Kiss River

Kiss River

by Diane Chamberlain


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Separated by a continent from her child, Gina Higgins comes to Kiss River with little more than a desperate plan. Now, saving her daughter depends on whether she can uncover a message buried deep below the ocean's surface.

Kiss River's historic nineteenth-century lighthouse has all but fallen into the sea, taking with it the huge Fresnel lens that once served as its beacon. Gina is desperate to find a way to raise the lens; the glass holds the key to her future, her fortune and her only chance to save the one person who matters to her.

Clay O'Neill lives in the old light keeper's house, a home he shares with his sister, Lacey. When Lacey invites her to stay with them, Gina eagerly accepts. As Gina begins her quest to raise the lens, Clay finds himself drawn to her struggle, and to Gina herself.

But the answers lie deep below the ocean. And the lighthouse holds secrets that neither Clay nor Gina can anticipate….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778312857
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 11/22/2011
Series: The Keeper Trilogy , #2
Edition description: Original
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 111,197
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Midwife's Confession and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. Diane lives in North Carolina and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her Web site at and her blog at and her Facebook page at

Read an Excerpt

The air conditioner in her aging car was giving out, blowing warm, breath-stealing air into Gina's face. If she could have torn her concentration away from her mission for even a moment, she would have felt a pang of fear over what the repair of the air conditioner would cost her. Instead, she merely opened the car windows and let the hot, thick, salt breeze fill the interior. She took deep breaths, smelling the unfamiliar brininess in the air, so different from the scent of the Pacific. The humidity worked its way into her long hair, lifting it, tangling it, forming fine dark tendrils on her forehead. Another woman might have run her hands over her hair to smooth the flyaway strands. Gina did not care. After six days of driving, six nights of sleeping in the cramped quarters of the car, several quick showers stolen from fitness clubs to which she did not belong and eighteen cheap, fast-food meals, she was almost there. She was close enough to Kiss River to taste it in the air.

The bridge she was crossing was very long and straight and clogged with traffic. She should have expected that. After all, it was a Friday evening in late June and she was headed toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina, an area she supposed was now quite a tourist attraction. She might have trouble finding a room for the night. She hadn't thought of that. She was used to the Pacific Northwest, where the coastline was craggy and the water too cold for swimming, and where finding a room for the night was not ordinarily an impossible chore.

The cars were moving slowly enough to allow her to study the map she held flat against the steering wheel. Once she left the bridge, the traffic crawled for a mile or so past a school and a couple of strip malls, and then perhaps two-thirds of the cars turned right onto Highway 12. She turned left and entered an area the map identified as Southern Shores.

Through the open car windows, she could hear, but not see, the ocean on her right. The waves pounded the beach behind the eclectic mix of flat-topped houses, larger, newer homes and old beach cottages. In spite of the slow-moving stream of cars, the Outer Banks seemed open and wide and empty here. Not what she had expected from reading the diary. But the diary had not been about Southern Shores, and as she continued driving, live oaks and wild vegetation she did not recognize began to cradle the curving road. She was approaching the village of Duck, which sounded quaint and was probably expensive, and interested her not in the least. After Duck, she would pass through a place called Sanderling, and then through a wildlife sanctuary, and soon after that, she should see a sign marking the road to the Kiss River lighthouse. Although she knew she was miles from the lighthouse, she couldn't help but glance to the sky again and again, hoping to see the tower in the distance through the trees. Even though it was the tallest lighthouse in the country, she knew she could not possibly see it from where she was. That didn't stop her from looking, though.

