Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Widow's House by Carol Goodman

It's been a few years since I read my last Carol Goodman novel.  I stumbled across her while I was shelving at my bookstore, thought I'd try out her writing, and I'm so glad I did. Her contemporary gothic thrillers are just the kind of novel I enjoy.

 I would compare her to Kate Morton and Simone St. James; if you're a big fan of novels set around the Hudson Valley, you should read not only The Widow's House, but some of her other novels. She's also written a series for teens: Blythewood, Ravencliffe, and Hawthorn. She hasn't forgotten young readers, either: The Metropolitans looks like a great little mystery, and I'm adding it to my TBR list.  

Onto The Widow's House.  Jess and Clare Martin are two writers who have hit rock bottom.  Jess' first and only novel, written just out of college, was a big hit, but he's failed miserably writing his second novel.  Clare has put aside her own desire to write (she's the better writer of the two) in order to work at a publishing house to makes ends meet.  A stressed marriage and no money combine to take the Martins out of New York City and back to Concord, a sleepy village in the Hudson Valley known for its apple orchards and Apple Blossom Queen Festival.  It is where Clare grew up, and met Jess at Bailey College.  Not a place Clare was eager to return to, as her memories of growing up in a harsh household, knowing she was adopted, has left her feeling a bit adrift.  

Jess and Clare end up at Riven House, a huge mansion out in the country, where Alden Montague--their former professor at Bailey College, resides in what was once a glorious estate.  Taking the caretaker's job means they have an affordable place to stay, and the quiet Jess needs to finish his novel.  

But of course things aren't that simple.  Clare sees a young woman standing outside; hears a baby cry in the night, and is haunted by the tale of the Mary Foley, her lover Bay Montague, and their tragic ending in 1929.  Is it Mary she sees at night near the river, holding her baby?  What story does Mary want Clare to tell?

As Clare digs into Mary's story, her own novel starts to take shape at a feverish pace, and her obsession with Mary's tragic life compels Clare to start exploring the house and the secrets it holds.  Does she just have a vivid imagination, or is there evil at Riven House?  

I've got to say, I enjoyed everything about this novel except the relationship between Jess and Clare. They are obviously an unhappy pair; his treatment of Clare just had me really annoyed and wanting to smack him upside the head. Clare's high school boyfriend is the sheriff in town, and from the first time they meet again, it's obvious he's the good guy, and the man she should be with--not Jess.  That was frustrating, waiting for the story to evolve.  Other than that, there's enough history, paranormal possibilities, and backstory to make this a novel that you will carry with you everywhere, waiting to read just a few pages.  
A perfect Halloween read.

Rating:  4/6 for the atmosphere; the story of the Apple Blossom Queen is solid, and Clare is someone to cheer on in her journey to unveil the mysteries of Riven House. 

Available in paperback and e-book.

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