Monday, March 27, 2017
The Widow's House by Carol Goodman
When Clare married Jess Martin, they had big plans. Both graduates of the writing program at their university, they expected to have stellar writing careers. Jess was first out of the gate with a novel that got a big advance and some praise, although their writing professor and mentor dammed it with faint praise. Then their plans got stuck. Jess's second novel just didn't seem to materialize. Clare basically gave up her own writing to support them, working in the industry as a copy editor instead.
The couple decide to get out of the city and move to the country where it is cheaper to live and both can start their writing careers anew. They are quickly dismayed when they realise their down payment won't buy anything they would want to live in. Finally, the real estate agent shows them a cottage on a local mansion. The owner needs a couple to move in and be caretakers on the property. It sounds ideal until they hear the owner's name. This is River House and it is the family home of their old college professor, Alden Montague, the man Jess believes killed his career. Clare has other misgivings as River House is in her old hometown and she isn't ready to move back and reestablish a life in a place she couldn't wait to leave as a young girl.
But they overcome their misgivings in favor of a fresh start. Monty, as he is known to all, seems delighted to see them both again and is quite encouraging of their efforts to rekindle their creative fires. He has other creative artists in residence, a puppeteer and a sculptor. Jess and Clare seem to fit right in. Clare is caught by the interior of the house and a picture that reminds her of the story she wrote in college that first caught Monty's eye. It was a story with gothic overtones of the Apple Queen, a local beauty queen who comes to a horrific end. Clare, with Monty's support, starts to expand this work. Jess's writing also seems to be off to a great start.
But things aren't that good. As Clare delves deeper into the legend, she learns that it is based on a real tragedy, a tragedy that involved Monty's family. His father had a torrid affair with a local girl but when she got pregnant, bought off the family with a farm and instead married a society girl, who also got pregnant right away. Having two women living a mile apart, both pregnant by the same man and fighting for his attention, led nowhere good. It ended in one baby stillborn, one woman drowned, the other hospitalized in a mental institution for life after killing the man who caused the tragedy. Now Clare is so involved in the story that it seems to come to life for her. She begins to see the ghost of the Apple Queen and comes to find that she may be related and more involved in the story than she had even imagined. The marriage starts to feel the strain as Jess seems to become jealous of Clare's work, although he passes it off as concern. Is Clare headed for a breakdown?
Carol Goodman specializes in novels featuring middle-class educated women who find themselves in situations that seem unlikely and border on the supernatural. She is a master at plotting and building tension and the reader is surprised at the denouement and how it all works out. This book is recommended for readers of psychological suspense. It can be purchased at Harper Collins or Amazon. I received this novel from TLC Book Tours.