EMBER ISLAND - Kimberly Freeman
1891, England, Guernsey Islands, and Ember Island, Australia
With his property entailed and to protect Tilly financially, her grandfather arranged a marriage for her with Jasper Dellafore. She has strong feelings for Jasper and looks forward to their living together, but her grandfather falls ill at the reception and Tilly stays to nurse him. Upon his death, she joins Jasper in the Guernsey Islands, but after sending him letter after letter with no response, she has some reservations. After she discovers him spending her inheritance to get out of debt, Nina senses her husband's lies and deceptions. A terrible accident takes place, and Tilly escapes.
Tilly finds a position as a governess to Eleanor, or Nell, Holt. Nell's father, Sterling Holt, is the superintendent of the prison on Ember Island in Australia. Nell is an extremely intelligent, precocious, and obsessive child whose mother has died. She demands all of Tilly's attention until Sterling deals with the situation. Tilly's past, though, haunts her with guilt.
2012, Ember Bay, Australia
Nina Jones, a bestselling author of the Wayward Widow series, has bought Starwater, her great-grandmother Nell's house on Ember Island. With her breakup with her boyfriend Cameron because Nina cannot have children, and her renter's abandonment of the house, Nina goes to Ember Island to escape and fix up the storm-damaged house. There she meets Joe McKiernan and his son Julian. Nina does not want nor have time for romance. Guilt assails her. A deadline looms, and Nina worries about exposure of her terrible secret.
EMBER ISLAND contains two stories that eventually intertwine. The secrets of both Tilly's and Nina's pasts hamper their futures, especially in their romances, but also in a more basic way of being able to live with themselves. While Nell is the tie that entangles the women's pasts and futures, it is the story's children, Nell and Julian, who guide the respective adults in their own time. All the characters are well drawn, although the men are very low-key. Ember Island has a different, sometimes trying climate, but it is a beautiful setting. The repeated changes in time do tend to interrupt the story's flow, but the device works to move the protagonists' respective dilemmas forward.