by Hester Fox
In a small coastal town, a widow is a recluse and the townspeople call her a witch, accuse her of murdering her husband, and tell the new minister to avoid her. The new minister is not really a minister, but in homage to his dead wife, took an opportunity to fill the shoes of the man who was supposed to be the new minister but died in transit. Of course after all the warnings, he goes straight up to visit the reclusive widow.
It doesn't take long before an attraction forms between him and the widow, portending the romantic nature of the tale ahead, but it is also a mystery with various parts of the widow's history coming out in drips and drabs and reports of her by her staff that conflict with what the townspeople have to say.
I have to admit that this story balances between Romance and Mystery genres. I'm not a big fan of Romance for exactly many of the elements included in the plot, especially the sudden reveals at the end that had no real foreshadowing and the absolute stupidity of some of the choices the main characters make.
From a Mystery point of view, it has some strong merits, especially in that guessing who the culprit is could keep a Mystery reader's mind busy, as the whole town hates the widow and it could literally be anyone. There's also a secondary mystery about what exactly happened to the widow's husband. The reader gets a lot of teasers about this before it is finally revealed.
There was a lot to like about this story, but it lacked subtlety in both the romance and mystery aspects. The detailed clues were too sparse and the blossoming romance feels rather contrived. The connections at the end reminded me of an American soap opera, where suddenly you learn things that had no build up of any kind.
Having said that, it was easy to be sympathetic with the characters and there was good pacing to the plot and some drama at the end which while fairly predictable, kept my interest.