Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?
The baronet’s older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems–and secrets–of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father’s academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.
When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor’s daughter figure out which brother to blame…and which brother to trust with her heart?
Review by Sophie
When I first picked this book I thought there was something supernatural about it but that was not the case. I, nonetheless, enjoyed the book’s little twists in the plot and the foundation of the plot about how the Weston estate resides near this harbor/port where it was too dangerous for seamen and ships to cross. This leads to many deaths and also clashes of interest because many of the town’s residents felt it was their right to take any items from the wreckage. Tensions arise when some (& Henry Weston) state that they should save the lives of the seamen rather than let them die ashore and takes what’s left of the duties. This would later lead to the near-death of Henry and Emma which also brought them closer together..
He deepened his kiss, her mouth melding to his. He wanted to make up for every second, every missed opportunity from the past or unlikely future. He wanted to savor her, breathe her in, and thank her creator for everything about her. From her elegant figure to her soft lips to her keen intelligence. Even her confounded love of order. If only they had more time.
The mystery part of the plot is strange things happening in the Weston estate. This adds another layer to Henry’s personality and helps Henry develop a closeness with Emma when she figures out who it is.
We are introduced to Emma Smallwood. She is intelligent, mature, and responsible. Like the main character in the book Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson, Emma wants to travel but not because she feels like a caged bird wanting for an escape, she wants to travel to places like Italy because she so admires the experience of travelers and wants to enjoy an adventure.
In bed that night, Emma drifted to sleep thinking of her Aunt Jane, how they had enjoyed reading travel diaries together,looking at maps, and planning a “someday trip” of their own.
She never really had a real friend because her intelligence intimidated and annoyed the girls and some boys.
Emma felt tears prick her eyes at Lizzie’s insight. She inhaled deeply and turned away from the girl’s direct gaze. “If so, it was never my intention. There were times I would have traded years of book-learning for one honest-to-goodness friend.”
She sensed Lizzie’s look of surprise in her peripheral vision but kept her own face turned away. She had surprised herself with the admission. Embarrassed herself too.
Lizzie squeezed her arm once more. When Emma dared glance over, she glimpsed tears sparkling in Lizzie Henshaw’s eyes.
“I shall be your friend,” she whispered. “If you’ll have me.”
I liked that passage. It was very sweet and felt real and not cheesy.
While I was reading , I made a mental note to point of somethings. I was really happy that the author included some depth for the servants in the Weston estate. It was a bit Downton Abbey-esque.
Seeing his valet’s long-suffering expression, Henry suggested, “perhaps the waterfall tie tonight?”
Merryn’s fidgeting fingers paused, and he stared up at his master with wide eyes, which brightened from shock to extreme pleasure in a heartbeat. “Yes,sir!”
Another thing I noticed was there was a few Christian messages in there which did related to the situation but it pulled me back from the story because sometimes it would pop out as situational metaphors (which distracted me from the main story). At first I did not understand why there were a lot of those messages but I read on some comments and they said it blends in perfectly with the time period.
Overall, this book held my interest. The ending tied up nicely with no unanswered questions which I loved. I liked the plot and most of the characters. The romance part was not all that cheesy and the main characters were childhood acquaintances. This allowed us flashbacks to their past together which weaved into the present story.
Grade: A close 5 but not a 5.