In this romantic thriller, mysterious convergences link two lives separated by 100 years.
In 1996, after her reputation, marriage, career as a TV journalist, and relationship with her adult son, Chad, are trashed, Morgan Reed starts over in Milltown, Pa., a village in beautiful Bucks County. She feels drawn there, particularly to the 200-year-old former rectory that she buys. In 1895, Evangeline Laury, minister’s wife and mother to a small boy, feels stifled in provincial Milltown. She misses the cultured life she’d led in Philadelphia and her painting, especially when she learns that a local American impressionist, the charismatic Daniel Duvall, is giving lessons. As Morgan, with the help of her handsome but mercurial neighbor Victor, works on a documentary about 1895 Milltown, she uncovers more spooky parallels between her life and Evangeline’s. Both women, desperate for love and connection, are guiltily caught between competing attractions and responsibilities, whether for a husband, lover, child or work, and both women will experience the tragic death of someone close. In her debut novel, Barton writes lush descriptions of beauty and desire, with interesting historical details, many of which seem borrowed from real-life American impressionist painter Daniel Garber and his Bucks County studio at Cuttalossa Farm. (Black-and-white historical photos in the book go uncredited.) Though the narrative works to account for Morgan’s needy self-pity and Evangeline’s blind desire, readers might feel less sympathy than the writer intends, especially since other characters pay the ultimate price for the women’s culpability. In particular, deeply emotional Evangeline’s self-punishing guilt becomes internal melodrama. When Victor very reasonably objects to involving sullen, hard-drinking Chad on the documentary project, it’s a welcome moment of sensibleness: “It is not my problem to save your son.”
Emotional, doom-tinged and spooky, with two deeply flawed heroines.