Holly Lisle started out her writing career with fantasy novels. However, lately she’s turned her hand to paranormal suspense novels and become quite successful and quite well-known at them. She also manages her personal website regarding her career, a personal dialogue with fans and interested parties, and offers tip sheets and essays on the craft of writing. Fans wanting to know more about her and her work are encouraged to visit the site, as are budding writers.
Her first novel of paranormal romance, Midnight Rain and her last, I’ll See You, had more violence inherent in the plot than the current book does, but her fourth book, Night Echoes, is more a southern gothic and ghost story. In all of her books, Lisle manages to present interesting characters in the interesting situations, all with an economy of language that keeps readers turning pages. Lisle has such an easy touch with prose that it’s hard not to just keep reading way past bedtime. The pages seem almost to turn themselves.
In Night Echoes, commercial artist Emma Beck buys an old Civil War-era house in South Carolina that she has ties to, but she has no explanation why. When she sees the house, she realizes that she’s dreamed about it and painted it several times in her artwork. The author works this story with a slow burn, layering in character and building tension at a steady pace.
Emma was adopted by her parents. Before he died, her father gave her the name of her birth mother. Her father had hired a private detective to track the information down in case Emma ever needed to know. It was that search for the background on her mother and why she was given up for adoption that led Emma to the house she buys almost on impulse.
The story picks up after Emma has been living in the house for a few days and is still moving in. She’s also met Mike Ruhl, the contractor who did minor repairs on her house before she moved in. There are immediate sparks between Emma and Mike that leave no doubts about who the romance will concentrate on.
Lisle presents her character and a very human fashion and gives her a detailed background that allows the reader to get to know her very well. But it isn’t long before Emma becomes embroiled in trying to find out more about her birth mother. The story she gets almost breaks her heart. Her mother was sixteen when she gave birth to Emma. The father betrayed her and left her alone and pregnant and at the mercy of her cruel father.
However, this isn’t the only story Emma is told. The prevailing story is that the baby died, which means that she can’t be that baby. But everything she finds leads her to believe that she is, and she feels that she is.
The book doesn’t really offer anything new to the experienced gothic/ghost story reader. Those who have read in the genre before will easily keep pace with Lisle’s twists and turns. Still, this is a well-crafted novel and the characters are pleasure to explore and journey with. The first three books Lisle wrote offered action and surprises. Night Echoes jogs along at a comfortable pace and delivers a satisfying ending that doesn’t really come as a shock or surprise. While the novel may not build on the momentum of the previous three, it offers a diversion into a different style of writing and an old style ghost story that most of today’s readers haven’t seen in some time.
Readers who want something to take to the beach and veg-out with will enjoy this novel a lot. And Holly Lisle’s growing fan base will enjoy yet another winner.