Two women. One house. Centuries of secrets.
East Sussex Coast, 1855: Violet Hargreaves is the lonely daughter of a widowed industrialist, and an aspiring Pre-Raphaelite painter. One day, the naïve eighteen-year-old meets Edwin; a mysterious and handsome man on the beach, who promises her a world beyond the small costal village she’s trapped in. But after ignoring warning about Edwin, a chain of terrible events begins to unfold for Violet…
East Sussex Coast, 2016: For thriller-writer Ella Daniels, the house on the cliff is the perfect place to overcome writer’s block, where she decides to move with her small family. But there’s a strange atmosphere that settles once they move in – and rumours of historical murders next door begin to emerge. One night, Ella uncovers a portrait of a beautiful young girl named Violet Hargreaves, who went missing at the same time as the horrific crimes, and Ella becomes determined to find out what happened there 160 years ago. And in trying to lay Violet’s ghost to rest, Ella must face ghosts of her own…
Ella Daniels has never been a risk taker. In fact, Ella Daniels has always chosen the safe route, the path which virtually ensures safety. That is, until she sees the Cliff House and makes the decision to pack her bags and her family, leave her safe job and London, to become a full-time writer. Little does she know, her first ever risk is going to lead her straight into a 150-year-old mystery and the book of a lifetime.
Ella’s Cliff House is well-known and something of a local legend in her new small town. Some 150 years ago, a young woman, Violet Hargreaves went missing the same night her family’s gardener and the next-door neighbor were brutally killed. As a part-time, now full-time mystery writer, Ella just can’t help but be intrigued by the mystery surrounding her new home and Violet Hargreaves. With little actual information, one very pregnant police office, and a whole lot of determination, Ella sets out to solve the mystery of Violet Hargreaves.
Ella’s task isn’t an easy one as the facts she uncovers seem to only add more questions to her list of unanswered questions. What she knows, what is fact is that Violet Hargreaves was an artist of considerable talent and she lived in a time when women were largely restricted from such activities. In a dusty old cupboard in her attic, Ella has discovered a few of Violet’s works including a self-portrait and studies for a larger work. The studies create a great deal of excitement as they are, by and large sketches of an attractive and only partially clad man. Such a thing 150 years ago would have proven to be quite the scandal and as Ella digs deeper she discovers not only the identity of the man, but also his nefarious role in Violet’s life.
The Bottom Line: Yeah, I dove into this book head first and didn’t come up for air until I finished it! What a great past meets present, alternating between past and present chapters, historical fiction read! This one has a bit of everything including art and art history, an old unsolved mystery, scandal, and true redemption in the end. Ella is by far my favorite character and it is her strength and determination (along with one fierce tantrum from her young son) that brings Violet Hargreaves back into the light and the justice she deserves. As Ella uncovers Violet’s story, she evolves as both a person and a character and it is lovely to watch her come out of her self-imposed shell. In all, I absolutely loved this book and encourage you to pick this one up if you’re looking for a mixed bag of goodness.