Monday, February 18, 2013

The Long Way Home by Mariah Stewart

Ellis Ryder Chapman loses almost everything thanks to her father being the mastermind behind a Ponzi style investment scheme which collapses. Her father, and her fiance who was also involved, are both in jail. She has lost her fancy car, jewellery, home and most of her friends. Whilst there was no question that she was involved in the scheme, the FBI determined that her lifestyle was funded by the profits of the scheme and therefore it was all forfeited to be redistributed to the victims of the scheme. As for the friends, well, it turns out that only one of them was a true friend in the first place.

The only thing that Ellis now has left is a house in St Dennis. It has been vacant for years but because it clearly belonged to Ellis' mother and did not come from the proceeds of her father's schemes, it is
Ellis's to keep.  There are, however, strings attached. The major one is that once she takes ownership, Ellis, or rather Ellie Ryder as she is now calling herself, must live in the house for six months before she can sell it, and she cannot sell anything from inside the house for that time either.

Ellis is determined that she is going to fix the house up in the six months that she is being forced to live there and then she will be out of there! She doesn't know where to, or what she will do, but she just needs to make it through the six months without finding out who she really is. Not as easy as it sounds in a town like St Dennis.

First person to deal with is Cameron Connor who has been looking after the basic requirements of the house for many years, with the idea in mind that one day he will own the house that is so important to him. It is only as the story progresses that we find out why this is so. He is less than happy to find out that the house has been 'sold' without his knowledge and is determined that he will convince the new owner that he should be given first option.

He also knows that something doesn't quite add up with Ellie. She drives a fancy car (borrowed, but he doesn't know that), she claims to be broke and to have bought the house as a fixer upper but clearly has no experience in doing this kind of project. Something isn't quite right.

Ellie has always worked in PR for her dad, but that career is no longer an option for her, so while she figures out what she is going to do with her life, she starts on the mammoth task of renovating the house. Cameron provides her advice on how to go about it, giving them the perfect opportunity to spend more time with each other and for their feelings to deepen. Cameron has plenty of experience of his own at living with the consequences of a parent's action, but Ellie needs to know that she can trust him enough to share her own story and to get beyond her worries that the town will turn it's back on her when they know who she really is.

Along the way, Cameron and other townspeople are able to help Ellie fill in some of the gaps of who she is, about her mother Lynley (one of the original supermodels) and her mother's ancestors, with surprising outcomes. And then there is the less welcome surprise from her father, but Ellie takes it all in her stride with little difficulty - maybe a bit too easily but still.

Cameron is an all round decent bloke, maybe surprisingly so once we find out his story. He knows what he wants, but he is also prepared to help Ellie out with his long term aim of getting hold of the house almost a side issue. The only thing that didn't really gel for me was when his sister came to his defense towards the end and made it seem as though he was something of a commitment-phobe when there was little evidence of that anywhere else in the book. Sure, he didn't talk about any relationships in his past which is possibly a bit odd given his age and apparent good looks and great personality. Just felt a little out of left field to me.

There is no question that this is a very pleasant read, quite safe, the sex is very tame and very easy storytelling with little to no conflict. Along the way, there are plenty of cameos from the characters in the earlier books in the series, plus the  now seemingly obligatory wedding. Throw in a ghost, some newly discovered art gems, a town celebration of Founding Father's day complete with pirates and you have a very nice way to while away a couple of hours. If I had to choose, I would say I prefer my stories to be a little meatier and denser but that's a personal choice.

This is book 6 in the Chesapeake Diaries series, and the reader is left with no doubt that there will be a book 7 with one particular plot line being left way open for presumably the next book. For me, the ending was very, very rushed. It was nice that the ending happened the way it did, but you would think that the other character might have had some clue at what they were thinking about the future.

I am not complaining that there will so obviously be new books in the series because I do enjoy my visits to St Dennis. I would love to have an icecream from Steffie's shop Scoop, and to taste Brooke's cupcakes and to stuff myself with seafood! The town sounds like such an idyllic place to while away a day or ten (and yes, I know it is a made up town but I am sure that there must be some real ones that would fit the bill on the Chesapeake Bay.

Rating 4/5

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As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home—even her fiancĂ©, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go.
Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis–not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own–begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation.


  1. This was the first book that I've read in this series but it definitely won't be the last! I really, really enjoyed it and can't wait to read more from this series. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it as well even if it wasn't your favorite. Great review!

  2. I downloaded a review copy of this book and didn't realise it was part of a series. The OCD in me makes we want to read the rest of the series first. This was a great review and I now want to get on and read my own copy!

    I know what you mean about "perfect fictional places" - I feel the same about Elm Creek which is the setting for the Jennifer Chiaverini's quilting series.