Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Evergreen Falls

Summary: From internationally bestselling author Kimberley Freeman comes a captivating new novel about a scandalous attraction, a long-forgotten secret, and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever.

It’s 1926 and Violet Armstrong is a waitress at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel, where Australia’s glitterati are spending a winter vacation. Among the guests who remain are Sam and Flora Honeychurch-Blacks, a wealthy brother and sister ensconced in the hotel for an extended stay. Violet and Sam have an attraction that is as passionate as it is forbidden as the hotel closes down for the winter season. When a snowstorm moves in, trapping them all, no one could have imagined what would unfold. The group must let their secrets be buried by the snow, but all snow melts, exposing the truth beneath…

Eighty-eight years later, Lauren Beck takes a job at a cafĂ© in the Blue Mountains, built as the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s return to grandeur. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect overseeing the project. As their budding relationship grows, Lauren discovers a series of passionate love letters dating back to 1926 that allude to a whirlwind affair—and a tragic secret. Lauren begins to unravel this long-forgotten mystery, but will discovering the truth finally make her brave enough to take a risk that could change her entire life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, Kimberley Freeman has created a complex tale of mystery, heartbreak, and love that will keep you guessing with every twist until the very last page. -- Touchstone

EVERGREEN FALLS by Kimberley Freeman isn't the type of book that I traditionally review for Mystery Mondays; however when a book begins with the hiding of a dead body, I think it qualifies. EVERGREEN FALLS is part mystery/part love story with a little family drama thrown in, and it takes place in a gorgeous setting in Australia.

EVERGREEN FALLS has two stories separated by 88 years. Violet Armstrong is a waitress at the Evergreen Spa Hotel in 1926 and falls passionately in love with the charming Sam Honeychurch-Blacks, a very wealthy man who also happen to be a drug addict. Sam and his sister Flora (and an entourage of friends) are staying at the hotel for an extended stay in the hopes that Sam will overcome his addiction.

Meanwhile, fast forward 88 years to the present when Lauren Beck is working at a coffee shop in the Blue Mountains. The coffee shop is the first part of a huge renovation planned for the resort, and Tomas, an architect from Denmark, is in charge of the project. Lauren has a sheltered past and an unusual relationship with her family; however, she is determined to make a fresh start and she even finds herself falling for Tomas.

One day while snooping around in the old hotel, Lauren finds a set of love letters from 1926. She is determined to figure out not only who wrote the letters but also the tragic secrets referenced in them. As Lauren breaks free from the constraints of her past, she begins to discover truths about her family as well as her own inner strength.

I was initially drawn to EVERGREEN FALLS because of the mystery angle, and while there were definitely some intriguing mysteries in this novel, I didn't realize how much romance took place in this book. I'm not a huge fan of love stories and I admit that I probably am not the ideal reader for this novel. Having said that, I did enjoy this book and the writing quite a bit; and I thought the secrets in the story were interesting and revealed in a smart way.

One thing I really appreciated about this novel was how it was written. I enjoyed the alternating chapters between the present and the past, and I like how she set up the story with the dead body right at the beginning. The rest of the novel was flashbacks to the past and answers were revealed gradually, and I loved the little twists and turns. I also thought the author did a good job in building suspense, especially with the snow storm; and I did appreciate the pacing of the novel.

Another aspect of the story that I appreciated was the setting. Naturally a story taking place in the mountains of Australia provides some opportunities for some beautiful descriptions. However, I also really liked the time period in which the past story took place. (The author drew a lot from her grandmother's memoir!) The portrayal of women during this time was very interesting and the differences in class structure were also well done. I thought the author also did a good job in juxtaposing Flora and Lauren's lives even though 88 years separated them.

And finally, I really appreciated the character development, especially the women in the novel. Violet, Flora and Lauren were complex characters and their relationships in their lives were portrayed in a realistic way. All three of the women had different personalities, but there were similarities in what they were experiencing. I thought Ms. Freeman did a wonderful job of bringing them to life and making the reader care about all of them.

EVERGREEN FALLS would make a terrific book club selection. There was a reading guide (and author interview) in the back of my book; however, I couldn't find an on-line link for the discussion questions. There are also a few suggestions for ways to enhance your book club experience. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family dynamics, marriage, class structure, obligations, secrets, happiness, the role of women in society, and love.

EVERGREEN FALLS is an intriguing story about love and secrets. Recommended to fans of women's fiction, mysteries, and romance stories.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Alternating between the past and the present is a great way to tell a story and it almost always hooks me in. I wonder if this one has too much romance in it for me.