Determined to take control of her life, sheltered Gracie Antes leaves her unhappy home in 1925 to pursue her dream of a singing career. On her way to the big city, she accepts a job as a housemaid at the bustling Crestmont Inn. Once there, Gracie finds a life-changing encounter with opera singer Rosa Ponselle, family she never imagined could be hers, and a man with a mysterious past. Relive the 1920s with a colorful cast of characters. Discover with Gracie that sometimes we must trade loss for happiness.
Set in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, the story is interwoven with details about the town, the rich history of The Crestmont Inn, and the family who passed ownership from one generation to the next. Many attempts have been made to explain how the mountaintop lake nestled in this tiny town came to be. Crestmont gives a new twist to an old Native American legend, setting the tone of grace around which the story is built.
Let the period of the Roaring Twenties spark your interest with its unique social mores, fashion, jazz, and yes, a little bootlegging thrown in for pizzazz.
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**Apologies for the long review, but I had a lot to say after finishing. For the TL;DR version scroll to the bottom :)*
I liked the book well enough, but the beginning was a bumpy start for me and throughout the story I was sometimes thrown out of it. I read the book description and thought I was going to be reading about Gracie and her journey to Crestmont, but as it turns out there were two stories interwoven into one. The problem for me was the way they were interwoven wasn’t smooth and at times caused confusion. For example, we start with two prologues which I didn’t know was even possible. The first prologue consists of an Indian legend explaining how Eagles Mere got its name. The second prologue of sorts goes onto explain how William Warner got his vision for Crestmont Inn and then there is a section on how Crestmont was passed onto his daughter Margaret Wood. Finally, 24 pages into the ebook we get into the story of Gracie. For the most part we follow Gracie along through her journey of independence, but on occasion the story would change to the perspective of the Woods family (owners of the Crestmont Inn). For me these transitions from one perspective to another just weren’t smooth enough and made the story feel disjointed. In some parts it caused me to question the point of the chapter I just read. For example, there is a section where Mr. Woods is trying to cheer his wife up because she is depressed on the anniversary of her father’s death. Mrs. Woods suddenly gets a moodswing and starts badmouthing Gracie. This behavior was very unlike her. Then in the next chapter she is being sweet as pie to Gracie without any hint of what she had previously said. The whole affair didn’t make much sense.
Also leading to my confusion and much irritation was the writing. Simply put: this book needs a good editor. Let me give some examples:
“With a high-pitched cry to summon the attention of his people, he grabbed Laurel Eyes and pushed her toward rock steps that led below. Not wanting to dishonor her people’s remains, she stubbornly planted her feet in refusal. He dragged her, wailing, into the depths. His people watched. Only the echoes of her screams cut the silence that followed.” … the Haudenosaunee wait around and then “A final anguished scream echoed from below. Then silence. Stormy Torrent, his face contorted, returned alone. ‘The one know as Laurel Eyes is no more. Her spirit has joined her people, our enemy.’ “ (p.11)
Eh, what? The bold emphasis is mine. It didn’t say he pushed her, but he dragged her. We are not told how she dies, but that she dies. This is a case of telling, but not showing and I can’t stand it. I want to know how this chick died. Did she get dragged to her death? Did she throw herself off the rock steps? Did Stormy Torrent get mad and stomp her to death? WTF happened?!
After they introduced themselves, Isaiah pounded Gracie on the back…” (p. 34)
How the hell is he pounding her on the back when they are both sitting in a car? Awwwwwkward!
“ ‘Stay with her,’ Mrs. Woods said, trying to calm her down when Gracie phoned her on Monday. ‘Tell me what you need and I’ll bring the shopping to you at noon.’ She was putting away groceries and heating up a casserole that had been sent over when Dr. Webber arrived.
‘Ah, Mrs. Wood.,’ he said, setting down his doctors bag, then handing her his coat, hat and gloves at the front door. ‘I see you
have full use of your arm now. How long has it been, over a year now?’
‘My arm is fine, thank you.’ She handed him his black doctor’s bag. ‘Mrs. Cunningham is upstairs.’ “ (p. 213)
Okay, that first paragraph is just one of many where the Enter key would have come in handy. How is it that Mrs. Woods can talk on the phone with Gracie one minute and then be at the house to welcome the doctor the next all in the same paragraph?
Then there are times when the character name changes. For example, Manrico becomes Marico within the same paragraph. Is it Christiana or Cristiana? I still don’t know as her name changed several times within the epilogue.
There are also two plainly contrived scenes used to further the plot line that really annoyed me. These go into spoiler territory so I will put them under tags...
What the heck was up with Mrs. Wood breaking her arm? One minute she's in the attic admonishing Gracie over the safe, then the next scene she's breaking her arm doing something completely different and then once again we are thrust into the plot line regarding the safe. This made no sense! If Gracie told her she knew where the combination was it would make sense that Mrs. Woods go to investigate what was in the safe. It doesn't make sense that she puts this task off being that her father is so important to her.
Also, the scene where she breaks her arm makes no sense. Her leg gives out while putting a heavy vase on the table. What?! She's not 80 and fragile!! Having Mrs. Woods falling down the dangerous ladder after getting the combination would be more logical.
The other scene that annoyed me was Eleanor getting hit in the head with a golf ball. Eh? If this scene would've amounted to anything other than Bessie leaving out of the blue and Gracie confronting her fear of water I could understand, but it was simply unnecessary.
I also didn’t care much for the ending. There were too many loose ends. It was clear by the end that the story wasn’t so much about Gracie, but about the Crestmont and what it represented to all these characters. However, after following them for so long I would’ve liked some resolutions on the other characters.
So why with my list of complaints did I give this book 2.5 stars instead of 1? Well, because it did have potential and I did like the characters. Even though Gracie was a Mary Sue I did like her gumption and her journey was realistic. How many times in our lives do we set out on one path only to end up on another? Circumstances change, we change and I think Weiss captures that rather well in this book. She also captured the meaning of family and friendship nicely. We can’t choose our family, but we certainly can choose our friends and who we surround ourselves with.
I also thought she captured small town life in the 1920’s well too. It’s clear that Weiss did research on the topic and incorporated much of it into her book. It was fun learning about the history of the Crestmont and seeing it grow from William Warner’s original dream.
So the too long, didn’t read version of this review is basically: I liked it, but wished it was more polished.