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Woman in Red

Woman in Red

4.3 12
by Perseus

From the New York Times bestselling author and one of the most compelling and insightful writers of contemporary fiction comes a powerful story about love and redemption, and what one woman will do to overcome the personal tragedy that has stripped her of all she held dear.

Alice Kessler spent nine years in prison for the attempted murder of the drunk


From the New York Times bestselling author and one of the most compelling and insightful writers of contemporary fiction comes a powerful story about love and redemption, and what one woman will do to overcome the personal tragedy that has stripped her of all she held dear.

Alice Kessler spent nine years in prison for the attempted murder of the drunk driver who killed her eldest son. Now she has returned home to Gray’s Island to reconnect with the son she left behind. Her boy, Jeremy, now an angry teenager, is falsely accused of rape, and so mother and son are united in a desperate attempt to prove his innocence. At the same time, Alice must battle the man responsible for putting her behind bars, who has since become the mayor of her hometown. She is aided by Colin McGinty, a recovering alcoholic and 9/11 widower, also recently returned to the island following the death of his grandfather, a famous artist best known for his haunting portrait entitled “Woman in Red,” which just so happens to be of Alice’s grandmother. As Alice and Colin are drawn into a fragile romance of their own, the strange destiny that connects them gradually comes to light.

In a tale that weaves the past with the present, we come to know the story behind the portrait, of the forbidden wartime romance between William McGinty and Eleanor Styles, and the deadly secret that bound them more tightly than ever in their love for each other. A secret that, more than half a century later, is about to be unburied.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this page-turning novel, Alice Kessler, the married mother of two sons, is living on the fictional Grays Island, in the Pacific Northwest, when her eight-year-old son is run over while riding his bike. Alice is convinced the driver, Owen White, was drunk-though her husband, Randy, is not. Neither is the court system. So, on the day Alice loses her wrongful death lawsuit, she runs Owen down in the courthouse parking lot, crippling but not killing him. Alice serves nine years and returns to the island near-broke and hoping to reunite with her surviving son, Jeremy, now 16. (Her husband, Randy, has divorced her.) At the same time, Colin McGinty, an ex-Manhattan prosecutor, has returned to his dead artist grandfather's island house after losing his wife in 9/11. Alice and Colin's fates become bound with a little help from Colin's inherited border collie and, more concretely, a portrait of Alice's grandmother. Cutting between WWII-era depictions of the lives of Colin's and Alice's grandparents and the melodramatic present (including Alice's son being accused of rape and Owen White's machinations as island mayor), haute-romance veteran Goudge (Immediate Family; Wish Come True; etc.) unspools a predictable yet satisfying tale of survival and redemption. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
"Eileen Goudge writes like a house on fire, creating characters you come to love and hate to leave." ---Nora Roberts

Product Details

Vanguard Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Woman in Red

By Eileen Goudge


Copyright © 2007 Eileen Goudge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1561-5



The dog was waiting on the landing when the ferry pulled into the berth. Black, with white paws and a white blaze on its chest, it made Colin think of an English butler in bib and morning coat, standing in readiness to greet guests arriving at the lord's manor for a weekend of grouse hunting. A border collie, from the looks of it, a breed more common to sheep farms than the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Yet it looked perfectly at home, sitting there on its haunches in the late afternoon sunlight that slanted over the sun-bleached asphalt.

"Old McGinty's dog," volunteered the man at Colin's elbow.

Colin turned toward him. The man was no youngster himself, with his rheumy eyes and thin white hair luffing in the stiff breeze. "McGinty, the artist?" he inquired.

The man gave a somber nod. "Sad about his passing. It was all over the news. Around here, though, we knew him just as Old McGinty. Him and his dog, you never saw one without t'other." He shook his head, eyeing the collie. "Poor thing. Ever' day, rain or shine, he's here to meet the four-forty from Anacortes." Colin must have looked puzzled, for he explained, "The old man went to the mainland once a month or so, and he always took the same ferry back. Except this last time. When he didn't show, that's how we knew something must've happened to him. Weren't nothing would've kept him from that dog, not as long as he had breath in him."

Poor Dickie, Colin almost muttered aloud before realizing that it couldn't be the same dog he recalled from childhood. Besides, it would have sparked his fellow passenger's interest, and Colin recognized a town crier when he saw one. He wasn't ready for the whole island to know his business just yet. If people remembered him at all it would be as the boy who used to visit his grandfather every summer. They wouldn't recognize the tall, solemn-faced man, his dark hair prematurely flecked with gray, as that eager, fleet-footed boy all grown up, except perhaps for the faint resemblance he bore to his grandfather — around the eyes and mouth mostly, which carried the same sadness as had the man they'd known as Old McGinty. "So who's looking after him now?"

"Neighbor up the road took him in." The old man wore a prideful look, as if to say, Around here we look after our own. "But feedin' an animal and ownin' it ain't the same thing. That there's a one-man dog." He pointed a bent twig of a finger at the border collie now rising from its haunches, ears pricked and nose held high in anticipation of his master's arrival.

The man said good-bye and joined the flow of passengers making their way toward the exit ramp, but Colin, lost in thought, gave no reply other than to nod. He remained where he was on the upper deck, in no particular hurry to disembark, as the flow slowed to a trickle of stragglers. The chill of autumn was in the air, but it was memories of summers past that crowded his mind as he leaned into the railing, squinting toward shore, the sharp wind off the sound prying at the upturned collar of his jacket.

