An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A sinister house looming over the sea …
He’s a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she’s not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they’re trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It’s going to be a long, hot winter.
This is the newest book from Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP). I’ve read a few other books of hers and really enjoyed them. I almost didn’t read this one and then almost didn’t finish it, but I’m glad I stuck with it and read it – turned out to be a really great book!! What almost turned me off the book was that it sounded (from summaries that I read) really dark and gothic, which is totally unlike SEP’s other books that I’ve read. The other issue was the main female character – Annie Hewitt – is a puppeteer or ventriloquist, and I’m not a fan. I mean, I like the Muppets, but that’s about it, LOL!
Anyway, Annie is an out of work actress/puppeteer in a financial crisis, and has nowhere to go but the cottage she inherited from her mother. And it’s where her mother supposedly left her legacy. It’s winter, and the cottage is on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. So, fun times – NOT!! Then she finds out that the nemesis from her teen years, Theo Harp is staying at the main house (his family’s mansion). He writes horror novels and wanted to be alone to work on his next novel. He wants her gone, and she wants to get him back for all the times he tormented her back when they were teens.
“You’re the one who’s not supposed to be here.” She hoped he didn’t hear the squeak in her normally reliable voice. “How am I supposed to snoop if you don’t leave when you say you’re going to?”
Yet they have chemistry, though neither wanted it. As the story progresses, they learn more about each other – hidden talents and secrets, and both start wondering if either is the same person they thought. Annie always thought Theo was a villain, but is he actually her hero?
“His writer’s words poured over her like poetry, and she couldn’t find a single wisecrack to put up between them.”
This book was very slow at first, which was why I almost gave up. Probably about halfway through, it really picked up and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Another thing that took some getting used to was that sometimes Annie’s puppets’ voices (or character voices) would be in her head helping her with her thought process. I get it, but it just took some getting used to.
“I’ll help you if you help me.”
“I’d be glad to except I have trouble cutting up dead bodies. All that bone.” Damn it. This is what happened when she spent too much time alone with her puppets. Their personalities took over.”
Besides the reacquainting between Annie and Theo, there are other things going on in the book, but not too much that it was too busy or distracting. Someone is trying to find Annie’s mother’s legacy or trying to get Annie to leave her cottage (which she has to stay there/on the island a certain amount of time or else she forfeits it), which makes her hard to trust anyone and makes everyone a suspect, even Theo at first. This brings about a protective streak for Annie in Theo. There’s also a small child that is mute, but she takes a shining to Annie’s puppets. So there’s some mysterious elements as well as romance.
All in all, I was glad I stuck with it because it turned out to be a great story! Really fascinating and different! Oh, and I sooo adored the epilogue!!
And because the male character’s name was Theo – this was what I kept picturing (even though he probably didn’t fit the description)!! You’re welcome.