Delilah Grey, widow of the wealthy Chauncey “Cee” Buford after having started out as his mother's maid, seeks out and takes in women experiencing difficulties to ease her own pain.
Her latest project, Tracey Walters, was abused by her successful husband, just as Delilah was. Tracey got away with her two children but is broke and about to be evicted. Delilah invites her to stay at her beachfront home, Harbor Hill, which she inherited after Cee died decades ago under murky circumstances. Delilah survived not only her marriage, but a murder conviction and subsequent release on appeal, which makes her an outcast. Her only friend seems to be Aidan, the grown son of one of the women she helped. Aidan takes care of Harbor Hill and its grounds and often sleeps with the women who come to stay. This sets up the unlikely scenario that he doesn't try to sleep with Tracey, allowing for conflict when she finds out how he usually behaves and thinks his kindness to her is a prelude to trying to sleep with her, too. The climax of the story is page-turning but requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief in the buildup; for example, Tracey’s mom encourages her to return to her violent husband and even tells him where she lives. The story centers on domestic abuse as well as racism, classism, and mental illness. All of these are important topics that merit attention in fiction, but Stratton (Between Lost and Found, 2017) dilutes each of them by trying to provide suspense and romance and also cover those things, and doing none of that successfully. That the police never even try to find out who really killed Cee seems unrealistic, as does the complete lack of resources or support for the abused women besides each other.
Will the two women put their troubled pasts behind them and find happiness? By the end of this frustrating novel it’s hard to care.