An old tobacco plantation buries past secrets and unearths opportunities for new beginnings in Davis’ romantic generation-spanning debut.
Leslie Nichols returns to her North Carolina roots to claim an inheritance left by her estranged grandmother. Once a darling of the luxury lifestyle magazine world, 38-year-old Leslie’s fallen on hard times since glossies have succumbed to electronic media, and she’s eager to unload Peak Plantation, head back to NYC and start anew. Sounds like a solid plan, but the heiress runs into some major stumbling blocks. First, she discovers Grandma Maggie’s ventured into the winemaking industry and left half of her estate to a handsome, younger business partner, Jay Davenport. Second, Leslie’s determination to unload the large house and make a quick killing is thwarted by a real estate market that’s as bottomed out as Leslie. Third, a sepia photograph of an old grave and a set of keys pique Leslie’s curiosity, and suddenly, she’s all hot to uncover secrets about her ancestors. And there are secrets everywhere. After resisting, Leslie agrees to partner with Jay in the wine business and puts her marketing skills to good use. Of course, romantic sparks fly while Leslie discovers old paintings, papers and the unmarked grave in the photo. She also uncovers a tragic event that could hold the key to unanswered questions and searches for witnesses who might know more. Maggie’s father, Henry Gavin, his wife, Susanne, and her hired companion, Adele Laveau, are at the crux of the secret, but Leslie has trouble piecing together the nuggets of information she obtains. That’s because she doesn’t have the same advantage the reader has: Adele narrates much of her story from beyond the grave and supplies huge chunks of the puzzle to readers long before Leslie figures things out. But Leslie can be forgiven for her obtuseness: Although several paces behind the reader, she’s preoccupied with extraneous complications. Jay hasn’t been forthcoming about every aspect of his own life, and haunting memories of her childhood pop up along with her good-for-nothing father.
Davis’ writing is heartfelt and effective, but she adds too many superfluous characters and “secrets” to the plot.