She had more time to study the little shopping areas of Duck than she wanted, since the cars and SUVs crept along the road at a near standstill. If the traffic didn't clear soon, it would be dark by the time she reached Kiss River. She'd hoped to get there no later than five. It was now nearly seven, and the sun was already sinking toward the horizon. Would the lighthouse be closed for the evening? For that matter, would it be open to the public at all? What time did they turn on the light? Maybe they no longer did. That would disappoint her. She wanted to see how it illuminated Kiss River, once every four and a half seconds. If people were allowed to climb the lighthouse, she doubted they would be permitted to visit the lantern room, but she would have to get into that room, one way or another. Only recently, she'd discovered that she was a pretty good liar. She'd lived her entire life valuing honesty and integrity. Suddenly, she'd become manipulative, a master at deceit. She could, when pressed, travel far outside the law. The first time she'd snuck into a fitness club to use the shower on this trip east, she'd trembled with fear, not only at the possibility of being caught, but at the sheer dishonesty of the act. By the time she sauntered into the club in Norfolk, though, she'd almost forgotten she didn't have a membership at the place. The end justified the means, she told herself.

So, if visiting the lantern room of the lighthouse was not allowed, she would find another way to get up there. That was the entire purpose of this trip. She would talk with someone, one of the guides or docents or whatever they were, and make up a reason for needing to see that room. Research, she would say. She was writing about lighthouses. Or taking pictures. She touched the borrowed camera hanging around her neck. It was heavy, impressive looking. She'd make up something that would sound plausible. One way or another, she needed to see the lantern room and its enormous globe of glass prisms, the Fresnel lens.

The drive through the wildlife reserve seemed to go on forever, but at least the traffic had thinned out, as cars turned onto roads leading to the houses near the beach. The remaining traffic moved briskly and the road was, for the most part, straight. Gina could examine the map easily as she drove. The sign indicating the location of the lighthouse should be somewhere along here, she thought. The road to Kiss River would run off to the right, cutting through the red oaks and loblolly pines, although it was possible that the landscape had changed since the days of the diary. Given the size and newness of many of the houses she had passed, it was possible the trees were completely gone by now and the road lined by more of the touristy homes.

Finally, she spotted a narrow road heading east into the trees. She pulled to the side of the main road, as close to the trees as she dared, and studied her map. There was no street sign, no hint at all that anything special lay down that road, but this had to be it. On the map she could see the way the land jutted out from the road. There was no river at Kiss River. It was little more than a promontory with a whimsical name and a towering lighthouse. Surely that lighthouse was a tourist attraction. So why was there no sign?

She wondered if she should continue driving up the main road to look for another, more promising, turn, but shook her head. The sign must have blown over or been struck by a car. Trusting her map, she turned right onto the road.

Instantly, the road jogged to the left, surrounding her by trees. The macadam was rutted and poorly maintained, and the road twisted its way into near darkness. The air was dusky, the trees so thick that little light could cut through them. Through the open windows, she heard the buzzing of crickets or frogs or some other critter, and the sound grew louder the deeper she drove into the forest.

The road ended abruptly at a small cul-de-sac in the woods. Stopping the car, she turned on the overhead light. The map clearly showed the cul-de-sac, with a smaller road leading from it out to the lighthouse. Looking to her left, she spotted a narrow gravel lane with a heavy, rusty chain strung across its entrance. A sign hanging from the chain read in bold red letters, NO TRESPASSING.

This could not be right, she thought. Even if the lighthouse itself was not open to the public, the grounds surrounding it and the keeper's house certainly should be.

She checked the map again. There were no other roads like this one, ending in a cul-de-sac. This was it, whether she wanted it to be or not. She looked up at the gravel lane beyond the chain again. The path was foreboding, dark and shrouded by trees.

She did not consider herself a brave person, although these last few months she had found courage in herself she'd had no idea she possessed. Getting slowly out of the car, she locked the door behind her. She did have a flashlight in the trunk, but the batteries had died somewhere in Kentucky, so she carried only her map and the camera around her neck as she walked across the cul-de-sac. One end of the chain was attached to a tree, the other padlocked to a post. Skirting the post, she started walking down the gravel lane.

