I think this was either a December 2020 or January 2021 Kindle First book.
In a tale inspired by real events, pregnant journalist Joan Harken is cautiously excited to follow her fiancé back to his Minnesota hometown. After spending a childhood on the move and chasing the screams and swirls of news-rich city life, she’s eager to settle down. Lilydale’s motto, “Come Home Forever,” couldn’t be more inviting.
And yet, something is off in the picture-perfect village.
The friendliness borders on intrusive. Joan can’t shake the feeling that every move she makes is being tracked. An archaic organization still seems to hold the town in thrall. So does the sinister secret of a little boy who vanished decades ago. And unless Joan is imagining things, a frighteningly familiar figure from her past is on watch in the shadows.
Her fiancé tells her she’s being paranoid. He might be right. Then again, she might have moved to the deadliest small town on earth.
I’ve got issues with the book by chapter two, which is unfortunate. This woman is engaged to a man and she’s never met his parents, and she is already pregnant before they’re married. While it was as huge of a taboo in 1968, it is still pretty looked-down-upon, especially in small towns like Lilydale. (Also, the town motto is Come Home Forever. How much heavier-handed could you get on that foreshadowing??)
I’m afraid I’m about to run into the whole “naïve woman must sacrifice everything she has in order to save herself and get out of a place after ignoring a whole bunch of red flags on the way into that place,” and while I know I sound jaded, it’s just all been done before. The narrator spends the entire second chapter almost weeping with how much love she feels for her husband, and I’m over here trying not to roll my eyes too hard. She’s known him for ten months, she’s already engaged to him, she’s pregnant with his baby, and she is just now meeting his parents and learning about his history. This does not bode well for our protagonist.
Oh, and Deck’s father looks exactly like Deck, which leads to an embarrassing scene in the second chapter and I’m sure there will be more mix-ups to come. Joan is also startled that eight people (four couples) come to greet them (as people in small towns do), and she learns that all of them live on the same street that she does. (Has she never lived in a neighborhood before?)
I fear that this book may get abandoned partway through, but then I think about Follow Me to Ground and how I pushed through that one, so maybe we’ll see how bad this gets. The writing so far is atrocious. I actually had to look up the gender of the author to make sure it wasn’t a guy writing this, because the descriptions of Joan and her inner thoughts sound just like something a guy with no experience of a woman would write.
Please give me some comforting words about this one. It’s going to be a slog.
And as always, keep reading.