite stand alone. It leads into Rice's June 21st release SUMMER OF ROSES. But really, it is a minor quibble. You can be sure I will be first in line to get that book the day it comes out (do you think I can call the summer solstice a holiday so I can take the day off work to read it??) The book is so outstanding, the characters so wonderful, and the villain such a well-done villain. I've long been a fan of Luanne Rice's books and this just cements her standing as one of the authors on my automatic-buy list. I think I actually may have a couple of her books around the house I haven't read yet; that won't be the case for much longer because I am going to round them all up and move them to the top of the TBR pile. Well done, Ms. Rice, I don't know how I can stand waiting for the next two weeks! Note to family: Gift certificates make a good birthday presents (mine being in 11 days :-)