Bainbridge Island has a way of calling people home. It’s just that way for Emily Wilson, a recent divorcee timidly moving forward when she gets a wedding invitation — from her ex-husband. With the support of her best friend, Annabelle, Emily journeys from New York to Washington to see her aunt Bee, a sassy woman in her eighties who happily welcomes her niece to the beach house they once shared.
But life on Bainbridge Island isn’t exactly how Emily remembers. On one of her first nights home, she discovers a red velvet journal — and inside, the enthralling, romantic and heartbreaking story of a woman named Esther. Intrigued, Emily questions Aunt Bee and other residents about her — but never gets a straight answer. And no one admits they know Esther or what became of her . . . though Emily has a sense that it’s up to her to discover the truth.
Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March combines contemporary fiction, historical fiction and romance into one alluring read. Emily is a strong-willed character who loves her family fiercely, but not even Aunt Bee’s cagey responses can keep Emily from wanting to know the truth. It seems like fate that the diary has landed in her lap — and she’s not about to ignore it. Fresh from New York and her heartache there, the journal’s sad tale provides a respite and distraction from her real life.
Though occasionally mired by unrealistic dialogue, Jio’s novel kept me reading quickly. As a heroine, Emily is likable and authentically flawed. She knows she’s not the teen girl who once visited the island and makes no bones about it — not even when she runs into Greg, her summer crush and first love. I liked watching her interact with the men of Bainbridge, especially Jack — and the chemistry between them was palpable. As a male lead, Jack was pretty great: kind; family-oriented; intelligent; handsome. I didn’t fall for him quite the way Em did — quickly, and with few reservations — but I didn’t feel that their story was rushed.
The real crux of the novel, though, is the mystery: who is Esther? What did she mean to the people who loved her — and what is her connection to Emily? I pieced together parts of the story before Emily did, but there were a few surprises left for me by the end! And I was satisfied with how Jio explained the saga and wrapped up loose ends, and didn’t feel like the story was wound up too neatly. Also, we got plenty of back story — and explanation after all was revealed. Once the “mystery” is solved, many books end too quickly — and The Violets of March didn’t suffer that fate. I’m glad.
An intriguing family drama that was a truly pleasant read. Grab your copy April 26.
4 out of 5!