What happens when the line between the past and the present begins to blur...
Rachel Miller is on the cusp of a new life when she moves to Union Cemetery after marrying Adam, the 7th generation cemetery keeper. Though she's known him only twelve weeks, his tender love seems like a miracle of fate after her years alone.
On her first walk through the lush and silent grounds of her new home, Rachel discovers a stunning monument to Tillie Smith,who died in 1886. Reading the words carved into the stone, "She Died in Defence of Her Honor," Rachel is overcome by a powerful memory buried deep in her past.
A series of uncanny coincidences linked to Tillie Smith follows, setting Rachel on a journey that grows into an obsession: Why did the murder of a poor kitchen maid at the local seminary become a national sensation? Why were people in town trying to keep her from finding the truth? But most disturbing of all, why was Tillie reawakening a past Rachel chose to bury long ago. A past that could threaten her marriage.~Goodreads Blurb
Following the trend of many new books, the main character is first introduced to us through her husband’s occupation in the title. Instead of the focus being on this smart auctioneer/historian, we are introduced to her as the wife of the Cemetary Keeper. In the beginning, she is just barely that, as they have just been married. She has a secret and so does he. Instead of starting out this new path with a clean slate the author has decided that they should stumble through things trying to hide who they are and yet create a new life together. There seems to be a theme of new beginnings overshadowed by the darkness of hidden secrets of the past. Rachel, our main character, is drawn to a monument that the entire town seems bent on not talking about. Set in New Jersey, this small town full of secrets would not be out of place in the Deep South. Full of secrets and people insisting that “you should let things alone” it is no wonder that our lead is drawn into the history that combines the town’s past, her own, and perhaps even threatens the future she is so carefully trying to create.
Based on a true story, this is an excellent start for author Maryann McFadden to dip her toes into historical fiction. There is less time spent in the historical aspect and more time in the contemporary. While the search for the details of the case seems to be a bit too easy, I can understand how the fiction part of this can lend itself to an easier time. It would be a falt book if Rachel had to stop her search due to a fire or a flooded basement as many historians or genealogy researchers have had to do. This book brings up a lot of things that readers may find hard to read about but giving a voice to many college freshmen who find themselves victims during their first year is refreshing. It is nice to see that the women are seen as victims instead of fallen women. The push for mental health help is also refreshing in historical fiction where often the best path to relief is to seek revenge.
Even though it touches on several sensitive subjects, I would recommend this to readers who love contemporary fiction and are interested in historical fiction. There is very little that readers will need to know ahead of time, and the author does a great job of not only working explanations into the story line but also showing much of the details.
*This eBook was provided by Three Women Press and NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback*
Freelance Editor & Reviewer