When Nell Channing arrives on charming Three Sisters Island, she believes that she’s finally found refuge from her abusive husband—and from the terrifying life she fled so desperately eight months ago… But even in this quiet, peaceful place, Nell never feels entirely at ease. Careful to conceal her true identity, she takes a job as a cook at the local bookstore café—and begins to explore her feelings for the island sheriff, Zack Todd. But there is a part of herself she can never reveal to him—for she must continue to guard her secrets if she wants to keep the past at bay. One careless word, one misplaced confidence, and the new life she’s created so carefully could shatter completely. Just as Nell starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to break free of her fear, she realizes that the island suffers under a terrible curse—one that can only be broken by the descendants of the Three Sisters, the witches who settled the island back in 1692. And now, with the help of two other strong, gifted women—and with the nightmares of the past haunting her every step—she must find the power to save her home, her love…and herself…
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I can’t begin to describe how good this book was. While it reminded me a lot of Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven, I found it a lot more enjoyable. (To be fair, I only watched the movie. I never got around to reading the book. Feel free to mock me in the comments).
Like always, Nora Roberts was great with the world building. I was really pulled into the picturesque New England Island Three Sisters Island, which I loved. Having grown up in rural Maine, I felt at home in the book and it made me feel a lot of nostalgia. It was almost as if I was being transported to the rocky oceanfront myself. And with a lot of the story taking place in a bookstore, how could it become any better?
With magic. Duh.
Nell is the descendant of one of three witches that formed Three Sisters Island. The three sisters– Air, Earth, and Fire– have reincarnated again, cursed to meet their tragic ends unless they can break the cycle. For Nell, that means defeating her abusive husband so she can stop living in hiding. To help her, her boss and friend Mia teaches her some witchcraft that will protect her. I like that the magic is mostly noninvasive. Small charms to ward off evil and the ability to sweep negative energy out of the house. I also like the lack of hiding or a witch hunt on the island. Mia is openly a witch and everyone accepts that. None of that witch hunt crap that happened in Practical Magic. It certainly makes the town feel more like a sanctuary than a trap.
The one thing that bothers me is that there should be four witches. Seriously. Earth, Air, and Fire? Where the heck is Water? Everyone knows there’s a fourth element! You can’t take three and pretend the last doesn’t exist! Also, if you’re going to forget an element, shouldn’t you forget Earth? It’s the one element that doesn’t have the graceful/beautiful/dangerous thing going on.
As for the love story, it was great. It was very respectful of domestic violence, which is a very real and serious problem. Zack was a very kind and caring person, which is exactly what Nell needed after being with Evan. I liked how he was patient (for the most part) with her, even coming into the bookstore on a regular basis so she would feel safer with him when they were alone. It was also very sweet how he waited for her to ask him to put his hands on her.
But a couple of times Zack was a complete tool. Like when he found out that not only Nell was still married but that she didn’t plan to divorce Evan. What the hell was that about? He already knew that she had been severely abused by her husband and had seen how it had affected her. And now Zack expected her to approach her torturer and ask for a divorce so she could marry him after less than a year of even knowing each other (by the way, I know romance novels can rush the process a little bit, but less than a year of dating before marriage isn’t romantic. It’s stupid and will most likely end up with a messy divorce or at the very least intense couples counseling.). I know patience can have its limits and romantic heroes are great when they’re flawed, but maybe they shouldn’t be trying to trigger PTSD episodes in their loved ones just to make things official.
Granted, Nell wasn’t the best partner either. After being with Zack and learning to trust him more, she should have been more up front with things. I can understand not wanting to admit to the county sheriff illegal activity, but perhaps some of the basics, like marriage status would be helpful. And even after admitting to him that she broke the law, Nell still wouldn’t tell the whole story. That irked me to no end. The only reason I can think of of why she wasn’t honest with him after that was so there could be more drama later.
Despite all of that, it’s a great story and an excellent escape for a quick vacation on a New England island.
Buy this book at your local independent bookstore.
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