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“Richly told and hauntingly beautiful, The Golden Hour was impossible to put down.” --Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author
On a spring afternoon long ago, thirteen-year-old Wyn Davies took a shortcut through the woods in her New Hampshire hometown and became a cautionary tale. Now, twenty years later, she lives in New York, on the opposite side of a duplex from her ex, with their four-year-old daughter shuttling between them. Wyn makes her living painting commissioned canvases of birch trees to match her clients’ furnishings. But the nagging sense that she has sold her artistic soul is soon eclipsed by a greater fear. Robby Rousseau, who has spent the past two decades in prison for a terrible crime against her, may be released based on new DNA evidence—unless Wyn breaks her silence about that afternoon.
To clear her head, refocus her painting, and escape an even more present threat, Wyn agrees to be temporary caretaker for a friend’s new property on a remote Maine island. The house has been empty for years, and in the basement Wyn discovers a box of film canisters labeled “Epitaphs and Prophecies.” Like time capsules, the photographs help her piece together the life of the house’s former owner, an artistic young mother, much like Wyn. But there is a mystery behind the images too, and unraveling it will force Wyn to finally confront what happened in those woods—and perhaps escape them at last.
A compelling and evocative novel with an unsettling question at its heart, T. Greenwood’s The Golden Hour explores the power of art to connect, to heal, and to reveal our most painful and necessary truths.
ACCLAIM FOR T. GREENWOOD’S NOVELS
WHERE I LOST HER
“Spellbinding. A touching story of one woman’s loss and heartache, coupled with the electrifying search for a young girl. I loved everything about Where I Lost Her." --Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl
“Searing, heartbreaking, and suspenseful.” --Publishers Weekly
THE FOREVER BRIDGE
“A compelling read.” --Tawni O’Dell, New York Times bestselling author of Back Roads
“T. Greenwood delves into the pain of grief, and brings the reader to a place of hope and, yes, even joy.” --Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and An Italian Wife
BODIES OF WATER
“A complex and compelling portrait of the painful intricacies of love and loyalty. Book clubs will find much to discuss in T. Greenwood’s insightful story of two women caught between their hearts and their families.” --Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters
“By turns beautiful and tragic, haunting and healing, I was captivated from the very first line.” --Jillian Cantor, author of Margot
“A poetic, compelling story that glows in its subtle, yet searing examination of how we attempt to fill the potentially devastating fissures in our lives.” --Amy Hatvany, author of Heart Like Mine
“Exceptionally well-observed. Readers who enjoy insightful and sensitive family drama will appreciate discovering Greenwood.” --Library Journal
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Golden Hour
By T. Greenwood
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 T. Greenwood
All rights reserved.
If this day were a painting, if I were asked to fill my palette with all the colors of that afternoon, you might be surprised by the ones I'd choose: grasshopper greens and cerulean blue. It was June, I might argue, the last day of school. Of course, the grass was green, the sky blue.
But what color is thirteen? Is it the cinder brown of wide eyes, the crimson flush of hot cheeks? Maybe a dollop of peach for the chipped nail polish on ragged fingernails, that same fleshy pink for thin legs as they run across that endless green. A cadmium shirt, and the washed-out cobalt of denim cutoff jeans. Add blue to black for the hair, tied back, a horse's tail swooshing side to side like a pendulum with each stride.
If this day were a painting, there would be trees at the edges of the canvas: the familiar woods that bordered the impossible green of the school's lower playing fields. White and gray for the birches, with their bleached and ragged bark, but also the viridian of fir and pine. An infusion of white for the spot of sunlight illuminating the path, the shortcut home. A foyer of leaves and sunshine.
But what is the color of breathlessness, of a sudden quickening of the pulse? What color could I coax from the palette to illustrate the pounding of feet, the crush of brush? What color would the shadows be? And what color, what shade, could I select for this moment when I stopped, breathless, heart thrumming, and almost turned back instead of taking that shortcut through the green? What color is hesitation? What color fear? The blue is easy, but what about the moment when I stepped into those woods and lost the sky?
