Book editor Emily Bryant finds herself unexpectedly in the charming town of Cascata on California’s Lost Coast, holding the keys to her grandmother’s rambling Victorian mansion. While sorting through her grandmother’s things, Emily learns that she must edit old manuscripts to inherit the estate. It’s a strange request from a family member who was basically a stranger.
Emily quickly realizes that there’s something different about these manuscripts. Any changes she makes come true. At first, she embraces the gift. She has a chance to help characters find true love or chart a new course for their future. But then things go terribly wrong. Her edits have the opposite effect. The sweet and funky seaside community of Cascata is reeling from the chaos Emily has created. Everything she thought she believed about her family and her past is in jeopardy, and no amount of editing can fix the damage she’s done.
Then she finds one last manuscript. If Emily can get this edit right, maybe she’ll have a chance to create a new narrative for herself and everyone around her.
I unlocked The Ballad’s front door and took a slow, steady breath before stepping inside. The foyer was dark. I fumbled around for a light switch. When my hand finally connected with the switch light flooded into the room revealing exquisitely restored walnut hardwood floors. Stained glass windows in the curved entryway reflected twinkling butterscotch, plum, and sapphire beams onto the far wall. Two rooms adjoined the entrance hall. To my left was a parlor painted in muted beach tones with a built-in fireplace and bookcases filled with spines arranged by height and held together with chunky driftwood bookends.
Books. Oh my God, so many books. I let out an audible gasp, unable to tear my gaze from the parlor where an abundance of titles that rivaled that of any small library called to me. I could spend an entire day admiring Grandma Gertrude’s enchanting collection of books. Books are my addictive craze. Forget about ice cream, chocolate, pot, your drug of preference. Give me a stack of books anyway.
I felt like an over-enthusiastic puppy let outside for the first time.
Books. Books. Books.
They aren’t going anywhere Emily, and you have a five-thousand square foot mansion to explore. I tugged my attention away from the captivating shelves for the moment.
An intricately carved circular staircase sat in front of me. The ceiling stretched at least twelve feet above me. Period details were evident in the weighty carved moldings and brass hardware. A sign hanging from the newel post at the base of the steps read: PRIVATE.
Odd. The upstairs was private?
A cream-colored hallway lined with framed watercolor paintings and floral geometric handwoven area rugs led to the back of the mansion. The entire house had a cohesive natural ocean color palette in milky greens, harbor blues, and soft grays and creams.
But it was the room to my right that caught my eye. The hand-carved door was shut. Another sign hung from it: LOST COAST LITERARY.
Lost Coast Literary, I repeated out loud. There was something oddly familiar about the name. Was it a memory? Something else?
I turned the handle, but the door was locked. Maybe one of the keys would open it. I tried the basic house key first with no success. The antique key didn’t work either.
There must be a key somewhere else, I thought as I ventured upstairs. The serene, soft lighting and gleaming redwood accents continued on the second floor. Ornate millwork, jeweled windows, and knotted spindles gave the space a spellbinding aura. I was completely caught up in its trance.
The house creaked and sighed as if readying itself for sleep as I wandered into a study with yet another fireplace and a bathroom with patterned tile floors and an attached sitting room. Farther down the hall there were five spacious bedrooms with carved oak fireplaces and three more bathrooms.
I fought back cloudy memories of running through the long hallway and pretending to put on lipstick in front of the antique mirror. Were they real or was I grasping?
I know this is not my typical read, however, there was something about the synopsis that told me I should give this one a chance. I am so happy that I listened to that little voice because I was not disappointed. This book delivered so much for me. I don’t know if it’s due to where I am at in my life or not, but this one packed a punch. I am not sure what it is about this story that I loved so much. It could have been the mystery surrounding the manuscript, or Emily’s journey to finding herself, or the found family aspect, or learning that your “plan” may not be the right direction for you or any of the other themes that are present within this story. There are so many wonderful things in this story that it kept me hooked the whole way through. Watching Emily slowly realize that her “dream” job may not be what will make her happy is something that I could appreciate.
The world-building was amazing, I could picture myself in this small town, and yes this town really does exist. The characters felt real, they dealt with issues realistically. Meaning that things weren’t just “poof” fixed. Real-life issues had real-life consequences. Then there is the house, I really want this house to exist because I would love to visit it.
To be honest, I really want a follow-up story because I want to know what happens, say a year from the end of the book. Don’t get me wrong, it ended well, I just want to know how everything pans out. I might have become way too attached to these characters.
Ellie Alexander is a voracious storyteller and a lover of words and all things bookish. She believes that stories have the ability to transport and transform us. With over twenty-six published novels and counting, her goal is to tell stories that provide points of connection, escape, and understanding.
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