Author: Kimberley Freeman
Hachette RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Any book with secrets, hidden scandals, conflict and romance is bound to capture my attention and Evergreen Falls, the latest from Kimberley Freeman, did just that. I started reading … and read … and read … only stopping when the book woke my falling on my face. The next day, I was itching to read it … and when it was finished, I didn’t want it to be. I love it when a book does that.
It’s 2014 and Lauren has moved to the Blue Mountains to work in a cafe at the Evergreen Spa, leaving behind her suffocating parents; she’s spent years putting their needs, and before that, those of her sick brother, before her own, and now, at 30, she has a great need to break free. The Evergreen Spa is being renovated and Lauren finds herself attracted to Tomas, the Danish architect overseeing the massive undertaking. While exploring the hotel, Lauren finds some love letters dating back to 1926; the contents reveal a passionate affair and hint at a scandalous mystery. Who are the two lovers? What was covered up more than 80 years earlier? As Lauren unravels the mystery, Violet Armstrong’s story unfolds – a story of her doomed love affair with the opium-addicted heir to a rich grazing family. Despite keeping the affair from Sam’s sister and her fiance, everything comes to a head when a skeleton staff and handful of guests are trapped at the hotel, cut off by a raging snowstorm. Here’s a sample:
‘I knew it couldn’t last,’ he said. ‘It never does.’
Violet’s heart lurched. ‘Don’t say that! I still love you as much as I ever did. Forget I mentioned it. I will be there for you tonight.’
‘Reluctantly, no doubt.’
‘No. Eagerly. Wanting you. As I always do.’
He waved her away. ‘Don’t bother.’
Violet searched her mind for something to say that would reassure him, but he was slipping into away into his private oblivion, so instead she simply stayed close, laying his head in her lap and stroking his hair while he floated away on a river of bliss.
The dual narrative, dual time period novel has some classic gothic elements including a moody setting (stormy weather, the fog and cold, damp winter of the Upper Blue Mountains), a house (in this case, a hotel) holding old secrets and highly-strung characters. As is typical of this type of novel, the older story unfolds after the present-day heroine stumbles upon the mystery; this one has a smooth transition between stories, each time stopping just when you want a bit more. It’s my favourite kind of book. Sometimes I don’t find prologues all that wonderful, but this one was great. Freeman caught me up in the mystery from the get-go, building the story to a climax that kept me turning pages because I just couldn’t be left hanging.
As well as creating a terrific atmosphere of mystery, there’s some great character development throughout the novel, particularly in the case of Violet and Lauren, who seemed like polar opposites at times, but ultimately shared a deep sense of parent-guilt and a desire to throw off the shackles and live. I especially related to Violet, caught up in her lover’s addiction, but felt so sad for her. The romance between Lauren and Tomas didn’t detract from the mystery (partly because Tomas was removed from the action for a considerable time); rather, made me happy for Lauren that she had found such a quality man. Awww.
Engrossing, intriguing and well-crafted, Evergreen Falls is what a good book’s about. I loved it. I loved that it was set in the Blue Mountains even more.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. I received an uncorrected proof from Hachette.
Bookish treat: Secrets abound in this book and I have one, too … I opened a packet of chocolate chips meant for baking and ate some. Lots. Don’t tell.