REVIEW: WHAT’S BECOME OF HER, BY DEB CALETTI

 

“Guilty people keep secrets.”

Isabelle Austen returns to her hometown on a small, isolated Pacific Northwest island to take over the family tourism business after the death of her mother, a disapproving parent and a hard woman to love. Feeling lost, Isabelle is also struggling with a recent divorce and wondering if she’ll ever come into her own. Then her life takes a surprising turn: The mysterious Henry North arrives on Parrish Island, steps off a seaplane, and changes Isabelle’s world forever.

From the beginning, their relationship is heady and intense—then Isabelle learns of Henry’s disturbing past, involving the death of a fiancée and the disappearance of a wife. Suddenly Isabelle is caught between love and suspicion, paranoia and passion, as she searches for the truth she may not want to find—and is swept into a dangerous game she may not survive.


MY THOUGHTS:
What’s Become of Her is alternately narrated by Isabelle and a stranger named Professor Weary, who has no personal interaction with her, but from afar, seems to be keeping an eye on her.Henry’s past, full of unanswered questions and mysteries, all point to the possibility of something dark and dangerous about him, and his secrets and lies raised a huge red flag that had me wanting to shout at Isabelle: Run!

But Henry was one of those men who can be so charming, and he did kind and loving things for her. Then something aroused his rage, usually as the result of his bruised ego, at which point, his “poor me” attitude reared its head, even as he turned frightening.

Why did Isabelle put up with him? Everyone who knew her kept warning her off, but she focused instead on the strange packages she kept receiving from someone, and even though each object hinted of bad acts by Henry, she kept hanging in there.

Even though I was turned off by Henry, and hoped Isabelle would make better choices, I wondered if I could be wrong about him. Could others, like Weary, be persecuting him, and would we discover that the real bad guys were out there, watching and waiting?

The beautiful setting on an island near Seattle kept me engaged, even though parts of the story were slow and even boring (Weary’s narratives). But I kept turning the pages, wondering what I would ultimately learn and what Isabelle would do about her precarious situation. What she did came as a complete surprise, and I wanted to celebrate. 4 stars.

***

FRIENDSHIP, SUMMER BREEZES, & SECRETS — A REVIEW

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Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

When Charlotte agrees to join her best friend Nicole for a summer on Quinnipeague, the island in Maine that was their favorite vacation spot for years, she is filled with trepidation.  For she hasn’t seen Nicole for ten years, and the underlying betrayal that has increased her feeling of distance from her friend is not enough to keep her away.  But Nicole, a blogger with a huge following, wants to write the cookbook and needs Charlotte’s help with the interviews.  Nicole has her own secret, one she has kept for four years.  Will she be able to share it with Charlotte?  Will she feel as though she is betraying her husband Julian?

Will the friendship bonds help them traverse the distance between them?  What will the summer bring?

Herbs and other island productions will be the centerpiece of the book, along with Nicole’s menus and presentations.

On the island lies Cecily’s Garden, as well.  A mystical presence, the woman’s herbs have a huge following of their own.  Will her mysterious son Leo allow them to photograph the gardens?  How will Charlotte connect with Leo and why does she keep coming back to him?  What is his secret and how will it impact the budding relationship?

I loved how the author showcased the foods, the herbs, and the island ambience…so much so that I could literally feel myself transported there.  I could definitely smell the Sweet Salt Air.  The revelation of the secrets was well-paced,  and even though part of Charlotte’s secret came out fairly soon to the reader, the rest of it was unexpected.  And the consequences of that one act of betrayal would have an unexpected outcome.

My feeling of connection to the characters alternated, as sometimes I was annoyed beyond words with Nicole and her little-girl voice and attitudes.  Charlotte had her negative qualities, too, but in the end, she was the one I could most relate to.  4.5 stars.