Doing what she does best, popular author Eileen Goudge has created the seemingly idyllic town of Carson Springs, along the golden coast of California near Santa Barbara. In Stranger in Paradise, the first novel in a new trilogy, the tranquil surface of Carson Springs unsuccessfully hides the murmurings of discontent; amid the gentle hum of the famous honeybee hives at the local convent, real problems exist. It's hard to believe that the wedding of Alice Kiley to her much older fiancé, Wes Carpenter, would presage the end of the comfortable existence of Alice's widowed mother, Sam, and her divorced older sister, Laura. But a dead car and a gatecrasher at the reception are only the beginning of the changes that will rock the Kiley family and the town of Carson Springs.
Sam catches a ride from the church back to the reception at her home with her new son-in-law's son, Ian Carpenter, the beach-boy-handsome artist, only to discover a hungry runaway girl named Finch stealing food. When Sam finds herself hotly pursued by a man young enough to be her son--her younger daughter's new stepson to boot--the temptation to say yes is just too great, and the encounter leaves Sam and Ian with a joint project in the making. Alice is horrified by her mother's actions, but her sister Laura is too busy trying to break through Finch's mistrust and heal her wounds to care. Sam, Alice, and Laura struggle against others' expectations of them and their own visions of each other. When a string of gruesome murders occurs, the darkness seething beneath Carson Springs' surface threatens to overwhelm the Kiley women and the men who love them. Goudge has produced another roller coaster of a read with Stranger in Paradise. Fasten your seat belts before you start this one! --Alison Trinkle
From Publishers Weekly
"A woman alone is no good to anyone" could be the rallying cry for bestselling author Goudge's kickoff to a new series, the Carson Springs trilogy (following One Last Dance). Situated east of Santa Barbara, Calif., Carson Springs and its Spanish-style architecture and orange groves provide the scenic backdrop for a tale about second chances, focusing on 48-year-old Samantha "Sam" Kiley and her daughters, Alice and Laura. As the story opens, Alice is about to marry Wes Carpenter, a Ted Turneresque entertainment mogul nearly 30 years her senior. Then Wes's son, Ian, takes a shine to Sam and the two become romantically involved, alarming Sam's daughters and setting the gossipy town abuzz. Laura, divorced because she couldn't bear children, and given to taking in strays, gets a new lease on life when she provides shelter for 16-year-old female runaway Finch, introduced to the reader in the prologue as being on the lam following a violent incident in Brooklyn. Goudge's fictional test of one of society's great inconsistencies that it's okay for a man to be with a much younger woman, but not the reverse is interesting, but the supposed scandal caused when Sam reveals she is pregnant is dated, given how increasingly common it is for older women to bear children. Despite Finch's dramatic appearance in the prologue, her story line is incidental, forgotten for long stretches of time and, when it is finally wrapped up, like everything else in this Fiction Lite territory, it's in a too-neat package. Agent, Susan Ginsburg of Writers House.
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