When Jane Ryan discovers she's pregnant with twin girls, she faces a heart wrenching decision. On her own and unable to afford to care for both babies, she sees no choice but to keep one and give up the other for adoption. But fourteen years later, Jane's decision comes full circle.
"Family is everything." It's one of the first things Isabel, the twin Jane gave up, says when they unexpectedly meet. Without warning, she and her adoptive mother have moved to the town where Jane and her daughter, Harper, live. But are they really family? In the throes of a willful adolescence, Harper is as sullen as Isabel is eager to please. Still, the sisters appear to bond quicklyuntil unsettling things begin to happen. Disturbing pranks, questionable accidents, strange ailments. Are the girls allies, or enemies? Is Harper acting out, or is Isabel not all she seems? Soon, Jane is convinced there is something darker at work than sibling rivalry. But who is to blame, and is this only the beginning?
In a novel that is both suspenseful and deeply emotional, Rosalind Noonan explores the complex challenges of motherhood, and of truly knowing what lies in another's hearteven those we love best.
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Rosalind Noonan is a New York Times bestselling fiction author and graduate of Wagner College. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes in the shade of some towering two-hundred-year-old Douglas fir trees.
Read an Excerpt
Take Another Look
By ROSALIND NOONAN
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Rosalind Noonan
All rights reserved.
The shadowed corridor of Mirror Lake High School was thick with new carpet smell—summer improvements—as Jane Ryan trudged along, trying to balance equipment that was awkward but not too heavy. Last week these halls had swelled with hundreds of students scrambling to reconfigure a schedule, pay fees, and score a better locker and a school photo that captured their best self. But registration was done, thankfully, and for the next two weeks the building was open for teachers and administrators to pull themselves together for the new school year. Hence the empty building.
This was one of Jane's favorite Oregon seasons, a time of lingering light and cool restful nights. Each year she contemplated taking on a different grade, and each year reaffirmed her love of freshman English when she met that startling batch of rambunctious new students, ready to blossom like autumn mums. This fall the excitement was amplified by her daughter's placement on the varsity softball team. The chance to dig her cleats in as varsity catcher had wiped out Harper's back-to-school blues, and the past three weeks of practice had brought her exhaustion, healthy color, and inner contentment. Harper didn't care that the position had opened up because last year's infighting had prompted most of the varsity players to drop the sport. Harper lived for the game—any physical game, really—and she took her satisfaction where she could get it.
Someone popped out of the science office, startling Jane. Mina Rennert looked more like a flower child than a buttoned-down biology teacher. Her hair hung loose over a tie-dyed tank top and peasant skirt, and Jane smiled when she spotted an ankle tattoo and a fat collection of toe rings. When the kids were away, the teachers did play. Jane had enjoyed her own play session while Harper had been away at camp, though she tried to keep her personal life tamped down and covered, probably more than most teachers. As an unmarried, single parent, she had always felt the need to guard her privacy and reputation. Originally, she had sought to protect her daughter from the stigma of being different, but now half of the people she met assumed that she had once been married to Harper's father and the other half didn't care.
"Hey, how's it going?" Mina revealed a pack of cigarettes in her hand. "I was just headed out for a smoke. And you look like you're going camping."
Jane adjusted the rectangular canvas bags that hung from her shoulders. "I'm in charge of the canopy for the girls' softball team. They've got a game today."
"Your daughter's on the team?"
"She's the catcher."
"Awesome." Mina shook a cigarette from the pack as she fell into step beside Jane. "Catcher is a key position. Most people don't realize that. They put all the attention on the pitching."
"You know your softball."
"I used to play the outfield. That's how I met my partner."
Jane paused at the turnoff, wincing as the canopy banged into her hip. She would have walked outside with Mina, but her real intention was to stop off and see Luke. "Then you probably remember how games can drag on for hours."
"I mostly remember the excitement and the pizza parties. And the dirt. Dust and mud. We were mud people. That was such a pisser. Tell the girls I said good luck." Mina tucked the cigarette between her lips and strode away. Jane heard the rasp of the lighter even before the double doors popped open.
Sometimes Jane wished she could be a rule-breaker like Mina, unashamed and unfettered. But Jane reminded herself that she had more to hide and more to lose. Secrets, large and small.
She recognized the Grateful Dead tune emanating from Luke's classroom. Inside, Luke sat at his desk, singing along as he worked on his laptop. His face was a study in black and white. His dark hair was cropped neatly around the ears, though unruly strands fell over his pale forehead. Slender lines of charcoal hair etched his chin and upper lip. Bold black frames could not mask the smoky wonder of his eyes. Those chocolate eyes had been the lure that had pulled her over the brink three years ago when they had gone from being friends to secret partners.
