Saturday, April 2, 2011
Crestmont: Take the journey back in time
Author Holly Weiss
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Come along with me and take a journey back in time to the roaring twenties when life was much different than today when families valued their time together and prohibition was in full force and meet the Woods family and visit one of the most elegant and magnificent Victorian Inn’s in the world, Crestmont. Meet William, Margaret, Peg and Eleanor and let’s not forget the staff and Gracie, their special addition to the Crestmont staff see how William Warner’s dream came true. Banker William Warner took one look at this great mansion and decided to create a place where visitors could spend the summer enjoying the beautiful pleasures in life with quality service. Fewer amenities than hotels or inn’s have today, the guests that frequented this summer resort received platinum service equal to that of the Waldoff today with their personal needs catered to in every way.
Enter Gracie Antes the newest member of the staff who found it imperative to leave her family due to personal reasons. Gracie had developed feelings for her sister’s future husband and rather than express them or cause a rift between her and her sister, she decided to just leave without telling anyone why or where she was going. Thinking she would find her way to the big city to become a singing, she saw an ad in the paper and took a detour to the Crestmont and found employment and so much more.
Gracie is someone who has ethics and wants to be trusted. Employed as a housemaid she soon gains the respect of not only her employers but the love of their two young daughters too. Gracie is special. She loves books and enjoys reading endearing her even more to those in the Eagle Mere and the many people she encounters. Becoming part of the church choir, singing at various talent shows at the Crestmont she soon becomes an integral part of each of both. But, Gracie although trustworthy losing face with her employer when she befriends her two daughters, keeps a secret they ask her not to reveal and when found out causing a serious change in the climate between her and Margaret their mother. Once close and trusted she is no longer needed to complete many tasks but not fired. But, this one incident would change the trust and relationship that Gracie and Margaret created and although she now lives in their home she no longer feels the warmth and love that she once experienced. As Margaret has an accident causing her to resent her infirmed condition, hampering much of what she wanted to do in order to renovate and redo much of the inn, Gracie learns many other lessons in life including that of her own families ambivalence toward her even though she tries to bond with her sister. Gracie must learn to find her own path in life and become an independent person with her own goals and desires fulfilled. As he relationship with Margaret changes and they begin to develop a strong trust for each other, things change between her and Mrs. Cunningham as he daughter, caught up in her own life begins to resent her relationship with her mother forgetting it was her idea to hire Gracie because she had things to do. What does happen as a result will surprise the reader. As some staff members leave and others remain each character develops and grows in many different ways during this time.
The author flashes further back in time to enlighten the reader about PT’s past, his life before coming to the Crestmont and much more. Each character is so unique, different and brings different qualities and attributes to this outstanding novel and to the inn itself. Of course, being an educator, I love Dorothy and her flair for making everyone feel comfortable, the love she shows to both Eleanor and Peg and the way she refers to her students. She is definitely a great role model and even better friend to Gracie.
But, Gracie although happy feels an emptiness inside as she comes to realize that her real family seems to have left her behind in more ways than one and she does not know how to repair the damage she thinks she caused. But, did she and would she have been treated with the same indifference had she remained?
William Woods, Margaret’s husband is a wonderful man but consumed with his job as a teacher, coach and much more often forgetting his role as husband and father. When called to task he often makes light of it until Margaret insists on taking it one step further. But, situations change and Margaret has an accident requiring Gracie to move into the main house and take on more responsibilities including her extra job on Thursdays taking care of an elderly woman.
Gracie learns many other lessons in life including that of her own families ambivalence toward her even though she tries to bond with her sister. Gracie must learn to find her own path in life and become an independent person with her own goals and desires fulfilled. As he relationship with Margaret changes and they begin to develop a strong trust for each other, things change between her and Mrs. Cunningham as he daughter, caught up in her own life begins to resent her relationship with her mother forgetting it was her idea to hire Gracie because she had things to do. What does happen as a result will surprise the reader. As some staff members leave and others remain each character develops and grows in many different ways during this time.
But, is the past and history of Eagle Mere Lake about to come front and center as she learns more about it, visits it more frequently and even becomes a member of one of the churches. Each character is so vividly brought to life you feel part of the staff of this beautiful inn. Tell about her daily experiences and taking the reader on a journey into the lives of the Woods, the owners of this Inn, Gracie and the many other colorful and vividly described characters makes the reader want to get in her car and take a trip to the real Crestmont Inn depicted in this novel.
From PT, a man with a hidden past, Olivia the dressmaker, singer, Rosa Ponselle, each bringing their own individual flair and story and each having a different relationship with Gracie as well as asked to care for an elderly woman on her day off. With outstanding skills, an impeccable work ethic and kind heart, Gracie Antes endears herself to just about everyone but Bessie. Why? Well , you need to find that out for yourself?
Family ties are broken with her own family and knitted together with her new found one at Crestmont as she gets closer to Mrs. Cunningham whom she cares for as Margaret the owner who drifts further apart from her own mother.
Trying to fulfill her father’s legacy and wishes, Margaret works hard to rebuild and fix this Victorian Mansion. Her father a banker, desiring a new challenge in life conducted his business in Eagles Mere. Nature is magnificent and the wonders and beauty of the area described so vividly by the author help the reader take the journey along with the characters. You can feel their pain, understand their sorrows, hear their laughter and applaud their successes. Added to the mix are two wonderful young girls named Peg and Eleanor who provide much joy to their parents and Gracie too.
Gracie grows so much in this novel as she meets opera singer Rosa Ponselle who encourages her to use her gift and teaches her to believe in herself. As more tragedies befall the family, a close friend passes away Gracie reflects on her loss of her own family only to be encouraged by PT to move on and embrace the life she made for herself. Relationships with many of the staff members, marrying one special man, the author moves forward to the final days of Crestmont at the end. When all is said and done you will not believe what finally happens to this magnificent inn and those who made it their home. What does happen to Eleanor, Peg, the Woods, Bessie, Olivia, PT and the rest of the staff you need to read for yourself. This outstanding novel ends with a real surprise ending bringing tears to this reviewer’s eyes and hope that the story will continue on with Gracie’s family taking the reins in perhaps another chapter of Crestmont Inn. With the legend of where it all began and how Eagle Mere got it’s name in the prologue to the final words spoken, you will fall in love with Gracie and the magic of Crestmont Inn. Take the journey with me back in time. Close your eyes , hear the music play, see the happiness that is and was Crestmont Inn.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer