Annie Hewitt has arrived on Peregrine Island in the middle of a snowstorm and at the end of her resources. She's broke, dispirited, but not quite ready to give up. Her red suitcases hold the puppets she uses to make her living: sensible Dilly, spunky Scamp, and Leo, the baddest of bad guys. Her puppets, the romantic novels she loves, and a little bit of courage are all she has left.
Annie couldn't be more ill prepared for what she finds when she reaches Moonraker Cottage or for the man who dwells in Harp House, the mysterious mansion that hovers above the cottage. When she was a teenager, he betrayed her in a way she can never forget or forgive. Now they're trapped together on a frozen island along with a lonely widow, a mute little girl, and townspeople who don't know how to mind their own business.
Is he the villain she remembers, or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
Comment: July in the TBR Challenge is dedicated to Favorite Trope. I must say I don't have one single type of trope I consider much better than any other but this is by author SEP, whose work I've come to enjoy and added to that this would feature a somewhat reluctant couple to admit their feelings (as usually happens in SEP's books) so I expected all sorts of situations that would look like catnip to my reading preferences. Thus, there I went!
In this stand alone story, we have Annie Hewitt as the heroine while, down on her luck, she goes back to Peregrine Island, a place she thought she would never need to return to. But after a huge amount of debt and some depressing thoughts, she decided to go there anyway, to try to discover some legacy left by her recently late mother.
What she didn't count on was to find Theo Harp, the boy she had a crush on while they were teenagers but who was also the author of seriously bad pranks, to the point of Annie fearing for her life. Now they are both back to the island and although Annie tries to stay away, something seems to be happening between them again and it's not just a return to teenage hormones...
Yes, this was all I expected from the author and it hit pretty much all the buttons I needed to be entertained and proven right about what I'd like to get from this author. Any fan or reader of the author would immediately recognize the usual trademarks, the somewhat in dire straits heroine who finds herself and love on the way to the end of the book and the reluctance to accept a situation but eventually it being too hard to ignore, for instance.
I know it can be a repetitive formula but it does work for me.
This is a romance but I liked it how the author compared the tone, which felt a little darker due to a certain mystery going on and some complicated situations the heroine seems to go through, with the fact the hero Theo is a horror writer who uses his work as a escapism tool to deal with his inner guilt and dilemmas. I suppose this is one of the reasons why this title seems to be one of the lowest rated by this author in sites like GR. But I still thought we had enough character development, we still have a good romance, filled with quirky scenes and situations we don't usually find in real life. Even the intimacy between the characters didn't run too far from the usual.
And, as I imagined, the HEA is cute and the epilogue even more so. Perhaps what's missing is the usual second romance, which was not included here and the focus is on Annie herself and in her relationship with Theo.
I liked seeing them together. I especially liked how the romance developed slowly but in a consistent way with the way both thought about the other at first and I think the pace was believable too. It was also good to see how their reluctance to fall in love or to acknowledge their feelings was just an attempt to protect themselves. They seemed to balance each other well in the end and that counted a lot for me. It's comforting to know what you want to see will happen, despite surprises here and there.
I guess the plot had some flaws, some things that weren't as well done but to be honest, I was focusing on the main couple and could out that aside. Although Annie's work with her puppets felt rather silly and - yes, I admit, rather disturbing in a weird horror movie potential way - I still think it was quite imaginative. Some psychological issues addressed also felt a bit simplified and I'd have preferred different situations to have been included to discuss them.
The end of the book has some silly scenes playing out. But..this also happened in all the author's books and many readers loved those. Taste is always relative, even with steady, reliable authors like SEP.
For me, this book worked out. I still think about the epilogue and how fun it is to imagine those characters' lives. I always seem to be well entertained by her stories so, for me, this was another successful book, despite the flaws.
I think I'll keep on being a fan of the author and considering her work to be included in favorite tropes or scenarios.