I am haunted by the birches. By what lives beyond the edges of the canvas. By those things for which there are no colors to paint.CHAPTER 2
The Golden Hour
The Google alert about Robby Rousseau came while I was painting. I was at home, in our duplex in Queens, working on a commission job. It was late afternoon, that single gilded hour when the dingy corner of my living room where I worked was imbued with a sort of magical light. The Chet Baker station was playing on Pandora. Liquid amber sunlight was pooled across my paint-splattered hands. The golden hour. That's what photographers call it.
My four-year-old daughter, Avery, was next door with Gus, my ex, and I was alone and lost inside those painted trees. I stepped away from the easel, tilted my head, studied the canvas. It was one of my Etsy shop paintings, my craft fair paintings: the quirky birches, the frazzled, skittish sky. Over the years, I'd come to realize this was what people wanted: thick white branches, sturdy, steady limbs. The predictable, slightly comical, green of leaves. A painting you could just as easily hang in a child's room as a dentist's office. The kind of painting you buy to match your sofa or blinds.
And while I was grateful for the work (and trust me, I was grateful to be making money making art), commission jobs pulled me away from my own projects. Between this and taking care of Avery, there was little time or energy left for much of anything else. But now that Gus and I had split up, I couldn't rely on him anymore to put food on the table, for his paychecks from the sign shop to cover the minimum payments on my maxed-out credit cards or my staggering student loans. Thankfully, he'd agreed to keep me on his health insurance plan since we weren't legally divorced yet, or even officially separated for that matter. He paid the tuition at Avery's preschool, and the "rent" I paid to live in the other half of the duplex was simply a gesture on my part. For the first couple of months, Gus didn't even cash my checks. "Focus on your work," he'd insisted, but I wasn't a fool. I knew my real paintings (the ones stacked in the closet like a pile of dirty secrets) would likely never see the light of day, golden or otherwise. And the birches brought in decent money. It was either accept commission work or go back to bartending, and the mere thought of even one more shift pouring drinks at El Cortada was unbearable. I'd worked at bars off and on for the last decade, but after Avery was born I'd sworn I would never go back. I was thirty-three years old, too old for that backbreaking, heartbreaking sort of work.
As the sun slipped behind the building across the street, breaking the ephemeral, twilit spell, I set my brush down and went to my laptop to check my e-mail. And there, amid the Michaels ads and bill notifications, was the e-mail:
RE: Google Alert — "Robert J. Rousseau"
I hesitated before clicking on the link. It had to be a different Robert J. Rousseau. It had happened before. He shared his name with a French philosopher, after all. And a plumber upstate. But I knew the moment the page began to load that it was him. My Robert J. Rousseau. Because it was the header for my hometown newspaper, The Haven Gazette, that appeared above the article.
I held my breath and scrolled down to the headline.
Local Activist Solicits Help from New Hampshire Innocence Project — Former Social Worker Insists Robert J. Rousseau Falsely Accused in 1996 Crime.
I studied the photo of the woman in the article. Jan Bromberg. She wore the same long, thick braid, round glasses, and denim skirt. She'd aged, of course, but I remembered her. She sat through the whole trial. She called my parents practically daily for almost a year until they got a restraining order, changed our number.
But now here she was again. Twenty years later.
The headache began at the base of my skull and bloomed like a flower upward, filling my head. I scanned the article, which provided an interview with Ms. Bromberg, claiming her team at the Innocence Project expected new evidence would ultimately exonerate Robert J. Rousseau.
Ms. Bromberg argued that despite Robby's "confession" (their quotes, not mine), for the last two decades he had maintained his innocence. Apparently, six months before (unbeknownst to prosecution, unbeknownst to me) the Innocence Project's legal team had petitioned to get the rape kit, taken that night in 1996, tested for DNA. There had been no need back then. They'd caught Robby red-handed (he'd confessed). But now, with the DNA results expected shortly, Ms. Bromberg was confident this new evidence would provide definitive proof that Robert J. Rousseau was, indeed, not guilty.
Trembling, I clicked out of the e-mail, as though I could make the news go back into the ether from which it came, and went to the kitchen. Every one of my ribs ached with the effort of keeping my heart contained within my chest.
