Secrets from the past threaten a young woman’s future in this debut novel.
Allison Weston overcame a traumatic childhood to build a promising career as a teacher of hearing-impaired children at St. Ives Institution in South Harbor, Michigan. An orphan, she has lived at St. Ives since she was 10 years old. She remembers little of her past or the circumstances that led to the death of her mother. Deeply committed to the institution, she plans on becoming a nun; however, her guardian, Sister Margaret, wants her to live on her own before taking her vows. The prospect of romance is the last thing on her mind until she meets photojournalist Ryan Harper. Handsome and sincere, he is drawn to Allison and embarks on a campaign to win her love and trust. Just as she is starting to reconsider her future, she is tormented by reminders of the past. A series of anonymous letters hints at her involvement in a murder, and she begins to have horrifying nightmares. Desperate to help unlock the secrets of Allison’s past, Ryan begins his own investigation. As the threats escalate and hit close to home, Allison and Ryan find themselves in a race to discover the truth. Dutton’s tale is solidly entertaining, with engaging characters and a plot that successfully weaves together a tender love story and an unpredictable mystery. The novel is anchored by Allison, a gifted teacher discovering life outside the institution that sheltered her for more than a decade. She is well-matched with Ryan, and their romance unfolds at a gradual but believable pace as Allison struggles to decide whether she should pursue a relationship with him. The strong supporting characters include Allison’s neighbor Holly Kiefer and Maria Giovanni, the rectory housekeeper and the heroine’s closest confidante. Setting plays a key role, and Dutton does a fine job of bringing South Harbor to life, from lively summer festivals at St. Ives to Allison’s favorite lighthouse. The love story is well-balanced with the mystery, which offers suspense and valuable insight into Allison’s background.
A satisfying combination of romance and mystery.