In 1893, Olive, the daughter of an architect who killed himself after a falling-out with a client, takes a job as a maid in the mansion her father designed. She hopes to find proof of the owner's perfidy to restore her father's name.
In 1920, Lucy is looking for the truth about who her father was. Was it the man who raised, the man she loved as her father, or someone her mother knew before marrying Hans Jungmann?
In 1945, Kate, a young doctor, is working in the private hospital that was once the women's boarding house her mother lived in, and before that the grand mansion of the Pratt family. Badly wounded Capt. Cooper Ravenel is brought to the hospital, and for lack of any other place to put him, he's installed Kate's room under the eaves. She can sleep temporarily in nurses' quarters.
And Capt. Ravenel has a portrait miniature of a woman who appears to be--Kate.
Three generations of women look for answers to a family mystery, fall in love, and are faced with painful, even heartbreaking choices between what they want and what they know to be right. Their stories are told in alternating chapters, as the Ravenels, Cooper and his father John, also investigate the family mystery of where their father and grandfather Augustus came from before he appeared in Cuba, married his wife Maria, and moved to Charleston, South Carolina.
It's all nicely layered and carefully developed, layer after layer uncovered as both the practical and emotional lives of Olive, Lucy, and Kate are revealed. These are human characters, with virtues and flaws quite believably distributed among them. Even the best of them has flaws; even the least sympathetic of those around them prove to have some depth and to grow over time.
This is a very well-done tale of love and family intrigute.
I received free electronic galleys of this book from the publisher via both NetGalley and Penguin's First to Read program.