He wasn't supposed to ever get out. He was going to rot in prison. That's what my family's lawyer had promised. What the small New Hampshire community where I grew up demanded. And what I'd foolishly believed. I'd been a kid then, though. I'd trusted adults. Even after my entire world was shattered, I somehow thought promises meant something.
I picked up my phone from the rubble on the counter and trembled as I realized that while I'd been painting, basking in that amber light, everyone I knew had found out about Robby Rousseau. Ten missed calls. My mother. My father. My little brother. My mother again. A few numbers I didn't recognize. The cycle repeating.
I put the phone on speaker and listened to each message.
Hi honey, it's Mom. Please don't worry about all of this. That woman is batshit crazy. He confessed. They convicted him. You have nothing to worry about.
It's Dad. Listen, just wanted you to know Larry is already on this. It's a bunch of hoo-ha. Same song and dance as when they tried to appeal before. A DNA test isn't going to change anything. Do not worry.
Hey Wyn, it's Mark. Listen. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking about you. This sucks. Sorry. Call me.
Hi honey. It's Mom again. Maybe you can come home for a little bit? I don't like the idea of you being alone right now. Daddy and I could drive down and get you and Av if you want.
The next two calls were hang-ups. The media, I assumed. Somehow they always managed to get my number. I deleted all of the calls and then picked up the phone to call my best friend, Pilar.
Pick up, I willed. Pick up.
Voice mail. Unlike me, Pilar never answered her phone when she was painting. I imagined her in that beautiful room, the floor-to-ceiling windows I coveted. Her own paint-splattered hands. And those gorgeous, true paintings she made.
I worried my voice, like my legs, would fail. But when she implored me to "Leave a message ... or else," instead I felt chilled with an odd calm.
"About Maine," I said. "If you still want me to come with you? I think I'm ready." I hung up before I could change my mind.CHAPTER 3
"It was a steal," Pilar had said when she first showed me pictures of the cottage.
We were sitting at a coffee shop halfway between our two houses. She'd just cut her bangs, and they were crooked — like the time Avery got ahold of my good scissors and cut her own hair. Pilar had recently bought a pair of 1950s reading glasses, which she wore tethered around her neck by a beaded chain. She was the kind of person who hid her beauty behind homemade haircuts, cat's eye glasses, and thrift store housedresses. But her homely outfits had the opposite effect of calling attention to her striking face: golden skin, freckled nose, high cheekbones and almond eyes, her beauty the alchemical result of Colombian, Japanese, and Scottish ancestries.
We huddled together at the wobbly bistro table, shielding the phone's screen from the bright autumn sun, and she thumbed through the photos of the crumbling clapboard cottage that sat atop a rocky cliff on Bluffs Island, a remote islet far off the coast of Maine. She'd bought the house on a whim that summer after she sold a triptych of paintings for a high five figures.
"I had to buy it as is. No inspection. It's a mess."
It was hard to tell from the photos on her phone, but it was clearly dilapidated. She wasn't exaggerating.
"Isn't it a beautiful disaster? Like a mini Grey Gardens? I mean when Big Edie and Little Edie were living there," she said.
"It is." For Halloween one year, she and I dressed as Big Edie and Little Edie (Jackie O's eccentric relatives). Gus had dressed up like one of the feral cats that lived with them in their wrecked mansion in the Hamptons.
"But it's right at the edge of the ocean. It's on two acres. And I figure I can rent it out when I'm not using it."
I'd nodded, feeling tears welling up in my eyes, though I wasn't sure if I was upset because this meant Pilar might move away or if it was just envy. I'd been finding myself experiencing a nasty sort of jealousy around Pilar lately that made me feel awful inside.
"And you can come stay with me. It'll be like when we were at Rizdee."
Pilar, Gus, and I had all gone to art school together at Rhode Island School of Design fifteen years before. And while I had eventually resigned myself to painting those happy birches, and Gus used his skills to make metal signs, Pilar's career had moved at a slow but steady pace. Then last year a collector fell in love with her work, and suddenly she was an artist with a capital A. A profile in the New York Times and a show at the Pace Gallery had cemented this, and suddenly, everything was changed.
