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By: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Publication Date: 5/31/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Crown and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Talented storyteller, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore returns following Bittersweet (2014) with a compelling atmospheric tale of dual timelines---JUNE, a blending of past and present, rich in history, suspense, and intrigue, a grandmother’s secret past, sacrifice, friendship, and a mysterious Hollywood lover. Would make for a spectacular movie!
An old historic mansion estate, a small rural Ohio Midwestern town, memories, dreams, scandal, ---and a granddaughter some sixty years later, seeking answers in reference to her family’s past.
Infused with Hollywood (Gatsby type) glamour, reminiscent of an era gone by, secret loves, and those with evil motives of blackmail, lies, and murder- for their own selfish greed and purpose.
A house once filled with parties, laughter, and adventure back in its heyday, in small town St. Jude, Ohio—now left crumbling with only memories and dreams.
From 2015 (present) day to 1955 (past), a multi-layered complex coming-of-age tale of redemption, love, loss and family.
2015: Cassandra (Cassie) Danvers, Granddaughter-(now an orphan) a twenty-five-year old struggling artist and photographer, is going through a quarter-life crisis. Leaving New York, she has moved to an old family estate, she has inherited from her late grandmother, June.
1955: June Danvers, Grandmother- a private person, an artist growing up in the fifties, eighteen years old, and engaged to be married to Artie (Arthur). A conservative family. Her best friend, younger Lindie has a job working on the movie set. Lindie does not fit in with the others. She likes to sneak out with June in the evenings. Lindie wants to protect June.
Two Oaks, the estate home of the late oilman Lemon Gray Neely has fallen into shambles. Cassie’s grandmother, June raised her after her own parent’s death in a horrible car crash. She has inherited the home and $14,000 from her grandmother.
This amount is not enough to repair all the items in this old house and sustain her for long without a job. Every day she had good intentions of calling repairman; however, she continued to ignore the mail, the bills, and phone calls, curled up in her bedroom dreaming. Her father, Adelbert Lemon Danvers would be fifty-nine if he had lived.
Soon she begins having dreams of earlier days in this house. A house with a past. Did she really ever know June, her grandmother? Houses don’t always dream. In fact, most don’t. But once again, Two Oaks was dreaming of the girls—the one called June, who looked like a woman, and the one called Lindie, who looked like a boy.
Once known as a grand home, now is shambles. Constructed by ambitious dreamers, once a ballroom, now filled with bats, bugs, holes, dust, and mail addressed to the dead---almost fooling the mansion into believing itself still on the precipice of adventure. If Two Oaks was lonely, it was also lucky. At least it had known how what it felt like to be full. At least it had gotten to have a “Lindie” and a “June”. Now Cassie is here alone.
When Tate Montgomery (Jack's so called daughter), also a movie star, shows up with her people, at the door demanding a DNA—fighting against the will, she offers to give Cassie a million for her trouble, since there is a $37 Million inheritance at stake for Jack's granddaughter.
Cassie has become essentially a hermit. Soon, she receives shocking news. She has been named the sole heir to legendary Hollywood idol, Jack Montgomery, the star of the film, “Erie Canal”. How could he be her grandfather?
She knew her grandfather to be someone different. Why had her grandmother, June and her father never told her of this? She cannot imagine her grandmother having an affair. Now Jack, June, and her father are all dead. How will she attain the answers? She has to find her grandmother's best friend.The one writing letters to her grandmother.
Cassie demands these answers before she takes the DNA. Then her stepsister (Jack’s other daughter), shows up, along with Nick Emmons who works for the Tates, along with Tate’s assistant—all hiding out at the old mansion from the media. More shocking secrets and Hollywood scandal. A mysterious inheritance. Jack Montgomery had passed three days earlier and he left Cassie everything. Why? She did not even know him.
Years ago Hollywood came to their small town for the filming of the movie “Erie Canal”, and lives became entangled which would forever change the course of their lives. What makes this suspense even more intriguing---in addition to June, Carrie, Lindie, is the gothic type ongoing mystery between the many secondary characters. This is so good, Southern fans will think they are in the Deep South with the sordid past.
Would it really scandalize a twenty-first century college student to discover that her grandmother had a life? Secrets she took to her grave. Did her grandmother, June have a secret life? If she loved this move star, what kept them apart? A lot of scandal for two young women in the fifties, to handle on their own.
Whittemore is a master at creating mysterious vivid settings, surrounded by a web of deceit, bringing characters to life with a blending of past and present----keeping you captivated from the first page to the last. Love the twist with Lindie at the explosive ending.
Rich in character, culture, history, art, travel, mystery, and romance. Of course, as the norm, I tend to be more enthralled with the secret past of the two friends June (18 yrs old) and Lindie (lesbian 14 yrs. old) and all which surround them, than the present. Something sinister and dark building around them from Ohio to Hollywood.
Past Supporting Characters: Jack, Diane, Alan, Arthur, Apatha, Lemon Gray Neely, Clyde, Eben, Thomas, from the 1950s race-relations, sexuality, and of course the limits and roles of women during this time. The author skillfully crafts historical fiction with modern literature, and a Gothic twist.
Present day: Nick, Elda, Tate, Hank, Margaret, Max Greed, power, betrayal, jealousy, scandal, and lies. When Cassie has all the pieces of the puzzle, she will not only learn something about her grandmother but something about herself. She may find a family after all and a home and town she can call her own.
What makes the novel charming and unique, as well as suspenseful. is the usage of handwritten letters (no emails, social media, cell, or hardly even a landline phone call). It is a refreshing change of pace in a world of today’s social media where everyone’s life is on display, compared to June’s era where everyone kept such scandalous secrets. Much more exciting with a bit of mystery than to put it all out there. Nice usage of the contrasts between Hollywood and small town living, present day with the foods, culture, and attire.
Loved, love June’s character. A mix of talented artist, Bohemian, wanderlust, romantic, unselfish personality, mysterious, and a true loyal friend. Finding her own version of happiness and true love.
I enjoyed reading about the author’s personal connection, inspiration, and research behind the novel--personally, a lover of preservation and historic properties. Highly recommend June as well as Bittersweet!
Fans of Karen White and T. Greenwood -literary, historical, mystery, and domestic suspense fans will devour!