Hey bookworms! Today I am on tour for one of my most anticipated releases this year: Hidden Cove by Meg Tilly. Huge thank you to Brittanie at Berkley for my tour invite!
Author: Meg Tilly
Publication Date: 01 October 2019
Genre: Adult Fiction – Romantic Suspense
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?
Every since I finished reading Cliff’s Edge (see my review here), I have been dying to get my hands on Hidden Cove. This book is the third in the Solace Island series (don’t fret if you didn’t read the first two, it can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend the first two books), and I couldn’t wait to see what story Meg Tilly cooked up next.
Zelia Thompson is a 30 something art gallery owner in gorgeous Solace Island, which is located in the picturesque Pacific Northwest. While she runs an incredibly successful gallery with pieces that would fund a college education, life hasn’t exactly gone to plan since she assumed that she would be running around after a herd of children by now. She knows the biological clock is ticking, but she becomes even more fixated on the fact following the tragic death of her friend Alexus who also runs a prestigious art gallery. Alexus’ death was ruled a heroin overdose, but the Alexus she knew didn’t do hardcore drugs, and as Zelia starts digging for answers, things aren’t adding up.
Gabe Conaghan is a best selling crime fiction author who was tricked into visiting Solace Island on behalf of his parents. His parents have plans to buy one of the local B&Bs, but they need someone to check it out first hand (secretly, they want their son to find a wife since that’s where they met). Gabe doesn’t have time for this nonsense. He plans to get in, get all the information his parents need, then get back to writing his manuscript…that is until he meets Zelia. He’s instantly attracted to her, but he can’t help the feeling that she looks strangely familiar. Gabe didn’t have the intention to stay, but a beautiful woman needs help and he’s just being chivalrous, right?!
I loved watching Zelia and Gabe dance around their immediate but awkward attraction towards one another. While I don’t normally enjoy the instant chemistry trope, there’s so much baggage that both Zelia and Gabe bring to the table that it was never distasteful or forced. For example, Zelia is still grieving from the death of first husband, which was eight years prior.
Gabe’s parents were definitely interesting side characters. I understand that parents pressure their children to get married and have grandchildren, but there were definitely moments that it was cringe-worthy. I just wanted to shout at Gabe’s dad, so that Zelia and Gabe could figure out things for themselves without all of the external pressure. I will say that I appreciate the writing of this since I think so many people (including myself) have felt this type of pressure from families before.
The mystery aspect of this story was really interesting and kept me guessing. The pacing was perfect because we’d get more insight into Alexus’ death with romantic moments between Zelia and Gabe mixed in. I was guessing up until the very end about the killer, and I loved all the twists and turns that were sprinkled throughout.
Overall, Meg Tilly brilliantly executed yet another wonderful romantic suspense that delivers a heart-pumping crime thriller in concert with a steamy romance.
Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the eARC. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
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.
Have you read any of Meg Tilly’s books? Are they on your TBR? Let’s discuss!