She tried to tap on the door, but the bones of the tent rammed against the threshold as she wedged herself inside. "Mr. Bandini."
"Ms. Ryan. You seem to be in need of assistance." The strain around his eyes softened as he got up from the desk and came to her. At five-eight, Luke Bandini was smaller than many of the students, spare but strong, though what he lacked in stature he made up for in a powerful presence and a voice that could boom through a classroom like rumbling thunder. He slid the heavy canopy from her shoulder while Jane let the cargo from the opposite shoulder flop to the ground. "You've got to let me help you with this. It will only take a minute, and you know how I dig construction."
"True." While Jane had already pinched her hand assembling the damn canopy for a practice, Luke had mad physics skills. He could change a tire or bake flakey biscuits because he reveled in the science of things: the engineering of a simple lever, the chemistry of butter clumps in layered dough. "I don't know," she said. "I don't want to give the team parents any more information about us than they already have."
"Hey, nothing wrong with a fellow teacher lending a hand." He pushed the door closed behind her and took her hand. A daring gesture, here at school. "Besides, I think they know about us."
"They probably do." Her fingers curled around his hand, as if holding a glimmering seashell. "But I don't want to fan the fires." Her reputation was important to Jane; she didn't want to make a misstep that might start someone digging into her past. "It's already hard for Harper, attending the same school where her mother teaches."
"I know, and I can wait." Her nerves tingled as his thumb massaged her palm. "Three years." That was their new deal, forged this summer over cheese, crackers, and a bottle of red wine their first night at Diamond Lake while Harper was off at softball camp. Marriage. Jane ached to take that step with Luke, to make it legal and official, to stop sneaking around like teenagers. Oh, to share a bed, split the chores, cook for each other, and stay in their pajamas until noon on Sunday. But she couldn't do that to Harper, not while the girl was banging through the narrow tunnel of teen angst. To bring a man into the house—even a guru-saint like Luke—might derail Harper, who perceived threats in the most innocent of actions. In three years, Harper would be off to college, and there would be breathing room for all of them. Three years was the new mantra.
"I want to go back to Diamond Lake," she said suddenly.
One dark brow lifted. "I guess that means we're on for next summer."
"I'm so high maintenance. A single parent with a live-wire daughter."
"Complexity makes for a juicier story. You've got a great story, and a cute ass."
She squeezed his hand, then let it go. Maybe their mutual attraction was amplified by the need to keep things under wraps. Other parents got the occasional free weekend through shared custody or sending their kids off for a trip to Grandma's. Jane envied them the free time, but this just wasn't her season to leave the vine. "Three years," she said.
"With a few naughty nights in between."
"Let's hope so." She went to the counter, to the supplies that she always found so amusing. Cotton balls, Popsicle sticks, and paper cups to build crash crates for eggs. A fat jar of pickles, for snacking and zapping with electrodes to demonstrate properties of electricity. "So how do your class lists look? The usual crowds?" Kids were always trying to finagle a spot in Luke's conceptual physics class, and Luke, always a sucker for a good story, usually signed them in.
He sucked air between his teeth. "I haven't even looked. Angry Bird therapy got the better of me." He lifted the pickle jar to his chest. "Would you like a kosher dill?"
"I'm good. I'd better get out there. I just wanted to firm up plans for Friday night. Harper's got that sleepover." Although Luke had begun to join Harper and her for an occasional dinner, most of their time together coincided with Harper's time away from home.
"Friday works for me." He held up the heaviest canvas bag. "So do you want me to set this up on the field? No lascivious looks, I promise."
"Your very presence out there is an admission of guilt."
"And who is it we're hiding from again? Because the parents shouldn't care, and the kids already know."
They had been over this ground a thousand times, and Jane was beginning to wonder why she kept hiding the truth. Harper was fed up with the ruse. "Mom! Everybody knows," Harper complained, usually with a dramatic roll of her eyes. "Why are you making such a big deal of this?" Jane usually countered by saying that she valued her privacy and her reputation as a teacher. To which Harper would retort that Jane was "old-school" or "random."
Jane sighed. "What the hell. We can't hide forever."
"Let me remind you, we're not breaking any laws."
"Only the unwritten code of Puritan suburbia."
Humor sparked in his eyes. "I'll wear my scarlet letter like a badge of honor."
They stepped from the dim school corridors to a crisp landscape of cerulean sky and rolling green hills. Oregon summers held a distinct beauty, with sunny, dry days and cool, starry nights and oceans of sweet, fresh air. Summers reminded Jane of the best parts of California: green lawns and barbecues and the lemony sunshine that had lit her childhood.
