Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: Solace Island #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Thriller
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Oscar-nominated actress Meg Tilly strikes again with the third gripping contemporary romantic suspense novel set on the idyllic Solace Island in the Pacific Northwest.
When Solace Island gallery owner Zelia Thompson’s close friend Alexus Feinstein of the prestigious art gallery Feinstein & Co. dies of a “drug overdose,” Zelia’s intuition sounds an alarm. The Alexus she knew didn’t do drugs and had everything to live for.
As Zelia begins looking into the circumstances of her friend’s death, what she uncovers will put her life in imminent danger. Will Zelia–with the help of the reclusive crime fiction novelist Gabe Conaghan–be able to unravel the mysterious happenings surrounding Alexus’s untimely death? Or will she become the bloodthirsty artist’s next victim?
Zelia Thompson shoved her chair away from her dad’s old mahogany desk with its light walnut inlay. The large desk dominated the small office space she had commandeered for herself in the back room of her gallery, but she didn’t care. Whenever she felt frazzled she would smooth her hands across the gold-embossed green leather writing surface and think of her father working at that very desk, and it always soothed her. At the moment, however, there was no soothing to be had. She needed distance from the unsettling image on her desktop computer screen.
Nope. Moving my chair back isn’t enough. She stood and took a half step backward. The soft underbelly of her knees bumped against the seat of her chair. Her fingers pressed against her lips almost in a praying position as she stared at the painting displayed on her glowing computer, unable to tear her eyes away.
She stepped forward, clicked the mouse, and then hastily retreated again.
Another painting was now on the screen, a slightly different palette, but equally disturbing. Gone were the green tones representing . . . foliage, perhaps . . . ? The browns and steel gray were also absent, but the varying shades of rust that seemed to spill outward like a septic wound were present in this painting as well. The brushstrokes the artist had used to lay down the paint created almost an optical illusion. The dark, deep reds seemed to seethe and bubbled outward, merging with a thick, almost-black darkness. Both of the paintings were abstract, yet it was clear they were portraits of some kind, some features missing, others out of place, with the artist’s signature, Dattg, scrawled in the lower-right-hand corner.
“Clearly the artist has talent,” Zelia murmured. “But my God . . .”
Something about the paintings made her feel slightly nauseous. She stepped forward to click to the next painting in the portfolio but found herself putting the computer to sleep instead.
“I’m going out,” she called up to where her employee, Mary, was carefully unpacking Kendrick’s bronze and glass Water Lilies sculpture. “I’ll need you out front while I’m gone.”
“For sure,” Mary replied. “Be right there.” A second later she appeared at the top of the stairs, stopping to untie her work smock and hang it on a hook. As Mary descended the stairs she smoothed the few flyaway wisps of her mousy brown hair that had escaped her bun back into submission.
Zelia still couldn’t believe the good fortune that had befallen her on that rainy February day three years ago when the imitable Mary Browning walked through the door and inquired about a job. She couldn’t have been more than midtwenties at the time and yet she’d seemed much older, as if life had knocked her around a bit. She was soft-spoken, self-contained, very knowledgeable about art, plus she had organizational skills that blew Zelia’s mind.
Zelia was not about to quibble with the fact that Mary didn’t have a social security number and needed to be paid in cash. To pacify her need to pay her fair share, Zelia figured out how much would’ve been paid in taxes and once a month she wrote a check for that amount to the Solace Island Community Services, which provided food security to the locals, shelter and housing, mental health outreach, services for developmental disabilities, and more.
She knew it was wrong to pay an employee under the table, but there had been something in Mary’s eyes that had made Zelia’s decision a no-brainer. Beyond Mary’s calm exterior, Zelia had felt waves of quiet desperation emanating from her pores, and underneath that, suffocating, bone-deep loneliness, and isolation. Having been orphaned at nineteen, Zelia knew what it was like to be a young woman alone in the world.
Was it an idealistic, risky thing for a small business owner to do? Perhaps, but she didn’t regret her decision. Solace Island was a beautiful place to live, but finding reliable year-round employees had proven to be a challenge. In the three years before Mary had arrived, it had been a constant revolving door of employees. Most of the hires were decent people, but they were more transient, their priorities not career-based. They would work for a few months and then drift off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, go to a yearlong yoga retreat, or a work study at Esalen. Once Zelia had come back from lunch to find the gallery unattended. The young man she’d hired had a blanket spread out on the roof. He’d been enjoying the view, smoking a joint, and working on his all-over tan.
At least when Mary dropped off the radar it would be for only a day or two. She’d always return, no explanations offered, but she’d work with a vengeance and within hours the gallery would be running smoothly again.
“Is everything all right?” Mary asked.
“Mm-hm,” Zelia replied, wrapping her cashmere shawl around her. She’d splurged on it when she’d traveled to England about a year after her husband, Ned, had died. She’d rescheduled the trip several times before she’d finally made it to London. Grief had had a way of sucking her down back then. The slightest task had seemed to require a colossal effort to accomplish: brushing her teeth, showering, wearing something other than Ned’s oversized clothes.
Finally, she’d managed to pull herself out of the gray fog that had enveloped her. She’d gotten on a plane, had flown to England and met with the talented young Welsh artist she had been tracking.
Yes, Zelia thought as she picked up her purse, the shawl she’d purchased six years ago had cost an arm and a leg, but it was totally worth it. The baby’s breath softness of the shawl comforted her, and when she’d wrap it around her shoulders she was filled with happiness. It was as if a master weaver had woven an angelic song of joy into the very fibers of the yarn.
“I won’t be long,” Zelia told Mary. Then she slipped out the door to enjoy the brief patch of sunshine that had forced its way through a gap in the dark, fast-moving clouds.
Meg Tilly returns to Solace Island with the last book in the trilogy, Hidden Cove. This series is so appealing! With its down-to-earth characters, adult situations, funny dialogue and intensely sexy writing, the entire series has been a winner for me. Although I highly recommend the other books, this book can absolutely be read as a standalone.
Welcome to the beautiful and enchanting Solace Island:
“However, the grounds were lovely. Stunning, really. The gracious front lawn gave way to a private beach, where a nestled, hidden cove was flanked by towering Douglas firs, red cedars, and a sprinkling of dogwood, maple, oak, and aspen trees. The views across the smattering of smudged-purple shadowed islands were glorious and far-reaching. If one wanted an even broader horizon, the guests could take the path on the right side of the property, along the water’s edge, to the wooden bench resting on the farthest point of land.”
The focus of this story is the mysterious death of Zelia Thompson’s art curator friend Alexus. The police ruled Alexus’s death a suicide but Zelia just doesn’t believe it. Lucky for Zelia, a well-known mystery novelist named Will Monaghan arrives in town to help her solve the mystery of her friend’s death. There’s a fairly dark side to this book but the romantic elements are strong and the story is fact-paced and very intriguing.
I would have liked a little more of the original characters from the Intrepid Cafe but Meg Tilly’s writing is so smooth that I enjoyed this book on its own. The author captures the magic of small-time life and the chemistry between Zelia and Will is fantastic. There is just a warmth and a maturity to this story that I really loved. And of course, the author includes a fabulous recipe for blueberry muffins as a lovely gift for her readers! If you love a romantic thriller that has gorgeous locations and seriously sexy times, then you will love Hidden Cove.
“You’re gonna love Solace. We sure did.”
(ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)