Harp House is perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and is as ominous looking as ever. Theo Harp is back on the island to live and write his next horror story. Theo and Annie knew each other as teenagers and there is nothing but bad feelings between them. Island gossip says that Theo recently became a widower and that he might be responsible for his wife's death. This is no surprise to Annie who is certain Theo tried to kill her a time or two as well. She doesn't trust him and is unhappy he is on the island at this time.
Annie Hewitt is a ventriloquist and has brought all of her puppets with her. She uses them to talk to school children about bullying and bad behavior. Annie hears the different voices of the puppets in her head. When she meets a little four year old daughter of a former acquaintance of Annie's from younger days, she is shocked to learn that the child was traumatized by seeing her mother shoot her father and so doesn't speak at all. Annie decides to use one of her puppets to try and help the little girl talk again.
Theo Harp has written one horror story that was a big hit and is trying to write a sequel to it in the solitude of Harp House until Annie comes back into his life. He doesn't want her there but Annie is determined to remain on the island for three months. The cottage belonged to her mother until she died and if Annie wants to keep it, she has to stay there for three months and never leave the island, or the cottage reverts back to the Harp family. Annie is looking for something her mother told her was at the cottage that would help Annie pay her debts and be set for life. When strange things start happening at the cottage when someone ransacks the place and later someone shoots at Annie, she is determined to find who it is. She first suspects Theo but later changes her mind. Who is trying to scare her off of the island before her time is up, is a puzzle that Annie is going to figure out.
This novel is full of sassy wit, charm and a suitcase full of extravagant characters in puppet form that like to put in their opinions. The story keeps you intrigued and turning the pages to see what mysteries await. The knowledge of small town island life is sure to peak the heartiest curiosity. Theo is the stereotypical brooding hero and Annie becomes much more independent as she finds the truth of the past. This novel reads like an homage to the classic novel while maintaining Susan Elizabeth Phillips' outstanding characters and a complex plot. The more I read of this novel the more engrossed I became, along with the tears I cried for some of the injustices of teenage life. I give this book 4 Blue Ribbons and recommend this encapsulating romance author to all who crave a thought provoking story and a chance to dream. I know I will have to read more of her stories.