When Midwesterner Mabel Dagmar’s famously wealthy college roommate Ginevra Winslow beckons Mabel to spend the summer at Winloch, the Winslow Family’s vacation paradise on the Vermont shores of Lake Champlain, Mabel is stunned but thrilled. She didn’t know that Ginevra even liked her, let alone would consider spending the summer with a scholarship student whose parents own a laundry in Wisconsin.
When the two young women arrive at Winloch, Ginevra immediately sets them both to work scrubbing and fixing up Bittersweet, one of many family cottages at Winloch, which Ginevra hopes will be hers. Mabel is no fool—she now sees at least one reason Ginevra invited her to Winloch. But Mabel doesn’t care. If there’s a price for a summer at Winloch, she’s more than willing to pay it.
While Ginevra is off pursuing a pair of romantic entanglements, Mabel is left to wander the estate. She meets Indo, Ginevra’s eccentric aunt. One afternoon together is all it takes for Indo and Mabel to bond, and for Indo to trust her niece’s friend with an investigation into a family secret that threatens Indo’s future. Mabel, a researcher and detective by nature, is eager to search in an attic for the folder Indo says will provide the crucial proof she needs.
In the midst of her pursuit, Mabel is soon swept off her feet by the “black sheep” of Ginevra’s siblings, Galway, who refuses to sit back on his family’s wealth. He runs a non-profit to aid immigrants in Boston. While assisting Mabel with her search in the attic, they find they have much in common and the couple fall in love on a star-filled night swimming in Lake Champlain.
At the center of the Winloch mystery is a Van Gogh painting hung in Ginevra’s parents’ house. When Indo claims that the painting is actually hers, Mabel becomes more deeply involved in uncovering the truth of the painting’s history and the Winslow Family’s relationship with it. She discovers that what appears on the surface to be an ordinary family of privilege is actually a group concealing a rat’s nest filled with the darkest unspoken secrets both in the present and the past. Over the course of the summer, Mabel evolves from a bright, innocent college girl into a worldly-wise young woman of power and conviction who unflinchingly battles with the evil in her midst.
If you’re a reader who’s attracted to elegantly depicted setting, including mood and atmosphere, then the author’s flawless creation of Winloch and the Lake Champlain landscape, complete with woodlands, fields, rocky shores, sandy beaches, and beautiful family compound will satisfy your vacation dreams. I know it did mine!