Ellen Trawton needs to escape the pressures of her London life. Engaged to be married to the "right man," per her mother's tastes, Ellen can't continue living a life she isn't suited for. She has always felt different from her high society family, rebellious and out of place. Determined to run away where her family and friends won't think to look for her, Ellen quits her job and travels to her Aunt Peg's cottage along the Connemara coast near the village of Ballymaldoon, intent on writing a novel. Her mother has never spoken of her sister in Ireland, but the letters she kept buried in a drawer give Ellen what she requires to track them down.
Ellen's Aunt Peg is more than happy to welcome her niece for a visit. Her sister Madeline left Connemara when she ran off to marry an Englishman and never returned or stayed in contact. But will Ellen survive meeting, not just her mother's sister, but four uncles, a menagerie of pets and a slew of cousins in a working class family she never knew she had? Why has her mother kept them all a secret?
Conor Macausland and his two children are still grieving the loss of his wife and their mother. When Conor finds Ellen lost on his estate, wandering the hills near his home, he can't leave her to fend for herself when he knows she'll never make it back to her car unassisted. But it's Ellen's attention, given to Conor's children, that sparks his interest in more than a casual friendship and he can't seem to think of anyone else. Will Ellen's ray of light be exactly what Conor's darkness needs, or will it make the consequences of rumor even more apparent?
The ghost isn't the only one with secrets and when she meddles to get what she wants, a whole lot more than anyone expects is revealed. Will anyone in this small village escape the years of rumor and gossip when they finally fall onto the truth?
I'm not especially fond of heroines who run off and don't end things with their fiancé before they start up with someone else. Even if they think in their mind it's ended. It's not, until it's entirely clear to all parties involved. This kept me from connecting with Ellen and I became annoyed with her excuses. It all worked out in the end but she lost points for being selfish in the beginning and I just couldn't get past her deceptive behavior.
The beautiful Irish coastline is well-represented in this novel. I can't imagine anywhere more inspirational than Ireland and this book brought back cherished memories. The light-hearted, kind-loving, faithful, God-fearing and sometimes eccentric characters in this small village are what make this novel enjoyable. I loved the camaraderie of the pub scenes. The ghost is a petulant child at times, so I grew tired of her antics about halfway through the novel and hoped she would find her way to heaven before she caused any more trouble. Ellen's Aunt Peg is my favorite character in this novel. For all her loss, her faith in others allows her to shine, even on her darkest days. There's a happy-ever-after for Peg that's especially endearing and her eccentricities are quite charming.
SECRETS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE reminds me of the gothic romances of my teen years, full of mystery, rumor and betrayal, where eventually, true love endures. The descriptive style of author Santa Montefiore's storytelling creates an ethereal atmosphere that complements a good haunting. For those who adore Irish stories, you'll find plenty to love about this very large, engaging Irish family who not only regrets with deep fervor but loves with compassion and forgiveness.