Built into the green hills on the elevated rim of the lake, the school campus had one of the better views in town, though the fir trees had grown so tall in the last fifty years that you could no longer see the lake that nestled in the center crevice of the horseshoe-shaped formation of hills. The school track backed up to the grassy splendor of the municipal golf course, and now the new baseball "Field of Dreams" shared a fence with an assisted living home, which had received a few foul balls but only one broken window in the three years since it had been built. Jane had grown fond of the town that she'd chosen through an online search, plugging in "best schools" and "low crime rates" as her top priorities. Mirror Lake was a place where most kids lived close enough to walk to school and parents felt secure enough to let their middle-schoolers hoof it. It was not unusual to see a handful of kids on their bikes, riding to the ice-cream store, heading to the park, or going down to the river to do some fishing. These days Mirror Lake had more of a wholesome, hometown feel than Burnson, the California home of Jane's childhood that had crumbled into bankruptcy and depression in the past decade.
As Jane and Luke rounded the snack shack, the Mirror Lake girls came into view, their yellow and blue uniforms like sunflowers dotting the soccer field. Jane recognized Harper from the way she moved, graceful and strong, as she reached up to make a catch. This was Harper's realm: the kinetic game. Something clicked when she stepped behind home plate, replacing the wary, unsure teenager with a chiseled athlete capable of controlling the entire field of players.
"First game of the year with Hoppy as varsity catcher." Luke bumped Jane on the shoulder. "You must be proud."
"I'm so nervous." But Jane knew Harper wouldn't be ruffled. The girl might melt down over a geometry test, but she was in her element out on the diamond.
"She'll do fine," Luke said. "She's a natural."
"I know she is. Look at her, laughing with Emma. She doesn't get rattled by competition."
"When you come from a place of confidence, there's no need to stress. And for all other worrisome details, Harper has you to do the worrying for her," Luke teased.
"I'm glad someone appreciates me."
"Oh, I appreciate."
"Hi, Mom!" Harper shouted, waving before she whipped her arm back and shot a ball across the field to her warm-up partner. Hair the color of dark cider was pulled back in a ponytail, as usual, and Harper's new aviator shades resembled those of a Hollywood actress hiding from the press. Even her stern, tomboyish style of dress could not disguise the fact that Harper was a beautiful girl. But then, all the girls at Mirror Lake High possessed a distinct splendor, a signature movement or energy that they weren't quite comfortable with yet.
Jane waved back, glad that it was a good day. Since she'd started high school, Harper had vacillated between proudly owning her mother and pretending she didn't exist.
Many of the girls called greetings to "Ms. Ryan" and "Mr. Bandini."
"Hey there, Mr. Bandini." Olivia Ferguson turned toward him, ball in her mitt, and lunged to stretch her long haunches. "Are you coming to watch our game, too?"
The innuendo was not lost on Jane. Olivia never missed a chance to probe.
"Not today, Olivia."
"Aw. You should stay." When she stretched her arms overhead, her full breasts protruded against her tight jersey. A woman's body and an adolescent brain were a dangerous combination. Or maybe Olivia had matured since she'd been a student in Jane's freshman English class. "No one ever comes to our games." Olivia pouted.
Luke did not break stride as he flashed a pleasant smile. "Maybe some other time. Did you ladies have a good summer?"
The girls gave bland smiles, then turned back to practice.
Over at the ball field, the girls of the West Green team ran a lap around the outfield, a forest of thick, green giants. Local legend had it that everything grew bigger in West Green. The visiting coach was sharing her roster with the umpire, a stout, gray-haired man with a serious demeanor. It was always a relief to have a calm, seasoned person officiating; teenage umpires were so easily rattled.
Some of the parents had already set up chairs along the foul line. At the grassy edge of the outfield, Linda Ferguson lay on a blanket reading a book. One bare foot bent back over her butt as if she were a beach bunny. Linda's husband, Pete, hovered over the coach, who sat on the team bench working on the lineup. Legs crossed and head down, Carrie didn't seem interested in Pete's opinion, but no one in the Ferguson family read or respected body language. Although Harper had not played with Olivia yet, Harper had already been strong-armed by seventeen-year-old Olivia during practices. And Jane had been warned by a few of the softball moms that the Fergusons had been at the center of last year's varsity turmoil. A believer in education, Jane hoped that this year the Fergusons might learn a few lessons about teamwork.
Fortunately, two of Harper's friends since grade school were on the team with her, which gave Jane two instant "mom" friends, stable, capable women with a sense of humor and perspective. She headed toward Trish Schiavone, the most down-to-earth mom on the team. Trish squatted beside three grade-school kids, digging through a flexible cooler. "Did we really leave all the juice packs in the car? Kids, Mom is losing her marbles." Trish stood up and sprinted past Jane. "Be back in a sec."
