Desert Isle Keeper
The Other Side of Midnight
This was my first book by Simone St. James, but will definitely not be my last. The Other Side of Midnight was a refreshing tale of intrigue and suspense set in the unusual era of post WWI England. I love romantic suspense as well as historical fiction, and while I have read a few authors who do both well, it is rare to combine the two for a rocking DIK. This book will definitely make the “Best of 2015” finals.
Ellie Winter is the daughter of a famous spiritualist who grew up in the trade and inherited her mother’s gift. Her mother was known for her ability to contact the dead and people came from all over the country to reconnect with their dead loved ones. However, this profession was not exactly a respectable one and Ellie grew up somewhat isolated and lonely.
When she meets Gloria Sutter as a young lady, she rebels against her mother and throws herself into the glamourous world of the 1920s flapper age. Finally Ellie has a friend she can be herself with. Gloria is also a talented medium and she and Ellie connect over their shared abilities. When Gloria insists that Ellie’s mother be tested for her psychic talents, Ellie reluctantly agrees even though she knows it will not go well. When Ellie’s mother is exposed as a charlatan, Ellie and Gloria have a falling out and they lose contact with one another.
After Ellie’s mother dies, Ellie must make her own living. She rejects her talent of contacting the dead and instead focuses on finding lost items. She has built her niche and is comfortable if somewhat bored in her new role. Everything changes when Gloria’s brother George Sutter brings her a cryptic note from Gloria that reads: tell Ellie Winter to find me. The twist? Gloria Sutter has been murdered.
James Hawley is one of thousands of WWI veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress after the end of the great war. A brilliant investigator, he finds himself affiliated with a less than respectable organization that seeks to debunk psychics. He tested both Gloria and Ellie’s mother, and wrote a paper confirming Gloria’s ability while debunking Mrs. Winters. Discrediting Ellie’s mother contributed to a decline that ultimately resulted in her death. To say Ellie bears him a grudge is an understatement, but refusing to admit she is attracted to James would be lying to herself. Since Gloria is one of the few true psychics James has ever met, he is also interested in discovering who murdered her. When he approaches Ellie to assist him, she is reluctant, but the two are soon deep in a murder investigation that puts them both at risk and the more Ellie is around James, the more her initial opinion of him begins to change.
Where to begin? This book has a delicious gothic feeling to it that just screams authentic. I loved the use of the post-WWI setting. The atmospheric groundwork laid by Ms. St. James is exquisite, and the suspense palpable. This reader almost felt as if she were a part of the book, so well did the author describe her world.
Ellie and James are both fully fleshed out characters with deep secrets that contribute to the overall feeling of mystery in the book. The author keeps us guessing for the entire book and the villain comes out of nowhere. That would be my only quibble with this book: that the villain was a little too out there. However, that is a very minor quibble.
The budding romance between Ellie and James felt entirely believable and both are drawn as empathic characters. James has to earn Ellie’s trust, but Ellie also has to earn his. Both have been burned and these two scarred souls finding one another makes for very poignant reading. I really loved their story and highly recommend this book.