I hoped Ember Island would be as enjoyable as Lighthouse Bay, my first book by Kimberly Freeman. It was! The dual narratives presented two female heroines who sought resolution within themselves while attempting to find love. Ember Island’s format was almost identical to Lighthouse Bay, which I really appreciated since I enjoyed that book. Basically, both novels followed a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who fled from her spouse under suspicious circumstances and then assumed a new identity on the shores of Australia. That sounds a little corny, but Freeman’s strong heroines with interesting pasts make it is easy to get lost in her novels.
Tilly’s life in 1890 was ruled by marrying a good mate, i.e. a rich husband who would provide a sizable estate for her to wander around all day. Tilly was a naive girl who rushed into a marriage of convenience hoping love would follow. Not only did that not occur, Tilly discovered her husband had many deadly secrets. When she decided to take control of her life, she landed on Ember Island where she was hired as a governess to the warden’s daughter, Nell. Tilly was a great character because she was complex. She was impetuous and rash in her decisions, but also caring and concerned about those around her. Her story was engrossing and I wished it filled the entire book. The story of author Nina in the present was what I would expect from a cheesy romance novel. The dialog was dull and the story of her lost loves just didn’t evoke a response from me. The only good thing about Nina’s narrative was that it shed light on Nell’s life beyond what was revealed in Tilly’s narrative.
Freeman is such a gifted writer. The interactions between characters perfectly capture the awkward and reveal their inner feelings with little effort. My favorite aspect of her novels are the descriptions of the natural beauty of her settings. I loved this one!