Even if this was the wrong road, she told herself, what harm could she come to by walking down it? True, she could break an ankle in one of the many ruts or trip over one of the tree roots that raised the gravel in a disorderly veinlike pattern. More likely, though, the worst that could happen was that she'd come to someone's tucked-away home. She would apologize, ask for directions to the lighthouse. But then she remembered the horses. There were wild horses out here. And wild boars. They could be dangerous, she remembered reading in the diary. She imagined trying to climb one of the stubby trees to escape them. Her heart pounding, she listened hard for the sound of horse hooves or breaking twigs and realized that, this deep into the woods, she could not even hear the traffic. Only the thick, strange buzz of those crickets or whatever they were. It occurred to her that she would have to walk back through these woods again, and it would be even darker by then.

How far had she walked? It couldn't have been more than a quarter of a mile. Stopping on the road, she peered hard through the trees. The road had looked quite short on the map, and surely she should be able to see the top of the lighthouse by now. She walked a bit farther and heard a whooshing, pounding sound that took her a minute to recognize as the ocean. It sounded close. Very close.

Ahead of her, the road turned slightly to the right. The vegetation was thinner and she could see light between the branches of the trees. Quickening her step, she suddenly broke free of the forest and found herself in a small, sand-swept parking lot. Had this been the visitors' parking lot for the lighthouse? One thing she knew for certain by now: for whatever reason, the Kiss River light was no longer open to the public.

Through the trees and shrubs surrounding the parking lot, she saw the curved white brick wall of what had to be the lighthouse, and she knew immediately that something was wrong. There was a narrow path cutting through the trees, and branches scratched against her bare arms as she followed it. A few steps later, she stopped, staring in horror at what stood in front of her.

"No," she said aloud. "Oh, no."

The lighthouse rose high above her, but the top portion of it was missing. The lantern room was gone, and the entire tower could not have been more than three-quarters of its original height. Craning her neck, she could make out several steps of the steel staircase jutting a few yards above the jagged opening at the top of the tower.

She stood numbly, consumed by a distress that went far beyond disappointment. No wonder no one else was out here. It must have been the sea that destroyed the lighthouse, because even now the breaking waves swirled around the base of the tower, and it was apparent from the packed, damp sand beneath her feet that it was not yet high tide. A storm, she thought. This was the work of a damn storm.

Panic rose up inside her. She'd driven all this way. All this way. For nothing. For dashed hopes. Shutting her eyes, she felt dizzy. The sound of the waves cracking against the base of the lighthouse filled her ears, and a spray of salt water stung her face.

As she took a few steps toward the tower, a house came into view thirty or so yards to her left. The keeper's house. Long ago abandoned, most likely, although she noted the windows were not boarded up and two white Adirondack chairs graced the broad porch. Odd.

She looked up at the tower again, then took off her sandals. Dangling them from her fingertips, she stepped into the shallow water. It was colder than she'd expected, and she caught her breath at the unanticipated chill. The sand sucked at her feet and the water rose nearly to her knees one moment, only to fall to her ankles the next.

She climbed the three concrete stairs leading to the foyer beneath the tower. Despite her disappointment over finding the lighthouse damaged beyond repair, she still felt a thrill at finding herself inside it. She knew this place. Oh, how she knew it! She knew, for example, that there had once been a door at the foyer entrance, although there was no sign of one now. She knew there might be birds inside the tower, and indeed, when she took another step deeper into the foyer, she heard the flapping of wings above her.

She was in the cool air of a circular room. The floor was covered with octagonal black and white tiles, and on the white brick wall across from her, the steel stairs rose at a diagonal. Walking across the room, she dropped her sandals on the floor near the first step and began to climb.

