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Friday, August 6, 2010

"Crestmont" Delivers Multi-Layered Read

By Holly Weiss
Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Shelley Stout, author of Radium Halos, for Goodreads

In Holly Weiss’ debut novel, 22-year-old aspiring singer Gracie Antes discovers the meaning and the rewards of hard work. She applies for a position as housemaid at the lakeside Crestmont Inn in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania in 1925. Her employer Margaret Woods, daughter of the creator and designer of the inn, sees something special in the young, na├»ve Gracie. During the next two years, these vastly different women bond in a special way through hardship, family strife, and responsibilities.

Gracie has one goal in mind—to earn enough money to fulfill her dream to become a singer. At first, she saves her meager earnings, but soon discovers life away from home comes with expenses. Gracie must find a way to fit in and slowly makes friends with her coworkers, but when Margaret Woods takes a fall, breaking her arm, Gracie leaves the staff dormitory to live with Margaret, her husband William, and their two young daughters. While there, Gracie learns what it takes to manage and run the Crestmont Inn, and her dreams must be put on hold.

Weiss creates distinctive characters through realistic description and believable dialogue. The staff at the Crestmont Inn includes unique individuals, from whom Gracie learns and matures as a young woman. When Gracie becomes the caregiver to a neighboring older woman in poor health, she discovers her own inner strengths.

Further, Weiss does a superb job of creating a distinct narrative world for the reader. Her details are authentic and engaging, invoking the aromas of the massive inn kitchen and the beauty and grandeur of the Pennsylvania countryside. One can almost see the morning sun reflecting off the lake, “like tinsel on the trees near the shore.” The building and grounds create the canvas for this finely woven tapestry—the inn itself becomes one of the main characters.

Crestmont is a debut novel for the history buff or for anyone who enjoys entering a past world and remaining there. An enjoyable stay at the inn, with ample staff to meet your needs.

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