My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’d say this is more like 3.5 stars, but not quite 4. I wouldn’t say it’s the best book by this author, but in the end it wasn’t too bad. Just starting out, though, woo, some highly unlikable characters. The book focuses on Riley, who’s marriage is at an end, and her 12 year old daughter, Maggy. There is her best friend, Parrish, and her husband, Ed, mother, Evelyn, brother Billy, and his partner, Scott, her aunt, Roo, and lastly Nate Milas and his mother, Annie. At the beginning of the book, Riley and Maggy and Parrish and Ed are headed to Belle Isle for the summer. Riley’s family owns a chunk of the island and did most of the initial development. She’s trying to decide how to tell her family, especially her daughter, that her marriage is at an end. And, it’s not like she didn’t try to save it. Things start going wrong and they just keep going wrong. The big disaster is the murder of Riley’s husband, Wendell. Riley comes to learn that there is a LOT she did not know about Wendell. To make matters worse, she winds up having to stay with her mother, who is more in to social niceties and what is “right,” than supporting her daughter.
Turns out her husband stole all of Riley’s money, but it wasn’t really stolen because her father gave him control over Riley’s trust fund! Yes, this woman, among other things was raised by parents who basically felt like men were to be in charge and women were to maintain their place. It didn’t help any that Billy is gay, so basically Wendell became the son they wanted, so he got carte blanche of the family business and everyone pays in the end.
This is not all fluffy, though, it’s still chick-lit. It just addresses things not seen often in these kinds of books - alcoholism, rebellious and ugly tweens, truly awful people. Because, make no mistake -- Wendell was not a good person.
Early on in the book, I couldn’t decide what I thought and read some of the reviews, mostly the bad ones as the good ones were over the top. I now wonder if some of those reviewers even read the whole book. If it’s not for you and you stop, that’s fine. Most who do that, own that in their review. However, the ending of the book and revelation of the killer were not as stated in some reviews. Let me just say, the murder of Wendell doesn’t disappear -- it’s just never front and center, but the Sheriff circles back around throughout the book. Also, I’d like to note that the Sheriff is not the one who reveals the killer to Riley. The story is really about Riley trying to figure out how she’s going to get on with her life after she learns that her husband has literally squandered all of her money. And, deal with a 12 year old who is definitely pushing all her buttons. As much as Maggy annoyed me, this is probably par for the course for a 12 year old, especially one dealing with a new diagnosis of diabetes (what 12 year old wants to be different) and the death of her father, who she adored and who, it seems, adored her. His one redeeming feature.
I liked the characters of Riley and Parrish. I enjoyed their friendship. I liked Riley’s closeness with her brother and Scott. The mom is the mom. Many of us have dealt with mother’s like that and nothing will change them. They are who they are. Aunt Roo was a hoot. We should all have a Roo. I enjoyed the setting of Belle Isle as well. I’ve encountered small towns and have fond memories of one, but it’s like living in a fish bowl. Some reviewers thought the ending was all tied up with a bow. I felt like Riley worked to get her ending. Best scene in the book was Riley quitting her new job and liberating Maggy from her new school. To me, it showed her finally getting back on an even keel and taking charge instead of being dragged in the wake of Wendell’s poor decisions. Maggy redeemed herself a bit; Evelyn, not so much. There is more to Billy than meets the eye and Scott as well.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. Some things come out of the blue (like who killed Wendell), but life is like that. If you are a review reader, I’d recommend ignoring the reviews and giving it a go. But, read all of it. Don’t quit 100 pages in -- finish it. And, not just to find out who killed Wendell, but to see how Riley rebuilds her life.
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