"I'm going to spend a few months there this winter. Try to get some work done. Make sure the pipes don't freeze. That raccoons don't move in."
"Or squatters," I said.
We both knew what it meant to live someplace that didn't belong to us. I'd slept on more couches and shared more bare mattresses than I could count. Gus and I once spent a year living in a teepee in Colorado. I pretended a gypsy life was what I wanted, who I was. But a free spirit was exactly the opposite of the truth. I was afraid. I'd been afraid and running away for twenty years.
Pilar had eventually grown out of this nomadic life and decided to stay in the city about six years ago. And when I got pregnant with Avery, Gus implored me to settle down too, though every inch of me resisted. Gus's grandmother had owned the duplex in Queens since the 1980s. When she passed away, his father had offered it to us, explaining we could rent out the other half for extra cash. Suddenly we had utility bills in our names. Public records. A landline. The duplex made me a real person.
When we split up, I became the tenant, living on the other side.
The idea had seemed to make sense when we first separated that spring. Especially when it came to Avery. It would be a transition, we thought, with a literal wall between us replicating and solidifying the chasm that had been growing between us for the last few years. But now I knew it had been a foolish thought that we could somehow live our separate lives together. That Avery might not even notice as she passed between the doorway that connected our separate homes.
"You could come with me to Maine," Pilar had offered. "It would be good for you, Wynnie. To get away."
* * *
Pilar called back an hour after I left her the message and said, "I'm coming over."
"No, it's okay. Everything's fine."
"I don't believe you," she said.
As I waited for her to arrive, I took inventory of what I might need to pack in order to leave. Gus and I had lived in the duplex for five years. But I'd only been on this side of the house for five months. I had most of Avery's toys: the puppet theater that hung suspended in the bedroom doorway, the wicker basket filled with stuffed animals, plastic Little People, and dolls. A bookshelf brimming with board books, and the easel Gus had given her for her birthday.
The apartment was furnished, and I hadn't bothered to hang up any art. That would have meant I'd somehow accepted this was permanent. But how could living on the other side of the wall from an ex be permanent? It was crazy. I could hear every step he took in the other room, the music he played, the muffled conversations he had. Snoring, sneezing, dreaming. All the intimacies of our marriage were now just beyond my reach. And even as I knew this was the right thing, the best thing, I longed for what we'd lost. Or what I'd somehow squandered away.
Pilar only lived four blocks away, but still her knock-knock-knock startled me.
She rushed past me to put the beer in the fridge, turned the knob on the old gas oven, and unwrapped what appeared to be a pan of enchiladas. Pilar was a better mother by far than I was, and she didn't even have any children yet.
When the beer was uncapped and the enchiladas were warming in the oven, Pilar motioned for me to sit on the couch next to her, where she was already sitting, tucking her long legs under her like a child.
"Is it Gus?" she asked, because lately, it was always Gus.
I shook my head. Gus, for the first time in ages, seemed to be the very least of my problems.
She cocked her head. She was wearing a Rosie the Riveter–style bandana today, her bleached blond bangs poking out in all their uneven glory from beneath.
"Because, you guys really need to work this shit out. It's killing me. And this is crazy," she said, motioning to the hideous couch she was sitting on. The blank walls.
"Where's Av?" she asked. "Nap?"
"With Gus," I said. Gus worked ten to twelve hours a day at the sign shop, so Avery only spent the weekends on his side of the wall.
I took a long pull on my beer. It was bitter. Hoppy. One of those expensive craft beers she liked.
"Tell me what's going on," she said. "You can't just say you want to exile yourself to Bumfuck, Maine, and then clam up."
I stared out the window at the tree whose last leaves had withered and fallen a week ago. The branches looked skeletal, exposed. Raw.
"I just need some time away, to clear my head. To focus on my painting. I can't keep living like this," I said. Now I was the one motioning to the ratty couch, the bare walls, the peeling linoleum. The thin wall that divided Gus and me.
