Author: Cassandra King
When Helen Honeycutt falls in love with Emmet Justice, a charismatic television journalist who has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, their sudden marriage creates a rift between her new husband and his oldest friends, who resent Helen’s intrusion into their tightly knit circle. Hoping to mend fences, the newlyweds join the group for a summer at his late wife’s family home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Helen soon falls under the spell not only of the little mountain town and its inhabitants, but also of Moonrise, her predecessor’s Victorian mansion, named for its unique but now sadly neglected nocturnal gardens. But the harder Helen tries to fit in, the more obvious it is that she will never measure up to the woman she replaced.
Someone is clearly determined to drive her away, but who wants her gone, and why? As Emmet grows more remote, Helen reaches out to the others in the group, only to find that she can’t trust anyone. When she stumbles on the secret behind her predecessor’s untimely death, Helen must decide if she can ever trust—or love—again.
John Denver sang of the wonder and beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a few summers ago I got to experience them for myself. I fell in love in an instant, and the area remains one of my favorite places ever. This scenery is reflected in Moonrise, pristine and unsullied, with gorgeous and lush descriptions of the Highlands area. Unfortunately, some of the characters in the story area a direct contrast to this purity and beauty. Not outwardly, but inwardly.
Helen is the new wife of Emmet Justice, which is the coolest last name ever. They met in the year after his wife died, in Florida where he had fled, trying to get his late wife Roslyn out of his mind in a new place. The change of scenery seemed to work, as Emmet met and fell in love with Helen Honeycutt, a dietician with a cooking show. Helen convinced Emmet to take her to his vacation home, Moonrise, in North Carolina. This is where the story begins.
Helen is introduced to Emmet's (and Roslyn's) close circle of friends - Tansy, Noel, Kit, and Linc and his wife Myna, who is absent from the book most of the time. These people loved Roslyn, and are still grieving her death, and do not react kindly to the new bride of Emmet. Tansy and Kit are scandalized by the quick marriage, and do their best (or worst) to shut Helen out, and make her look foolish in front of the others, sabotage her marriage, and set her up to take falls, literally and figuratively. Linc and Noel are much more likeable, as they are friendlier to Helen, which becomes another strike against her as the story unfolds. Willa, the housekeeper, is the only woman that is willing to befriend Helen.
This book is narrated by multiple characters - Helen, Tansy, and Willa. All three women have a different idea of what is going on around them, and it is interesting to read what each knows that the other doesn't.
Roslyn herself is a major player in the book, although she is dead. She is everywhere, a ghostly presence, in the memories of the people of Highlands, in the essence of Moonrise, and in the decaying and dessicated night garden behind the house. To Helen, Roslyn is an ideal that Helen feels she can't live up to. She is perfect in Helen's mind, to the manor born, full of grace and poise, the ultimate hostess and wife, beloved by those who have met her.
But what Helen didn't know is that the Roslyn's perfect life had some cracks, and the more that she tries to emulate her, the wider they get. The suspense keeps building, and it gets to the point that the reader wants to shake Helen, or Emmet, or Tansy, or Kit, or whoever. As Helen gets slowly driven crazy, so does the reader. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, the secrets break and the walls come crumbling down.
I loved the Gothic elements to this book, the suggestion of ghosts, a big old house, the creepy night garden in back that once was beautiful - if the garden were a human character, I would picture it as Miss Havisham.
I found parts of the story a little slow, but they were worth reading through to get to the good stuff. Moonrise however was also complex, suspenseful, and full of doubts. I really did enjoy it, and think it would be even better if read somewhere you could overlook mountains, and read by moonlight.
I am happy I was able to read this as part of the R.I.P. VIII challenge