Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
Evergreen Falls is about two women almost a century apart who work at a resort hotel in Australia's Blue Mountains. After the death of her beloved older brother, Lauren in the present-day story escapes her over-protective mother by taking a job as waitress in a café on the site of the decaying Evergreen Spa Hotel, now in the early stages of a major renovation. A photograph taken nearby shows her brother before his illness, radiantly happy, along with two other young people, strangers to her. While trying to solve both this mystery from her family's recent past and the much older mystery of the love letters she finds in a dusty wing of the old hotel, Lauren is surprised to discover that an architect working on the renovation is as attracted to her as she is to him.
Most of the story is devoted to Violet, the young woman who in 1926 comes to work at the glamorous hotel in its prime, and to the people she gets to know there. It's an era when staff - men and women of a lower social order - are forbidden to speak familiarly to the wealthy guests. The guests, however, cannot be forbidden - not, at least, by the hotel management - from speaking familiarly to the staff. So what can Violet do when the charming and magnetically attractive Sam Honeychurch-Black tells her he has fallen in love with her? Especially when she is just as smitten with him?
Evergreen Falls offers a more complex and interesting story than is typical of the romance fiction it resembles in style and tone. Sam, who is addicted to opium, makes an unusual but sympathetic love interest. Freeman's prose rolls comfortably along, her central characters are sweet and easy to identify with, and the story holds enough mystery and suspense to keep a reader steadily turning pages to see what happens next. (2015, 392 pages)
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