Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 27, 2012
Emma McAvoy may have grown up in the limelight, but some secrets are hidden in a darkness no light can reach. Now on the verge of a successful career, and having fallen in love with the man of her dreams, Emma is looking to the future. Yet it’s the past that is about to catch up with her.
For Emma, her childhood had been almost like a rags-to-riches fairy tale—until the tragic night that changed her family forever. But what Emma thinks she knows about that terrible night and the man she’s about to marry is only half the truth. The other half is locked away in the last place she’d ever think to look: her own memories. It’s a mystery a handsome and relentlessly driven homicide detective needs to solve in a case that’s haunted him for years—and a secret someone will kill to keep.
Although this story spans 23 years, telling the life of the heroine, Emma McAvoy, from just before her third birthday to the beginning of the nineties, from the moment she met her father, through her adolescence, her first crush, through a disastrous marriage, to the moment she discovers the truth about a tragic incident in her youth, I didn't understand the woman. Maybe I didn't because I couldn't connect or empathize with her due to the fact I didn't live such a life, or maybe I couldn't because she (and the life she and the other lived) was so messed up.
For the first three years of her life, Emma lived in an abusive household with a mother that saw her only as a ticket out of her life. Then she met her father who literally bought her from her mother to keep her safe, took her home with him, provided a good, gentle mother, a loving family, and a little brother. Then the little brother is killed in a botched up kidnapping attempt, and everything comes crashing down around Emma and her family. Yet, her father and stepmother still loved her, everybody (her larger family in the form of her father's band) loved her, it was she who blamed herself for her brother's death (because she suppressed the memories of that night, but she was just a child), and thought no one did despite the evidence to the contrary.
So she married a poor, abusive copy of her father in her quest for love, stayed with him for over a year (which is an utter and complete mystery to me!), and finally set herself free with a little help from the man who was, beside her father and his band, the only constant in her life, Michael Kesselring, son of the detective who worked her brother's case, and the man who she loved from her teenage years without knowing (and who, incidentally, loved her back). Michael, who, because of her and his father, was also determined to close the cold case that was her brother's murder.
She finally (twenty years later) decides to discover just what's hidden in her memories, but only because she's plagued by the nightmares of that night, but before she can remember, the villains make their move and show themselves with a motive so pitifully laughable, I thought it was a plot twist. But it wasn't.
Anyway, the secret is discovered, and everybody who's still alive lives happily ever after.
If this were a suspense or a thriller, it would've been too short. A couple of pages from beginning to end, so there were the filler chapters (the book has 54 chapters!) where we spent mundane days with a toddler Emma, a teenage Emma, a college-aged Emma, there were some chapters about her father and his band members, a chapter of two of Emma meeting Michael over and over again over the years, then we held Emma's hand through her disastrous marriage (and wanted to shake her silly for being the way she was), then some more chapters of her shaking it off and finally going for it with Michael, then finally came the couple of chapters with a suspenseful undertones, and then the story ended.
Because most of it was filler, the pacing suffered tremendously. The writing was good, as always, but it lacked the grip and intensity of later Nora Roberts works. It was too long, too winding, too all over the place, and too light on suspense and mystery.