Summary: Helen Honeycutt is just getting her life back on track after a bitter divorce when she meets Emmet Justice, an attractive widower still grieving for his late wife, Rosalyn. Their sudden marriage sets off a maelstrom of resentment and ill-will among Rosalyn’s family and friends. Hoping to mend fences, the newlyweds plan a summer at Moonrise, Rosalyn’s historic estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Moonrise is known far and wide for its unique nocturnal gardens, which have fallen into ruin since the death of its mistress.
Like the heroine of Daphne DuMaurier’s classic romance, Rebecca, Helen becomes obsessed by her predecessor, who lives on in her house and gardens and the hearts of those who loved her. Not only does Helen fail to measure up to the beautiful and accomplished Rosalyn, she doesn’t fit into her world, either, an elite enclave of well-to-do summer people. Even the gardens exclude her, since their secrets, passed down by generations of gardeners, died out with Rosalyn. When it becomes clear that someone in Rosalyn’s close-knit circle of friends is determined to drive her away, Helen wonders if she can trust anyone, even her husband. As the sweltering summer draws to an end, Helen must uncover the secrets of the past in order to establish her own identity apart from the woman she replaced. -- Maiden Lane Press
Last week I featured MOONRISE by Cassandra King along with a giveaway. I mentioned at the time that I was reading the novel, but unfortunately I wasn't able to finish it in time for a review. I admit that I was having a hard time getting into the story, but I think it was because of my crazy schedule, not the story itself. I was finally able to sit down and read in peace for a few hours over the long weekend, and I found that I did appreciate this beautifully written novel.
MOONRISE tells the story of Helen Honeycutt, a middle-aged woman who marries Emmet Justice, a successful television reporter and recent widower. Emmet's family and friends all think he married Helen entirely too soon after Rosalyn's death, and no one really welcomes Helen with open arms. The couple decides to spend the summer at Moonrise, Emmet's late wife's historic estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains; and Helen hopes to win over Emmet's friends and daughter.
However, Helen is met with a very cool welcome. Rosalyn's female friends have little in common with the much younger Helen, and they do their best to make her feel left out. Helen ends up obsessing over Rosalyn and the famous nocturnal gardens that she created. Partially because of Helen's insecurity (but also because of the the treatment of Rosalyn's friends), she eventually begins doubting everyone and everything... even Emmet. Helen finds that she has to uncover the truth about the past before she can move forward with her new life.
I'm not entirely sure that I would have ever picked up MOONRISE if it weren't for the author. I knew Cassandra King was married to Pat Conroy (one of my favorite writers), and I've always wanted to read one of her novels. When I heard about MOONRISE, I decided to try it... albeit with some reservation. I am not always fond of books like this, and I was concerned that the writing might be too descriptive for my tastes.
And I do think that was probably one of the reasons it took me so long to get into the story -- I just had too much going on to enjoy the finer details of Ms. King's writing. However, I did appreciate her ability to create some interesting characters and a very unusual setting. I also liked the feeling of intrigue that she created surrounding Helen's story. And as a result, I ended up liking the book -- not loving it, but liking it.
As I mentioned before, I was extremely impressed with Ms. King's ability to bring Moonrise and the small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains to life. I think she did a marvelous job of describing the various townspeople as well as the interactions of this well-to-do community. In addition, I could totally visualize the sights of the countryside as well as the effects of the drought on the land. However, the true beauty of this novel was in how Ms. King managed to make Moonrise and its gardens so incredibly real to me.
Another aspect of MOONRISE that I enjoyed was how Helen's story was told. The book alternated between three narrators including Helen, one of Rosalyn's friends, and a caretaker who was friendly with the group; and I loved how each woman brought insight into the story. I think Ms. King did a great job with making each character have her own voice, and I thought this was one of the definite strong points of the novel. In addition, the author was able to successfully incorporate a mystery and even a bit of a ghost story into a book about friendship and secrets.
MOONRISE was actually inspired by Daphne DuMaurier's novel REBECCA. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've never read REBECCA, so I can't really speak as to how the two novels were related. I'm sure fans of REBECCA will see the similarities though. In the back of the book, Ms. King does speak a little about MOONRISE and how REBECCA inspired her.
Because MOONRISE had some very interesting characters as well as a feeling of mystery and intrigue, I do think it would be interesting to discuss. There is a reading guide with eight questions that will help stimulate your discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include friendship, grief, betrayal, lies, adultery, marriage, families, secrets, and obsession.
Overall, I enjoyed MOONRISE and thought it was a beautifully written novel. Recommended to fans of Southern and Gothic fiction.
Thanks to The Book Reporter Network for providing a review copy of this novel.
Don't forget to check out my giveaway for a copy of MOONRISE!