Feb 20 2013 9:30am

First Look: Susan Mallery’s Three Sisters (February 26, 2013)

Susan Mallery
Three Sisters
Harlequin Mira / February 26, 2013 / $10.00 print, $8.79 digital

After Andi Gordon is jilted at the altar, she makes the most impetuous decision of her life—buying one of the famed Three Sisters Queen Anne houses on Blackberry Island. Now the proud-ish owner of the ugly duckling of the trio, she plans to open her own pediatric office on the first floor, just as soon as her hunky contractor completes the work. Andi's new future may be coming together, but the truth is she's just as badly in need of a major renovation as her house.

When Deanna Phillips confronts her husband about a suspected affair, she opens up a Pandora's box of unhappiness. And he claims that she is the problem. The terrible thing is, he's right. In her quest to be the perfect woman, she's lost herself, and she's in danger of losing her entire family if things don't change.

Next door, artist Boston King thought she and her college sweetheart would be married forever. Their passion for one another has always seemed indestructible. But after tragedy tears them apart, she's not so sure. Now it's time for them to move forward, with or without one another.

Thrown together by fate and geography, and bound by the strongest of friendships, these three women will discover what they're really made of: laughter, tears, love and all.

I always enjoy Susan Mallery’s women's fiction novels. This second book in her Blackberry Island series uses a metaphor to connect the journeys of three women.

When Andi Gordon was left at the altar in front of three hundred of her closest friends and family by a man who “needed more time” after a ten-year relationship, she decided it was time for a change—a big change. Leaving Seattle and her critical family behind, she used her savings to buy a home on Blackberry Island, one of three Queen Anne houses, known as the “Three Sisters,” built by sea captains as the nineteenth century was yielding to the twentieth. Andi’s house is definitely a fixer-upper, saved from demolition only by its history. Renovating it will take lots of time, money, and patience, but once its finished Andi will have a beautiful spot from which to launch a new pediatric practice and a new personal life. She sees the house as a metaphor for her life.

The house had once been full of promise. Time and circumstances had reduced it to its present condition—unloved and abandoned.

Looking at the neglected house, she promises to make it whole again.

It doesn’t take a particularly perceptive reader to realize that Andi’s house represents not only Andi’s life, but also the lives of the women who live in the houses on either side of hers. The exterior of these houses may be beautiful, one perfectly restored in period detail and one colorfully marked with the distinctive taste of its artist owner, but inside these houses are women who are more broken than Andi.

Deanna Phillips works hard to maintain an image of the perfect life. From her garden to her furniture, every detail of her home is perfectly true to the period of the house, allowing only for modern conveniences. Her children eat perfectly healthy meals and are allowed to watch only educational TV. Diana devotes hours to scrapbooking, preserving the image of her perfect family—the devoted wife and mother, her handsome, hardworking husband, and their five daughters—beautiful with their blonde good looks and happy smiles. But Diana knows the image is a lie. He children are nervous and unhappy, her husband has threatened to leave if their marriage cannot be “more,” and Diana with her painful past, her desperate need to control everything and her OCD habits is more damaged than anyone suspects.

She waited for the tears, but they didn’t come. She was too empty, too broken. Everything was wrong, and she didn’t even know where to start to fix something that had become impossible to understand.

Once Boston King loved her life. Living in the house she grew up in, married to the man she had loved since she was fifteen, finding success with her art—everything was perfect. When her son Liam was born, he added immeasurably to her happiness. But when Liam was six months old, he died of a heart defect, and Boston is finding it impossible to let go of her baby. Every art project turns into a portrait of Liam. Every inch of her studio is covered with images of Liam rendered in pencil, oil, watercolors, and pastels. Her husband wants her to move on, to think about having another child, but Boston cannot let go and lose all she has left of her child, not even if holding on means losing her husband.

Didn’t anyone understand that being broken was all she had left? Without that Liam was truly gone.

Three Sisters is the story of the journey of three broken women to wholeness. The women, whose differences in background and lifestyle are significant, form a bond that helps them make their individual journeys. The “three sisters” of the title refers to the houses and to the women. In each woman’s life is a man who is both part of her brokenness and essential to her healing. Just as Andi’s house emerges from the demolished walls and torn up floors, remodeled and newly decorated to fulfill its potential as office space but with work still to be done in other parts of the house, the women’s lives, with a little help from their friends and families (with a therapist added to the mix), are beginning to fulfill their promise. Near the end, Boston asks if she’s broken. Deanna responds, “No. . . . You’re healing, Boston. It’s going to take time.”  It’s a process, but a process with a happy ending in sight.


Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. joyofbean
Putting this series in the TBR pile. Love Mallery's "Fool's Gold" series so this should be wonderful as well.
2. JanetW
This sounds wonderful--thanks for sharing just the right amount.
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