Review: The House on Harbor Hill by Shelly Stratton

HoHHShe’s generous, kind, and compassionate–yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she’s come or how many she’s helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband’s mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets–and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.  Tracey won’t say where she’s from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was–and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah’s handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey’s worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore–and at last learn how to truly be
free . . .

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 stars

I had half a review written when I realized it wasn’t anywhere close to expressing how I feel about this book.  Here’s the breakdown:

Plot #1:  The House on Harbor Hill opens with an aging Delilah Grey doing what she has spent the vast majority of her life doing, extending a helping hand to a woman in need.  Delilah’s own past has made her keenly aware of the women around her who need her help, and once she’s spotted someone, she extends an invitation to her home.  Delilah genuinely wants to help these women and once they have come to her home, they are welcome to stay for as long as they need.  To many, Delilah is a good Samaritan, a selfless woman always willing to give more than she receives, but to those with long memories, Delilah is something quite different. 

Plot #2: Tracey is a woman on the run, a very scared woman whose purpose in life is to survive and protect her children.  After a year on the run, Tracey is out of money and desperate for help.   She’s heard the rumors about Delilah Grey, but sanctuary is what Delilah is offering and Tracey is desperate.  Delilah’s home is spacious, beautiful, and most importantly, safe.  There is space for her kids, a room of her own, and the opportunity for Tracey to find her feet, heal, and make plans for she and her kids’ future.  Delilah asks for little in return and Tracey and her children quickly settle in and become a part of life at the house on Harbor Hill. 

Characters: This book is full of rich, developed characters who run the gamut of qualities and characteristics.  From the truly vile and reprehensible to the selfless and kind, this book has someone for everyone.  What nearly every character has in common, is being broken to some greater or lesser degree.  The brokenness of each character informs his or her actions, and some of those actions are magnificent in their level of awful.  The degree of brokenness also deepens and enriches each character which always makes for a better read.

Transitions and Pacing: The House on Harbor Hill opens in the present with Delilah taking in Tracey and her children.  As with so many things in life, the past informs the present, and to understand Delilah and her desire to help women in danger, you have to understand her own miserable past.  As such, after an extensive opening section, the book transitions to the past which helps the reader understand how Delilah came to be the woman she is today.  The entire book unfolds at a steady pace, but has moments, very dramatic and scary moments when the scenes unfold at breakneck speed.  There aren’t any slow spots, only steady pacing broken up by crazy moments.

The Bottom Line: I can’t say I loved this book because it deals with some very serious and horrifying issues, but I do love how those issues are handled.  The House on Harbor Hill is a purely fictional read, but it deals with real-world issues we are, sadly far too familiar with in this day and age.  Stratton has created a cast of characters, especially the women who are, at times, weak and vulnerable, and, ultimately, strong and determined.  There is excellent evolution of character, especially in Delilah and Tracey whose stories are so very similar though separated by decades.  The transitions from the past to the present is one of my favorite writing devices and only served to enhance this story.  The pacing is perfect for the story, and I was involved and interested from start to finish.

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