Named sole heir to her aunt's estate, Charity Gannon arrives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, hoping to find a link to her past. She's not looking for lost treasures; she is searching for a connection to the aunt she barely knew.
What she finds is a thirty-something-year-old mystery and questions with no answers. A sad, secluded cottage, all but hidden amid the vines. A man's suit of clothes, tainted with dried blood and a bullet hole. Four forgotten boxes, stuffed into a large bag and buried in the far corners of the shed.
These are not just any boxes. These are unopened, undelivered boxes, left behind by the now-defunct Kingdom Parcel. All four boxes are marked March 14, 1984... the very day her uncle, president and driver for the delivery service, was said to have committed suicide. Four forgotten boxes, whose owners might still be out there, waiting for a delivery that never arrived.
The undelivered boxes haunt Charity, tugging at her conscience. Hadn’t someone noticed them missing? Hadn’t anyone wondered about the failed delivery? Thinking it might be fun to surprise the recipients after all these years, Charity sets out to deliver the packages to their rightful owners.
Along the way, one of the love stories she discovers is her own. Fate throws her into the sturdy arms of Tarn Danbury, a burly sugarmaker with eyes as beautiful as the mountain pond from which he was named, and a voice as smooth and rich as the dark syrup he produces.
The story behind one box is delightful. Another is heartbreaking.
And one might very well be the death of her.
Although I was excited to read this book, it feel short of my expectations for a variety of reasons.
This book is not a mystery/thriller. It is a romance. It may be a romance with mystery/thriller elements, yes, but while the blurb led me to believe that there would be a romantic subplot to this, the story revolved around the romance far too much for a book selling itself as a mystery.
Let's start with my biggest issue. This book perpetuates the idea that suicide is a bad thing. Charity's uncle is thought to have committed suicide, and Charity wants to "clear his name." One should not be ashamed of someone who had committed suicide; depression and mental illnesses that lead to suicide are REAL illnesses, and I was extremely bothered by the complete disregard Charity had towards this. Okay, her uncle didn't commit suicide, but why would it have been a problem if he had? Suicide is a terrible, terrible action that takes many lives and this book completely disrespects that. And I'm not okay with that.
Charity is taking care of her deceased aunt's cottage... but it takes 13% of the book before Charity mentions that her aunt's cottage is in Vermont. She makes such a big deal about the small town vibe, but I'm not sure if we're in Texas, where the author is from, or somewhere more South, or where, and then all of a sudden we're in Vermont. After that, we don't forget it. But I literally had to go back through and skim reread because I was so confused as to where the setting was. And then, the setting becomes entirely about maple syrup. I do believe there is more to Vermont than maple syrup, as Charity should know, as she could list of about ten random facts about it.
My biggest issue with this book was the instalove. Charity and Tarn both claim that they've had very few previous relationships, yet during their first encounter they're both attempting to flirt in a way that feels completely unnatural and formulaic. They kiss (no spoiler alert because it's obvious that it'll happen) when they just barely know each others' names. I just don't get it. For someone who is supposedly so pragmatic, why does Charity go crazy so fast for him? Do they ever talk? Why do they like each other? There is absolutely zero substance other than lust and physical attraction.
And I haven't even started on the premise. I like the premise. I was really excited about the premise and greedy to read this. But it's not believable. There are several plot holes where I wondered how it got to the point that Charity was even involved. The timing of it all is far too coincidental, and I'm really not sure why the case wasn't resolved thirty years ago and why the bad guys didn't just get away with it.
I also couldn't enjoy the way that this was written. There is a dream scene in this book, which is a completely tired trope when, as in this case, it contributes nothing to the book. That scene could have been deleted completely. Charity talks to herself often, until one time she seems to realise just how much she talks to herself. Yes, Charity, I was judging you. Or at least, I was judging you as a character for needing to convey information in that manner.
There are also flashbacks in the past that could have been useful, but they are too infrequent and random that they instead just distract. If all relevant scenes had been in the past this might have worked, but instead I feel like I know information that Charity doesn't until the end when she magically figures things out. Even the one character that could shed light couldn't have known everything that happened in flashbacks.
Finally, this girl puts her entire self worth on the one guy's attraction. She runs her own business as a graphic designer (though I don't know how she was working during this book??) and is pretty darn self sufficient. Yet she is a total damsel in distress, and it takes a man getting an erection in response to her for her to finally gain some confidence. I would have loved to have seen her being validated in some other way--maybe an award for her business or something that she showed pride in. But the only time she shows confidence is when a man is attracted to her.
Also, I wish she received more affirmation for her weight. She talks about being "big" because she is 5'7". Well, I am 5'6", and now I feel like I, too, am a whale. Maybe I'm not petite as she desires to be, but I generally feel pretty confident until this book tells me that unless I find a giant mountain man, I will be big, and the only way I'll get affirmation is in his attentions. Great. Thanks.
I'm sorry, but there are just too many issues with this book for me to recommend it at all.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.