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The Memory House: A Honey Ridge Novel


The Memory House: A Honey Ridge Novel

Julia Presley does her best to keep busy. As owner and proprietor of the Peach Orchard Inn in bucolic Honey Ridge, Tennessee, she has her hands full as she handles all aspects of the inn, along with the help of her sister, Valery. The somewhat surprise purchase of this place was a sort of balm to her grief after her son, Mikey, went missing six years before: “Everyone in Honey Ridge knew about Mikey’s disappearance, but most were Southern enough to speak of the loss only among themselves and never to her. She was left alone and they, along with her family, pretended that she was a normal person, an ordinary divorced businesswoman running a guest inn and clinging to history --- her own and that of this antebellum house.” She was stuck in limbo, not knowing whether her son was dead or alive and still out there somewhere. Are you still a mother if there’s no one there to call you “Mom”?

"These characters struggle to help themselves and others, and their journeys culminate in a most satisfying resolution."

Things begin to change in Julia’s staid life with the arrival of Eli Donovan, a down-on-his-luck recent parolee in desperate need of a job. Noticing the amount of upkeep the inn needs, he offers his handyman services to Julia, provided that room and board are included. After a misspent youth filled with drugs and bad behavior, Eli is determined to put his past behind him and make a better life for himself. Well, not just for him. Upon his release from jail, he learns he has a young son from a brief romance. Sadly, the mother never let Eli know of the boy’s existence. A few months before, she passed away, leaving young Alex in the care of an elderly relative. Now is the time to grow up and provide a stable life for his son. Part of his agreement with Julia is that there is room for Alex to come and live with him at the inn. Although the thought of a boy close to Mikey’s age living at the inn fills her with trepidation, she soon finds the child’s presence to be comforting. 

Julia’s and Eli’s troubles are not the only ones that haunt the Peach Orchard Inn. During the Civil War, the inn was a private home to the Portland family. Charlotte Reed Portland had left her native England to marry her husband, Edgar, and lived on Peach Orchard Farm with him, their young son, and a handful of slaves. In 1864, after several years of war already, their peace was further rocked by the arrival of a band of Union soldiers, headed by Captain Will Gadsden, who had to commandeer their home to use as a makeshift hospital for their wounded. Despite the stories of Union savagery, Captain Gadsden assures Charlotte that they will not sully their home or anyone who lives there. She can see that this man is an honorable one. This forced occupation angers Edgar, who chooses to spend the majority of his time at the family mill in town.

As Charlotte and the women of the farm pitch in as makeshift nurses, she quickly sees the gentler side of the commanding Will Gadsden. She’s surprised to see how this relative stranger has shown her more kindness than her husband ever has. It’s not long before an unspoken bond forms between them, as they try desperately not to give in to their feelings.

In the first installment of her Honey Ridge series, author Linda Goodnight weaves a story of wounded souls who come into each other’s orbits to help each other heal. Themes of love and loss seem to echo the Shakespearian quote that Goodnight uses as an epitaph to the Civil war section (“What’s past is prologue...”). Told in alternating chapters, there’s the touching modern-day story of grief and redemption, which is complemented by the story of forbidden love between Charlotte and Will during the brutal War Between the States. These characters struggle to help themselves and others, and their journeys culminate in a most satisfying resolution. The only question remaining is how long we will have to wait for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on April 1, 2015

The Memory House: A Honey Ridge Novel
by Linda Goodnight