“Hannah thinks she’s found the love of her life when Owen walks into the shop where she hand-makes beautiful wooden furniture. They marry almost immediately and live in a glamorous houseboat in Sausalito, near San Francisco. Their lifestyle is idyllic. The only fly in Hannah’s ointment is Bailey, Owen’s 16 year old daughter, who resents her new stepmother with everything she’s got. Owen is a widower who doesn’t like to talk about his late wife, saying only that she died in a tragic accident when Bailey was a baby. Hannah, happily in love, cheerfully focuses on winning the truculent teenager’s acceptance.
“Then one day Owen disappears, leaving a note for Hannah bearing just two words: “Protect Her.” She instinctively knows he means Bailey but has no idea what he’s talking about. News breaks that Owen’s boss at his high-flying high-tech company has been arrested for embezzlement, and Hannah at first assumes her husband is involved in the fraud and is running away. He is indeed, but Hannah doesn’t know the half of it.
I really enjoyed this tense, stylish mystery/thriller set between San Francisco and Texas. As Hannah discovers, her great love turns out to be a stranger, with a past so dangerous his life is at stake, as are her’s and Bailey’s, who has no memory of her earliest days. After Owen disappears Hannah discovers it’s not just the FBI looking for her husband; he’s also wanted by a blood-curdling outfit seeking revenge. And if they can’t find him they’ll happily take his wife and daughter instead.
This is more than just a fast-moving thriller. It’s also a heart-wrenching love story, and the love it explores is not just between Hannah and her husband, but also the growing understanding between daughter and stepmother. It’s a great read: pacy, full of suspense and emotionally gripping. Reece Witherspoon is filming the book for a TV series, starring Julia Roberts. So, we can expect a stylishly slick screen version, full of glamour, terror and tears. What’s not to like.