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I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review
What it's about...
Sophie DiRossi was the "bad girl" who got pregnant by one of the boys from the manor when she was young and left town. She and her daughter are back in town and Sophie's working at the manor again. Her daughter, Mia, was traumatized in a fire and doesn't speak. Sophie's got secrets she's protecting with her life.
Liam Gallagher is a son of the manor, a firefighter, who's taking a break after a traumatic fire that caused the death of a friend. He can't seem to get past the trauma of the fire, but he doesn't want anyone to know. He was once in love with Sophie DiRossi when they were younger.
Colleen Gallagher, the family matriarch, dies at the age of 104. She has been a strong hand on the helm for so many years. She has been the keeper of the secrets as well. In fact she wrote all the secrets down in a book, but she can't remember where she put it. But everyone wants to find that book before someone else does so that their secret doesn't get out. Because Colleen knew everyone's secrets.
Can Sophie and Liam work out their own secrets before someone causes any more harm? Can they admit what everyone else already knows about them? Can Mia speak up in time?
The cover is beautiful with all its rich color and Christmas theme. The red boots with snowflakes are right out of the book, too! Nicely done and not overdone!
The story line is a familiar one with the young woman with child returning to town and meeting her childhood love. They both have to deal with all the secrets that a small town has as well as the secrets they each have before they can come together and be a happy couple.
The characters were outrageous! These people were so real that you felt like you knew them from somewhere. Colleen as the matriarch was familiar as she went through trying to do the best for each of her family members. She was a delightful character. The two primary characters, Sophie and Liam were so well written, too. They were exactly what they should be. Two young people caught in a situation not quite of their own making. They each had their own secret to reveal and pain to deal with before they could come close enough to really fall in love. And Mia! Wow, what a dynamite little character she was even when she wasn't speaking. She was a strong presence and made herself felt in every situation perhaps especially because of her silence.
The pace was smooth and brisk. There was no choppiness here. You moved from one event to another rapidly, but the transitions were fluid.
The tension, perhaps due to the smoothness of the transitions, built nicely. A slow, steady building of pressure as events unfolded.
The writing quality is wonderful. Ms. Mason has a style of writing that invites you in and takes you for a ride. She writes wonderful dialog as well as colorful description. And yet, her action scenes make you feel that you are part of the action, too. No stilted conversation here. Everything sounds just like you would expect it to really sound if someone were speaking. You can hear the accents of the butler greeting a guest compared to the tones of the Italian grandmother scolding her adult grandson. She can create a playful character and a depressed character just with the way she describes them and makes them speak. You can actually feel the emotion of the character.
And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...
The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰✰
I already said so much up above, is there more to say here? Well, let's see what my notes say. There's Colleen Gallagher, the matriarch of the family. She's so cool! She has managed her family for her whole life, 104 years. Now she has a heart attach and dies. But she resists going to heaven, so she ends up haunting the family while they work out who's going to be in charge now. Kitty is the grandmother, but she has her issues and not everyone would follow Kitty. Kitty wants to be in charge at the manor and bring it back to its former splendor. Kitty's ideas haven't been successful so far. A number of the grandchildren, Liam included feel that the manor should be sold and the money divided throughout the family. They see the manor as a drain on the family resources and not something that they want to be involved in. Their lives aren't focused on Greystone Manor. Liam, for instance, is a firefighter up in Boston. He's only at home currently resting after the traumatic incident of his buddy's death. Liam's still having flashbacks, which is his secret. Or so he thinks. His father, Colin, is the local fire chief. And his best friend, Marco DiRossi, works as a firefighter under his father's command. They both recognize what's going on with Liam. But for Liam, the manor doesn't play a large part in his current future the way he sees it. At least not until he reconnects with Sophie.
But even the town isn't necessarily all of one mind about the manor. The mayor and a real estate agent seem to be in cahoots with a developer who wants to buy up the manor and tear it down to built condominiums there or something. The retailers are all for the manor getting itself pulled together and doing business as it has in the past or as Sophie and her team foresee, as a location for weddings and other special events. With that solution, everyone wins because the manor would use the unique local retailers as their resources and everyone would prosper.
I always love a book that has a cat in it that plays a special role. Simon is a black cat with blue eyes. He was with Colleen when she died. And he keeps her company on her haunts after she dies and does small things for her. He also likes Mia, who seems to see Colleen, also.
Michael Gallagher is Liam's cousin. He's the young man that Sophie had been seeing before she left town seven years ago. Now, he's engaged to Bethany and it's their wedding that's supposed to save the manor by providing some great press! So what does he do at the rehearsal party? He stands up to give his speech and tells them all, Bethany included, that he no longer wants to be a Senator or a lawyer even, but that he has applied to the Police Academy. His future mother-in-law is the first one to react with the vitriol she is famous for. Then Bethany seems to finally wake up and realizes what he's said. She whips off her engagement ring and flings it at him with her by now famous vitriol. He makes a comment about it's a good thing he found this out before they got married and had kids. And, of course, her comment is, "What kids?" And with that, the wedding is off for Michael and Bethany. But never fear, there's always someone willing to step into the spotlight. This was the only wrong note for me. Liam goes down on one knee and proposes to Sophie and they get married in Michael and Bethany's place. Not that we get to go to the wedding, but I just thought it was a bit hokey. Oh well. I suppose it had to happen.
This book left us with some questions. Who is Dana? Through the whole story she's an older woman who changes wigs and such to change her appearance. She's obviously been around the upper crust as she's very comfortable with them and they don't ruffle her at all. She has a wonderful knack for decorating beautiful homes and planning events. And she has an extensive wardrobe with beautiful clothes. So, who is Dana?
What is Julia's secret? Julia wins Mistletoe Cottage in the drawing. Simon put his paw prints all over he tickets when she was filling them out. Then Mia made sure she got one of those tickets at the drawing so that Julia won. Then Julia read the tag on the key that said "to Mia" and knew it was from Santa. Since she's a Santa's Helper and has taken the pledge, she has to give the cottage to Mia. She and Mia whisper back and forth a bit and Julia leaves. But Colleen knows that Julia has a secret that has to be revealed. What is her secret and why does it have to be revealed? What does it have to do with her shop Book and Beans?
And last of all, where is Colleen's book? In her video message to the Widow's Club, she's just about to tell them where her memoirs are when she leans against the TV for support and falls into it instead. That destroys the video and no one knows where the book is. They do know what it looks like because she was holding it in her hand in the video before it went all static. But Colleen knew everyone's secrets. And everyone has a secret. So, now everyone wants to find that book so that they can hide their secret before it gets out. So, someone has it, but who? And what will they do with all those secrets?