Forced out of his parents’ home when the bank foreclosed, Whitney is left to throw himself upon the mercy of his father’s brother, Robert. The thing is, Uncle Robert and his daughter, November, have no interest in helping Whitney, let alone his family. Even as children, Whitney recalls all of November’s cruel taunts. Now that they are young adults, November oozes contempt from her pores while Uncle Robert holds Whitney’s nose to the grindstone at one of the many restaurants Robert owns. The dismissive, disrespectful attitudes of his relatives is disheartening to say the least. The rich oceanside surroundings do nothing to alleviate any of the foreboding that seeps into Whitney’s consciousness. Uncle Robert’s home is as cold and unfeeling as the man himself and cousin November fills the residence with flowers that, on second inspection, prove to be local varieties of poisonous flora.
The one little bright spot in Whitney’s new, miserable existence is Griffin. Sure, he may be November’s boyfriend, but Whitney fells undeniably attracted to the muscular jock. Even better, Griffin is a ray of warmth and sunshine in an otherwise bleak setting. That is, as long as November isn’t around barking orders. Whitney is convinced he can make Griffin happy—he just has to look at Griffin’s sapphire-gemstone eyes to see the warmth the huge hunk has for Whitney. But when November enters the room, those glorious eyes grow dim and Griffin goes distant. If nothing else, Whitney is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery…and hopes he stays clear of whatever spell November has cast over Griffin to do so.
First, I must commend Norris on the presentation of the story, which kept me guessing until the very end. The book opens with a pivotal scene near the climax of the book. The reader is introduced to Whitney, who is searching frantically for Griffin in the creepy confines of Uncle Robert’s restaurant after dark. Tension builds as Whitney flits from room to room and doesn’t find Griffin…until he goes to the walk-in freezer where a horrific scene waits for him with an even more horrific conclusion—or is it? Before that scene comes to definitive end, we start a new chapter that takes us back to the day Whitney rolls into Window, Maine where he’s to start his new life.
If nothing else, Norris really pushes home the idea that Uncle Robert’s home is incredibly creepy. Despite being set in the summer, it rains constantly and Whitney’s new home is often drafty and cold and feels more like a mausoleum than a home. Just as the house is delightfully described as dark and foreboding, November is consistently described as being mean and manipulative. Her bitchiness comes through in the dismissive attitude she takes towards Whitney and her condescending dialogue. She is a character you love to hate. But she’s also the main character to watch. Between her father and her boyfriend, she is the only Window native at the house who does not have a mysterious collar. The closer Whitney gets to Griffin, the more we understand that November has some serious tricks, if not outright magic, up her sleeves.
The paranormal aspects were embedded into the story, revealed slowly like the layers of an onion being peeled away. It was enjoyable to watch Whitney piece more and more of the puzzle together as to why Griffin was so keen to be with Whitney (despite being November’s boyfriend) and why Griffin kept refraining at the last minute. November’s role in Griffin’s (and to a lesser extent Uncle Robert’s) behavior is clearly explained by the end of the book. Less clear is how one of the characters discovered the key to breaking November’s control, but by the same token, the “key” is a pretty popular trope so I suppose it gets a pass.
I did notice a few similar-but-different word errors, most comically a treasure trail that “dissected” an abdomen instead of “bisecting” it. Apart from that, there was just one scene where I felt the description felt a bit lacking: when the main story catches up to the teaser in the opening. It’s a minor thing, but as Whitney encounters Griffin in that walk-in freezer, I felt the paranormal rules that dictated how Griffin and Whitney could interact seemed muddled. Thankfully, the scene is short and gets resolved by a happily ever after type end for our two MCs.
All in all, this is a great, short read for a day when you might be snowed in or it’s too cold to go further than the comfort of your reading nook. It’s creepy without being gory (I think there is zero gore) and a mutual attraction between the MCs that is off the scales.