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Kiss River 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this second book in the Kiss River series as a sequel to the much loved characters in Keeper of the Light. Diane Chamberlain is one of my favorite authors with a wild imagination, taking readers far beyond the norm for page turners you will not want to put down -- twists, turns, and plots which keep you engaged from the beginning to the end! Being a native of NC, always love the setting and especially the Outer Banks area and the subject of lighthouses which is fascinating along with history of generations past… and WOW…the diary…Amazing! This book introduces a new character coming from the Pacific Northwest in search of the Kiss River Lighthouse, a diary from her grandmother, and secrets from the past she desires in order to help her with her future. The wonderful characters from the first book-Lacy, Clay, Olivia, Alec are of course the center of the book. After more than 10 yrs. has passed since the hurricane which caused the upper half of the Kiss River Lighthouse to tumble into the ocean. Setting the stage for this stranger, Gina to find hope in the past and the rebuilding of the future with a new family along the way and secrets to uncover. Another 5 Stars +++++ A must read series – (I have already purchased Nook Book-the third in the series “Her Mother’s Shadow”) which I cannot wait to start this evening!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I didn't think that I was going to like this book from the summary on the back, however, it almost immediately drew me in, I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this author. I can't put her books down. Great Trilogy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this was not one of Diane's best books, it was still an interesting read. I stumbled across Diane's books and she is now one of my favorite authors. If you like Jodi Picoult, you will love Diane Chamberlaine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I happened to stumble upon Diane Chamberlain and now have read most of her books. This is one of a series about kiss river (I think 3..but may only be 2). The characters are really well developed and a number of stories are intertwined and come together in ways that often are surprising. The same can be said for her other books. I'd definitely recommend for a reading club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a new author for me - suggested by my daughter. A great story in a trilogy - you won't be able to put it down - you will feel you are right there - a good story and anxious to read the next 2 bks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful book that was hard to put down. I did not realize that it was part of a series until after reading it. It was excellent all by itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain I already love this book, about a lighthouse and a clue in the diary and the outer banks. Bess's diary is written while she is a girl living in the lighthouse keeper cottage on the East Coast, Outer Banks of NC during the WW2 and the German boats are nearby blowing up US vessels and she sees them out her window. Present day she is there and the residents of the house ask her, Ginny Higgins to stay for a night which she does and it brings back all the memories of what's written in the diary. She can picture the room without ever having seen it, it's that familiar. And she's on the hunt of the light of the lighthouse that was destroyed in the hurricane and the light is at the bottom of the ocean. She can't figure out why the authorities never went to get it, but left the light in the water all this time. She will track down Lacey and Clay's father and ask him as he's from around that time it happened. She recalls from the diary all the talk of the prisms. I remember being so fascinated with the way the light shone through a prism I was given once. Love the talk about the stain glass windows in the many times that they appear, sound so pretty and it's a great art form. Mysteries about Clay's wife passing away, his father and why now he is not interested in the lens and Gina has secrets of her own as well. This makes for not only a good mystery read but romance as things are told and you can piece the puzzle together til the whole story comes out and how the past is connected to the present... Love hearing about all the research about the light, the fly over and if they think they will be able to find it. Even if they do there are still others who won't allow it to be raised. There are other personal things going on in their lives that they tend to keep to themselves. Love the lesson the family gets when they look up at the stars... Love that this is a book in a series and can't wait to read the next one..
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. Most of the plot takes place in the present, with the rest of the story in the form of a young girl's diary written during WW11. I did not find it hard, but rather very intriguing, to read both plot lines and to finally find out near the end of the book how they are both related and explain why the main character, Gina, wants to have the Fresnel lens raised from the sea.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Kiss River lighthouse off the North Carolina Outer Banks has deteriorated to the point that the Fresnel lens lies beneath the water. Outsider Gina Higgins wants to raise the lens over the objections of most of the locals. However, siblings Lacey and Clay O'Neill support Gina in her endeavor. The disturbed Lacey, an artist, takes Gina into her home, the former lighthouse keeper¿s residence, hoping that the enthusiast visitor will awaken the grieving Clay, a widower mourning his wife, out of his stupor. As Gina pursues her quest, she digs into the history of the small town that links to her family¿s past. The second Lighthouse novel, KISS RIVER, is a well-written contemporary romance that uses an American heritage as a focal point for the tale. When the tale stays in the present, the audience receives a strong plot as debate ensues over the merit of raising the lens along with a delightful romance between two deserving individuals. When a subplot that occurred during WW II takes center stage, this tale seems diverging from a powerful robust story in which either subplot could have stood on its own but not together. Still Diane Chamberlain furbishes an intriguing novel that will send the audience seeking the debut story (see KEEPER OF THE LIGHT). Harriet Klausner