Jane set her bag down and opened the canvas tote. "How are you kids doing today?"
"We're okay," Trish's daughter said, scratching her freckled nose. "But my mom is losing her marbles."
"I hate when that happens." As Jane set up her chair, she eavesdropped on bits of conversation: talk of a new wine bar in town, tales of summer vacation, and something about Olivia Ferguson. Summer camp? Jane recalled that Olivia had spent three weeks at a "superstar" softball camp, a pricey operation that promised amazing results. Harper had begged on her knees for the opportunity—"Please! Oh, please, please, please, Mama-dish!"—but Jane had explained that they couldn't afford a camp that would cost the same as a semester's tuition at the state university. The parent chatter was a bit more heated than usual today, with someone making a barb that "you can't buy athletic skill" and someone else expressing worry that the team would suffer. She sensed that the controversy swirled around the Fergusons.
Sinking into her chair, Jane tipped her face to the blue sky and vowed to remain neutral. As a teacher, she had to steer clear of the social dynamics that pitted parents against each other. Still, as a parent, she needed to advocate for her daughter. She walked a fine line, but wasn't life a series of choices and compromises? "Maintain balance," her yoga teacher said cheerfully. Such a good lesson for anyone.
Excerpted from Take Another Look by ROSALIND NOONAN. Copyright © 2015 Rosalind Noonan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Take Another Look by Rosalind Noonan is a book of suspense. Jane Ryan is pregnant and running. She was living with police officer, Frank Dixon. At first he was charming and kind but after Jane moved in with him, he became controlling, demanding, and abusive. Jane ran to her friend, Marnie who lives in Seattle with her husband. Jane knows that she will not be able to afford to keep both children. She finds a nice family, the Zaretsky’s, to adopt one of the girls. Jane has now given birth and has to decide which twin to keep. Louisa is a calm and quiet little baby. Harper has not stopped crying. Jane wants to make sure that her adopted family will love her and want to keep her, so Jane gives up sweet Louisa. Almost fifteen years later, Jane and Harper are living in Mirror Lake, Oregon. Harper is always moving. She loves sports. Jane teaches freshman English at Mirror Lake High School where Harper will be a sophomore. Jane is dating science teacher, Luke Bandini, but they have kept their relationship quiet. One day a man is seen around the school asking for Jane. She is scared. Jane thinks that Frank has finally found her. Someone shows up at her house later that night pounding on the door. Turns out to be a detective with information about Frank. Frank has finally been arrested. He attacked the wrong woman (her father was a bigwig). Turns out Frank Dixon is a sociopath. He comes from a family of murderers. Now Jane is worried about Harper. How big a role do genetics play? Nature versus Nurture? Harper has never been the easiest child but she is starting to act out. Jane is keeping a close eye on her. Harper is on the school’s softball league and her position is taken away from her by Olivia. Olivia’s father has a lot of influence in the community and the poor coach was not given a choice. Harper states she hates Olivia and wishes she was dead. The day of the school picnic dawns bright, but something sinister happens to Olivia. Olivia is found unconscious and floating in the lake. Harper, of course, is the first suspect. Olivia, when she awakens, has no memory of the accident and is unable to play softball for quite a while. Turns out Olivia was hit with a softball bat! Want to guess whose bat was missing from her bag? Harper claims innocence in the incident with Olivia. The police do not have any witnesses and the crime goes unsolved. Soon Harper mentions a new girl at school who everyone says looks just like her. The other girl turns out to be Isabel Louisa, the daughter Jane gave up for adoption. Christy Zaretsky is now a widow and has moved to Mirror Lake because she is ill and wants to make sure Isabel will be taken care of if something happens to her. Isabel knows she was adopted and immediately takes to Jane. Once Harper finds out the truth the two are bosom buddies. Unfortunately, Christy Zaretsky takes a turn for the worse and has to be hospitalized. Isabel comes to live with Jane and Harper. Isabel is very kind, helpful and sweet. Harper starts resenting her. As the weeks go by Harper wants Isabel gone from the house. Things go missing or broken and Harper gets blamed. Then, when they are watching the science classes guinea pigs, one ends up dead. Christy gets moved to a hospital back in Seattle (her sister moved her). Now Jane cannot get Christy to return her calls. What is going on? Who is really at fault? I had a good time reading Take Another Look. I had an idea how it would turn out, but I just had to keep reading. I give Take Another Look 4.5 out of 5 stars. I love books that draw you in to the story and you just cannot put the book down. I have tried to give you an idea of what the story is about without giving away too much. I hope you will read Take Another Look and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading it. I received a complimentary copy of this novel from NetGalley (and Kensington Books) in exchange for an honest review.