St. Martin's Press / July 30, 2013 / $7.99 print / $7.59 digital
When Ella’s sister decides to reunite with their estranged mother, Ella goes along for the ride—it’s always been the two Preston girls against the world. But Sanctuary Island, a tiny refuge for wild horses tucked off the Atlantic coast, is more inviting than she ever imagined. And it holds more than one last opportunity to repair their broken family—if Ella can open her carefully guarded heart, there is also the chance for new beginnings.
Grady Wilkes is a handyman who can fix anything…except the scars of his own past. When he accepts the task of showing Ella the simple beauties of the island that healed him, he discovers a deep sense of comfort he thought he’d lost. But now he must convince the woman who never intended to stay that on Sanctuary Island, anything is possible—forgiving past mistakes, rediscovering the simple joys of life, and maybe even falling in love.
Sanctuary Island is Louisa Edwards’s first novel written under the Lily Everett pen name. But don’t expect hot kitchen action, because you will get something completely different.
Ella’s life has been shaped by a childhood marred by her mother’s alcoholism, her parents’ divorce, and a little sister who needed love and care. When her father took them away from home, she cut the connection to her roots and her mother, Jo Ellen.
Years late, her sister Merry, is pregnant, single, and eager to reconnect with their mother. Ella has no other choice but to go along with it. On the island, she’s confronted with a Jo Ellen who in no way resembles the mother she worked so hard to convince herself was no longer important.
Ella kept her breathing steady and even. So what if every heartbeat brought them closer to the moment when she’d look her mother in the eye for the first time since she was thirteen years old? She’d worked hard to move past the lingering issues of her childhood, and she’d succeeded. In the grand scheme of her life, Jo Ellen Hollister was completely unimportant.
Ignoring the wave of nerves that implied otherwise, Ella studied the quaint clapboard buildings that lined the street.
But the past is too strong and Ella does nothing but cling to her anger. It’s not until she meets Grady, a man scarred both physically and mentally, that she gets a sideways glimpse into the life her mother has built on the island, as well as the promise of love and the happiness that has eluded her since she was a kid. But in order to embrace the future, she must let go of the past. And that’s no easy feat.
Forgiveness and acceptance are the main themes of the story. Ella is filled with anger and resentment. She has spent years clinging to the bad memories and unable to move on. Her life revolves around her job, and her relationship with her sister is the only personal connection she allows herself to have. Falling in love is certainly part of the road towards her emotional recovery, but forgiving her mother is something she must do alone.
Jo Ellen spent years living with the regret and consequences of her alcoholism. She no longer is that woman who neglected her children, yet she’s unable to divorce from the person she used to be. Now she has a second opportunity and is willing to give up everything just to be part of her daughters’ lives. Her journey is about forgiving herself and realizing that she deserves happiness and that maybe she shouldn’t have to sacrifice her new hopes and dreams in order to reconnect with Ella and Merry.
And finally there’s Grady. His trauma is different, yet the emotional consequences are quite similar. He too has to forgive and accept himself in order to have healthy emotional relationships. Ella shows him the possibilities, and in her acceptance, Grady finds the strength to move on.
She didn’t say anything more, but her gentle touch said everything Grady could’ve hoped to hear.
Ella was still there. He’d showed her a glimpse of the deepest, darkest part of himself and it hadn’t scared her away.
Facing her was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, but the moment his eyes met Ella’s, he forgot the struggle. He forgot everything but the quiet strength of her, the complete acceptance in her deep blue eyes.
Sanctuary Island is the nostalgic, almost introspective story of a young woman, the mother who neglected her, and the wounded man who will walk the road to a happy ending with her. The story is the perfect blend of Romance and Woman’s fiction that will equally satisfy readers of both genres as well as those who meet in the middle.
Learn more about or order a copy of Lily Everett's Sanctuary Island, out July 30: