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The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate
Pub. Date: September 1, 2015
Source: ARC won via a GoodReads giveaway (Thank you, Tyndale!)
Summary: Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at The Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a depression-era love story change everything?
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

The sea whispers, and so does its Keeper. For all the generations, in the old world and the new, we have been His daughters.
We have come full circle, and now the sea has called us home.

Whitney Monroe is disastrously close to losing her business. While her first restaurant, Bella Tazza 1 is doing great, it’s the recently opened Bella Tazza 2 that’s causing grief for her and her cousin. With another restaurateur breathing down her neck (and keeping the local law force close at hand) Whitney feels hopeless – even more so after receiving a panicked phone call from Denise saying equipment needs replaced – and fast.

Having inherited an old hotel, Whitney makes the trip from Michigan to the Outer Banks to comb through what’s left of the place…and finally make her stepfather move out. While the two were never on good terms, it was her mother’s funeral that really showed Whitney Clyde’s true feelings and she’s ready to take what’s her no matter who decides to get in the way.

Whitney’s plan doesn’t go quite as smoothly as she had hoped however. Her arrival is met with caution and suspicion – the first floor of The Excelsior is home to several shops and those owners aren’t exactly happy about the potential loss of their livelihood that the sale of the building could bring. Things are even more complicated when Whitney uncovers several letters from a relative she never knew existed.

Okay, time for a confession. Lately I haven’t been reading series in order. …and by lately I mean the past few years. Whoops! I began the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series with book two, which I suppose isn’t too bad when I jumped into Aunt Dimity with book 20! The Sea Keeper’s Daughters is the third book in Wingate’s Carolina series and for that reason I was a little hesitant to pick it up. As it turns out, it’s a series that, while connected, can easily be read as separate, standalone novels. Having read this one, I’m now VERY interested in going back to read the previous two: both The Prayer Box and The Story Keeper feature elements that are called upon in this novel and I would love to discover more!

While Whitney was a wonderfully crafted character and I enjoyed reading her story, it was Alice’s story that truly lured me in. Whitney’s grandmother married into the Benoit family, a family full of wealth and power. What Whitney never knew was that Ziltha was a twin and it’s that sister’s letters that are uncovered in a musty, long-forgotten hotel room. As the scraps are pieced back together, Whitney realizes just how different the twins were. Whereas Ziltha was prim and proper, Alice took her young daughter and left home to travel through the Blue Ridge mountains and collect folklore as part of FDR’s Federal Writers Project. After her husband committed suicide when the stock market crashed, Alice was left to find a way to support herself and her daughter and so she signed on for a dangerous task that saw several encounters with Ku Klux Klan members, she received numerous threats, and she met people she never would have come across otherwise. Her story was fascinating and I kept turning the pages, eager to get back to her letters. Her tales of the Melungeon people and the doors in the mountains and the artifacts she brought back had me absolutely captivated and I couldn’t get enough – especially once Roanoke legends were introduced. (From The Story Keeper‘s blurb, I have a feeling that book will focus more on these stories so you better believe I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of that one soon!)

As she digs deeper into Alice’s story, Whitney must make a decision: sell the items she’s found and use the money to save her restaurant? And what of The Excelsior? There’s already a developer who’s practically written up all the necessary paperwork for the sale. …but selling the building would mean utter ruin for the people she’s come to know. This part of the novel was a bit obvious, you can easily figure out the outcome, but the journey was worth it.

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters surprised me – in a good way! Going in, I expected a fairly typical, easy read and got so much more. I discovered a part of history I knew very little about, I was enchanted by the folklore passed down through the generations, I found myself riveted by these characters and their stories from the present day to the Gilded Age and Depression and even Roanoke! I wish I could have learned more about two of the characters (minor characters, but I was very intrigued by the circumstances that led to their deaths) but overall, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters was an absolute delight and I look forward to reading the other two books in this series!

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