Charlotte (“Charley”) Van Hoek takes up residence in her late brother’s home on Long Island and begins a position as curator of the Wilde House, a historic home on Snug Cove and the childhood home of 18th-century privateer Benjamin Wilde. Charley is overseeing renovations when she first hears the house’s ghost story: during the Seven Years’ War an illicit love affair between a captured French officer and Benjamin’s sister turned tragic when a family member shot the enemy soldier dead before the lovers could escape. As phantom lights, overhead footsteps, and strong breezes trail her steps, Charley becomes determined to find out what really happened in the house centuries ago.
Lydia Wilde recoils when her father brings home two captured French officers he has been forced to billet. The war has already taken a toll on the family after Lydia’s oldest brother Joseph returned from Oswego forever altered and her fiancé, Moses, never returned at all. Her deep dislike softens, however, as she observes the quiet intensity of the French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran. As they work together on the farm and she learns of his mother and sister trapped in Québec, a city recently taken by the English, he no longer seems like the enemy.
No one can weave past and present timelines quite so well as Ms. Kearsley, whose characters often mirror each other across the centuries. Here, we experience the tale through the eyes of Charley, Lydia, and Jean-Philippe. With deftly overlapping scenes, Charley follows the artifact trail while readers experience the budding romance first hand. Charley’s modern-day storyline lacks the emotional nuances of the historical plot, but readers can easily imagine themselves in the role of the ghost, gently nudging Charley towards the truth.