"Okay," she said. "But what about Gus? And Av? He'll never let you take her."
I took a deep breath.
"Robby Rousseau might get a retrial," I said.
Her face drained of color, making her bright red lipsticked lips look like a stain on her face. She shook her head. "That can't be. You said he was in for life."
I shivered and the ancient radiator clanged and hissed as it kicked on. It was October, and winter would be here soon.
"The Innocence Project is getting involved," I said. "They tested the rape kit for DNA."
She winced perceptibly at the word rape.
"So?" she said.
I shook my head, felt my throat thicken. My voice was damaged that day; afterward, I was left with the crackling rasp of a heavy smoker, the raw hoarseness I've had guys (ones who had no idea) tell me is sexy. And this voice, this reluctant, faulty voice, sometimes completely fails when I am under stress, the wound made fresh. Decades of healing suddenly undone.
"I'm just worried," I managed. "This lady, Jan Bromberg? She's obsessed. Convinced he didn't do it. Apparently, she tried to get the DA to test the kit for DNA, but it was denied. So she went to the federal district court and they gave her access. Six months ago. Depending on the results, she plans to petition for a retrial. What if he gets another trial? What if a new jury lets him go?"
"Wait. Didn't he confess, Wyn?" Pilar asked.
Excerpted from The Golden Hour by T. Greenwood. Copyright © 2017 T. Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsTable of Contents,
Outstanding Praise for the Novels of T. Greenwood,
The Golden Hour,
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,
Auld Lang Syne,
The Vanishing Point,
Into the Woods,
The Magic Hour,
Ash and Ember,
A READING GROUP GUIDE,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,
WHERE I LOST HER,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm always amazed at how much detail T. Greenwood gives in her books and still is able to keep the story moving along. She'll mention something as simple as turning on a furnace for the first time, and just as my sensations are picking up the odor it would emit, she is right there with "the smell of burning dust." She doesn't miss a beat. But her details do not bog down the story. The subject matter of this book may prove a difficult read for some. It involves a past sexual assault on the main character, Wyn Davies, and how the pain of that day resurfaces when a group that works to exonerate the wrongly convicted gets involved, setting in motion a retrial of the perpetrator, also a minor at the time of the assault. Woven into this storyline is Wyn's sudden breakup with her husband, which, along with the news of the possible pending retrial, compels her to take their four-year-old daughter to stay on a remote island in Maine, the new home of her best friend, who is set to join them. In the house, a dilapidated relic, Wyn finds a box of film canisters that compel her to find the story woven into those reels. As with all Greenwood's best work, the story is provocative and moves at a quick clip, while allowing the reader a satisfying payoff at the end.
I was enthralled from page one. The characters are believeable, the story makes sense and the plot moves at a good pace. This is a definite page turner. As I was reading, I felt as if I was there...
I'll readily admit that the reason for choosing this novel was the stunning cover. Then, when I realized that it was largely set on an island in Maine, the decision was made. Wyn Davies is a thirty-three year-old artist. She works on commission to bring in some much needed funds. She lives in one side of a duplex, with her husband Gus living on the other side. They have separated. Not because she doesn't love him dearly, but because he has said she has 'sold out' by abandoning her art and taking commissions painting birch trees. Their four-year-old daughter, Avery, goes back and forth between the two halves of the house. "How do you stay with someone who thinks you have sold your soul?" Wyn has lots of personal baggage. When she was just thirteen years old she was raped and very nearly killed in the woods behind her childhood home in New Hampshire. Her schoolmate, Robert Rousseau confessed to the crime and has been in prison for the past twenty years. Now... new evidence has been discovered which could exonerate Rousseau. Always fearful, Wyn lives her life in the limbo between truth and lies. Her parents, her best friend Pilar, and her husband Gus, do NOT know the truth of what happened to Wyn in the woods that day. Unable to tolerate the growing chasm between her and Gus, Wyn takes Pilar up on her offer of staying at her house in Maine for the winter. Pilar had bought it sight unseen. The house, which has been unoccupied for years, is located on the remote Bluff's Island. Upon arrival, Wyn and Avery find the house is ramshackle and in much need of serious repair. While