Book Review: The Beautiful Daughters

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Nicole Baart’s novel, Sleeping in Eden was read by Hoarder Elizabeth, with her saying it was a well-written page burner. When I saw The Beautiful Daughters available on Netgalley, I requested, eager to read Baart’s work.

Initially, and yes, while indeed well-written, I could not ignore the painfully distracting, ever persistent and far too often used foreshadowing technique of: “She knew they would never forgive her for what she had done; She knew she could never go back, not after all that happened.“; “If they only knew what really happened, they wouldn’t want her back.” and “They didn’t know about that things that happened between Adri and David. Will didn’t know the truth about the day that David died.”  

This technique used to over-describe Adri’s constant guilt in thinking she was the one responsible for the death of her fiancé, the wealthy David Galloway, and the reason why she ran away immediately following this death, was like having a sledgehammer slammed over your head over and over again, and became tremendously tedious. This went on for approximately the first 25% – 30% of the book. I persevered however, because as I mentioned earlier, it was very well-written and the story itself did have parts keeping me intrigued into pushing through with it (although it was something I put down frequently to pick up and finish others first). And then, at about this 30% mark, the other characters involved in the story come forward, and this is where it takes off, and propels you at rapid-fire speed to the end. An ending that is a very pleasing one as well.

But let’s not talk about the ending now shall we? First we need to set up the story of The Beautiful Daughters and who is/was David Galloway and why Adri feels it is all her fault resulting in his tragic death.

The Beautiful Daughters begins with story of the close-knit friendship between two best friends Adri (Adrienne) Vogt and Harper Penny. They met on their first day in college, Adri in awe of the spark and sizzle that is Harper. Harper has chosen to move far, far away from her ever fighting parents and purposely applies to attend a college in a very small town – Blackhawk, Iowa. Blackhawk is where Adri has spent her life and the town also includes the impressive Piperhall – the estate of the extremely wealthy Galloway family.

While Adri has always spent many years admiring David Galloway and Piperhall from afar, it is not until Harper takes the reigns where David and Piperhall begin to feature so prominently in Adri’s life. While Harper should be the one to be David’s attraction, he chooses Adri instead. So what happens where David is dead, admittedly murdered by Adri, and why has Harper all but disappeared and Adri feels she must seek refuge in Africa?

These answers unfold for the reader beginning when Adri is called home from her hiding place in Africa, to hear the last will and testament of David’s mother, Victoria. Victoria is the sole heir to a vast fortune, David was her only child, their father long dead. As Adri was David’s fiancé at the time of his death, and now having no one else to leave the vast fortune too, Victoria has left everything to Adri.  In addition to this shocking news (not news that is well-received initially by Adri), Victoria has also left Adri with a letter saying she too has her share of secrets. What does this mean for Adri? Victoria has also left the decision of what to do with the vast estate completely in Adri’s hands.

While this revelation is made, we don’t hear much about Harper. How could someone that was as close to Adri, as though she were her sister, fall so far off the radar? Just when you are really questioning what happened to Harper and why isn’t she featuring as much in the story anymore, this is where The Beautiful Daughters pieces together into its formidable tale.

See, Harper too feels responsible for David’s death and she too has gone into exile. However her exile is vastly different and far more punishing then Adri’s. One night, completely acting on an impulse, Harper returns to Blackhawk just in time to make an appearance at Victoria’s memorial. While Adri and Harper cautiously circle each other following years of complete silence, each guarding their own secrets and guilt, the secrets found within the walls of Piperhall are revealed.

Only when Harper and Adri can forgive each other do their secrets and guilt they’ve been harboring come out into the open. Together they can piece their lives back together and move forward towards a future that is accepting and built upon the great love and friendship they once shared. The mystery and truth surrounding David’s death is also revealed, as are the secrets inside Piperhall.

So, following its fairly bumpy beginning (for me), The Beautiful Daughters grows into a wonderful read, filled with secrets and a story revealing the many facets of abuse: sexual, emotional and domestic. 3.75 stars.

Literary Hoarders Penny rev