Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Newport by Jill Morrow

The publisher calls this "A skillful alchemy of social satire, dark humor, and finely drawn characters".  It certainly fills that bill.

Up front, Newport is one of my favorite cities.  My husband and I met there, and subsequently spent several years living there.  We returned there about a year ago for a short reunion trip after an absence of almost 20 years.  It's still glittering, glamorous, and filled with sights, sounds and smells of the ocean, although now one drives across a huge bridge rather than riding the ferry across to Aquidneck Island as we well remember.

Jill Morrow captures that atmosphere using the clever scheme of alternating views from 1898 and the roaring 1920's.   Her main characters, adults who come together to observe a rather unorthodox wedding/will signing, find themselves immersed in contact with other-worldly characters from the past.

In short, the wedding to be celebrated is one that has been directed by the octogenarian groom-to-be's long-deceased first wife, who appears to the prospective bride's "niece" commanding that this wedding must take place forthwith, and that a new will must be signed immediately, leaving all the groom's sizeable estate to the new bride.  Since this essentially cuts the two adult children of the first marriage out of the inheritance, there is some family tension being generated by the interloping new bride.

To add even more mystery, the groom's attorney, who has journeyed from Boston to draw up the new will, appears to have been previously involved somehow with the potential bride.   There's lots of mystery, several seances, plenty of period fluff scenes of stereotypical rich folks enjoying their inheritances, and spending their considerable wealth on frivolity and ostentatious "summer cottages".

It's a well-drawn period piece.  The setting is spot-on, but the characters are a bit over the top for my taste, and the story is way too melodramatic.  That said, it's been a wonderful summertime read, and one that should be quite popular to readers of romance/historical fiction.

Title: Newport: A Novel
Author: Jill Morrow
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (2015), 384 pages
Genre: Romance, historical fiction
Subject: Seances, family secrets
Setting: Newport Rhode Island
Source: Review copy from the publisher 
Why did I read this book now? I received a copy in connection with the Early Review program on LibraryThing.com and promised a review.


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