in the basement trying to start the ancient furnace, Wyn notices a recessed area in the earthen wall containing a shoebox labelled "Epitaphs and Prophecies". The shoebox is filled with undeveloped film canisters. "I felt a strange sense of responsibilty. I had somehow become the unofficial curator of this photographer's work. It was daunting." Curiosity leads Wyn to develop some of the film. The photos reveal a young woman with a young child. Photos of the house she is living in... Wyn and Avery pass the early winter days trolling the beach for sea glass. Avery seems to be adapting well to the move, but at night she has reverted to wetting the bed. Wyn wonders if she did the right thing moving here - away from Gus. Then... Wyn begins getting threatening messages...... and the re-opening of the Rousseau case looms. The title references that special time of day, before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. Painting during that spectacular time of day known as the “golden hour”, when light is at its best. The first two-thirds of this novel had me absolutely riveted. I liked Wyn, her tiny daughter Avery, and the atmospheric house on Bluff's Island. I was curious and compelled to learn more about the mysterious woman who took the photos and how they would influence Wyn's life. I felt that the last third of the book let me down. Although there was a resolution of sorts for Wyn's personal life, other aspects of the plot were not resolved to my satisfaction. As a result, my overall feelings for this novel suffered, along with my rating score. Would I read another book by this author? Absolutely! Would I recommend this one? Yes, with some reservations. Rating 3.5 stars rounded up for Barnes & Noble.
This story will transport you to the Maine woods and keep you constantly involved with the characters. The author has the ability to totally engage you in the story as if you are living it yourself. Wonderful! I have read other books by this author and none disapoint.
Twenty-years after a brutal attack, Wyn Davies must re-examine her past and gain the courage to reveal her secrets and save her soul. I'm a long-time fan of T. Greenwood's work, and this may--thus far--be her finest. Beautiful, terrifying, and true.
The Golden Hour, a page turning joy... I Love the way T. GREENWOOD weaves a story. A Must read, would make a great book club addition. T Greenwood will be a name I yell from the roof tops , when someone asks "what should I read next"
The Golden Hour is an odd novel. It sounded like a good mystery/suspense novel, but the execution was severely lacking. Wyn is a hard character to like. I know she suffered a horrible trauma, and I believe she could benefit from therapy. Her character reminds me of a person who might have a mental health problem. Wyn smokes pot (more than once when children are nearby), drinks, has trouble communicating (especially with her husband), pushes everyone away, prefers to flee than deal with life, jealous of her best friend’s success and lacks some common sense. Wyn goes to a house that has been deserted for thirty-five years with her four-year-old daughter (would you take a child to this house). I would make sure to arrive in daylight so I can what needs to be done. I am sure that the house would be dilapidated and filthy. Wyn has no idea how to turn light a pilot light for the heat and imagines there is a master switch (not on a system that old). She does not bring in the clothes from the car before falling asleep (guess what they need in the middle of the night). Wyn also fails to bring needed cleaning supplies (despite being told about the lack of shops and supplies in the “town”). Wyn seems more concerned about her needs than those of her daughter. In a way, I wish the author had not included a child in the story. I found some inconsistencies regarding the legal case. A thirteen-year-old boy confessed to the crime and then goes to trial. He gets a lengthy sentence and is still in jail twenty years later. Normally, if the perpetrator confesses, there is no trial. It would go to sentencing. Also, why would a juvenile still be in jail after the age of 18 (or at the latest 21). I am curious how he was convicted if Wyn did not testify and the DNA evidence was never tested. The incident that happened to Wyn is slowly revealed over the course of the novel. Most readers will be able to figure it out long before all the information is revealed. I give The Golden Hour 2 out of 5 stars (I did not enjoy it). I found the pace to be slow (good if you wish to go to sleep) and the pictures described are unusual (downright strange and inappropriate). I thought the novel to be dark and the ending disappointing. What happened regarding the prior owner is very upsetting and disturbing. I was just not drawn into this book. I kept hoping it would get better, but it did not. The Golden Hour was not the right novel for me.