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secrets of the lighthouse book coverReviewed by Colleen Turner

When the demands of Ellen Trawton’s life in posh London become too much for her to handle she runs away from her overbearing mother and the fiancée she doesn’t love to the one place she knows no one will look for her: the Irish coastal village her mother grew up in and refused to ever discuss. Staying with her Aunt Peg under the guise of writing a book Ellen soon discovers a large and loving family she never knew she had. As she digs deeper into why her mother ran away from Ireland and kept her family a secret she begins to uncover old family wounds and hidden compartments within herself she never knew were missing. She also finds herself drawn to Conor Macausland, the withdrawn and secretive owner of the village’s castle who is still mourning the mysterious death of his wife five years prior, a death that some in the village blame him for. As Ellen struggles to discover what she really wants out of life and how to get it she also learns that it isn’t until everyone involved can be honest with themselves and those around them that any of them will be able to be truly happy and move on from the ghosts that haunt them.

Interspersed with Ellen’s story is that of Caitlin Macausland, Conor’s dead wife, who is trapped in a limbo of sorts watching her loved ones move on without her. I absolutely loved getting to see the world through Caitlin’s eyes as her pain, frustration and jealousy begins to bog her down into an unhappy, bitter place that is far from the light and love she would feel if she let go of her past and moved on. While it was hard to really feel much compassion for Caitlin given the selfish way we learn she lived her life and the cruel meddling she does to try and keep Connor and Ellen apart, it was fascinating getting to see everything that was occurring through her eyes as she views it from such a unique and interesting place. She also helps exemplify the idea that jealousy, resentment, fear and uncertainty can taint a life – and a death – something that hangs over the whole story and many of the secondary characters, as well as the concept that only love, compassion and forgiveness can heal their damaged souls and bring them back to the light of a happy life (or death in Caitlin’s situation).

The descriptions of the rural coast of Ireland are so vivid and awe inspiring that I had to look up actual pictures to see how they compared and Ms. Montefiore perfectly captured the real and raw beauty of this rugged yet breathtaking landscape. I’m not really sure how she does it but she truly does transport (figuratively) her readers to these distinct and unforgettable locations!

Secrets of the Lighthouse is the second book by Santa Montefiore I have read and both of these stories have been pure and delightful escapist reading. The reader is whisked to places both luxurious and commonplace and thrust into the lives of these characters that are going through many emotions – loss, love, anger, desperation – that anyone can relate to. It is the ending of Secrets of the Lighthouse that sets this book above the other for me and, without giving too much away, it was like a balm to my heart and left me with happy tears and a wonderful sense of being closer for the characters I so enjoyed spending time with. This will definitely not be the last book I read from this wonderfully entertaining writer.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.