Alicia Harrison shares a complicated past with the Stern brothers that has shadowed their lives since their teens.
As a child, Alicia and her big sister shared almost every experience with Nikolai and Ilya Stern, who lived next door. Jennilynn was the beautiful, popular, wild child whom Ilya loved, while Alicia and Niko danced around each other like flames, unsure of feelings that hissed and ebbed. Everything changes one summer when the teen boys’ unpredictable mother, Galina, brings home a new husband and stepdaughter and Jennilynn becomes distant and secretive. Alicia is torn between protecting her sister and being frightened for her, then is slammed with guilt when Jennilynn winds up drowned in the quarry near their homes. The death affected all of the survivors, sending them on to unexpected paths. Niko left to travel the world; Alicia and Ilya took comfort in each other through a loveless marriage and a business venture that should have been fun but became a burden, especially for Alicia. Now, more than a decade later, Alicia and Ilya are divorced and their business is struggling. When Niko comes home to say goodbye to his dying grandmother, he and Alicia wonder if the time has come to truly explore the attraction they’ve always shared. Then a figure from the past offers to buy the business, putting Ilya and Alicia at odds. Hart (Beg for It, 2016, etc.) explores tragedy, guilt, love, and longing with a masterful balance of emotional intensity and sexual tension using flashback vignettes to great effect, then hints at an explosive secret to be revealed in a sequel. Some pieces shouldn’t work in this book—for instance, the characters are often annoying, and the wafts of foul play are unresolved and so wispy the characters aren’t even aware of them, yet they occasionally feel ham-fisted to the reader. However, the terrific writing and fascinating storytelling compel and convince us to keep going.
Riveting even when it shouldn’t be.