It had been more than a decade since his last visit, but not much appeared to have changed. Bell Harbor was just as he remembered it, with its picture-postcard marina and quaint, century-old buildings lining the waterfront — shops and eateries, like the Rusty Anchor, with its namesake anchor out front, where his grandfather would take him for fish and chips on Sundays; and the souvenir shop filled with items to fascinate a young boy. Higher up, on the hill, the commercial buildings gave way to houses and farms, then to unbroken tracts of evergreens as the island climbed toward its highest point, Mount Independence. Already, in mid-October, there was a sugar-dusting of snow on its peak. He was reminded of the time his grandfather had driven him up to the summit in his old Willys, the one year Colin had visited at Christmastime, how wondrous those virgin white tracts had seemed to a city boy used to snow plows and dirty slush clumped along the sidewalk.

"I used to take your dad up here," William had remarked. "He ever tell you about it?"

"He doesn't talk about those days too much." Colin had felt keenly the awkwardness of the moment. He'd been fourteen at the time, his voice reedy with all the changes in his body, which had sprouted a foot seemingly overnight.

"I don't suppose he would." William had squinted off into the distance, wearing a look of sad resignation. There had been only the creak of snow settling under their boots and the whiffling of wings as a cardinal swooped from the branches of a nearby hemlock.

His grandfather was often given to such silences; they'd been as much a part of him as his shock of white hair and the old leg injury that had caused him to limp. And yet they were seldom uncomfortable, even when Colin sensed an underlying sorrow; it was like the sound of the wind in the trees on the cold mountaintop, lonely and peaceful at the same time.

The years melted away, Colin's memories of those boyhood summers sharper than of recent events. He pictured his grandfather bent over his easel, Dickie curled asleep at his feet, and saw the boy he'd been racing down to the cove with his binoculars at the sighting of a whale. Another boy might have been homesick or lonely for the company of other kids his age, but for Colin, those summers had been a welcome respite. He'd experienced a kind of freedom he hadn't known before or since. If his grandfather had spent long hours holed up in his studio, leaving Colin to his own devices, it was just what a young boy sprung from the confines of a row house in Queens, where the great outdoors had consisted of a scrubby patch of grass out back, had needed. Grays Island, with all its nooks and crannies to explore, had been like a magic carpet at his feet, and those endless days of summer had rarely seen him indoors.

But that was Before. Before the world, quite literally in his case, had come tumbling down around his ears.

Colin's mind closed like a fist around the thought, the chill in the air seeping into his bones. The hope that he could escape the more recent past by coming here seemed foolish all of a sudden. It would never be any further away than the nearest bottle in which to drown his sorrows.

A final call from the loudspeaker roused him from his reverie, and he made his way back inside and down the stairs. He was among the last to disembark, and as he exited onto the walkway that ran parallel to the loading ramp, where a caravan of vehicles was crawling its way toward the street, his gaze was drawn to the woman just ahead of him. Slim, dark-haired, around his age — late thirties — and wearing an expression of such intense preoccupation as she trudged along pulling her wheeled suitcase, she seemed scarcely aware of her surroundings. She looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place her. Someone he'd met on the island? Or maybe it was just that she reminded him of someone he knew. These days, every woman who bore even the slightest resemblance to Nadine brought a tug of painful recognition, of yearning.

The thought that earlier had attempted to surface — the part of his past he'd just as soon forget — thrust its way into his consciousness with such startling suddenness he had to pause to catch his breath, reeling with more than the swaying motion of the ramp. He was gripped by a deep terror. What if he were to discover that he'd traveled all this way only to find he couldn't escape his demons?

When he finally caught up to her, the woman appeared to be bracing herself against some unseen force as well. She stood poised on the landing, scanning the passenger waiting area, wearing the anxious, hyperalert look of someone not quite sure of her bearings. Her full-length wool coat that might have been purchased at Goodwill and cheap imitation leather suitcase were at odds with her refined, if somewhat worn, appearance. To the eye of an attorney practiced at spotting such telling details, it suggested someone of privilege who'd fallen on hard times.

He paused beside her, inquiring pleasantly, "First visit?" Normally, Colin wasn't in the habit of making conversation with strangers, but something about her drew him to her. Even with her light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, and no makeup other than a touch of lipstick, he could see that she'd once been beautiful. She still was in a stark kind of way, as if whittled down by hard circumstances, like a granite peak by the elements. Her wide-set eyes, an indeterminate shade that shifted from gray to green, held the shadow of some deep sadness, and her delicate features didn't match the look of determination on her face — not that of some grand ambition, but of a woman reaching into herself for the simple courage to take the next step.

She cast him a startled, almost frightened, glance, then her expression smoothed over. "No. It's just that it's been a while. I can't get over how little it's changed," she replied, gesturing around her. Her tone seemed that of someone whose own life had altered so drastically, it hardly seemed possible that time had more or less stood still here on the island.

That was something he understood all too well. Hers could have been any one of the faces he'd looked upon in countless AA meetings, those for whom despair had become a way of life and the effort it took to simply go through the motions was almost more than they could manage. Yet they kept going somehow, just as he had, one day, one step, at a time.

"I used to come here as a kid," he remarked. "It's been a while for me, too."

She glanced up at the sky, where a thick, gray cloud cover had moved in, bringing the threat of rain. "Not exactly tourist season."

As if on cue, a sudden chill blast of wind sent a loosely tied tarpaulin nearby rattling. She pulled up her collar, holding it tightly about her neck as she hunched inside her coat, shivering. "Actually, I'm here on business," he informed her. "Family business."

"That makes two of us." Her lips curled in a smile that didn't reach her eyes. She obviously hadn't had much practice at it lately.

"Colin McGinty." He put out his hand.

She hesitated before taking it. "Alice," she said, not giving her last name. Her hand, narrow and long-fingered, might have seemed elegant, that of a pianist or a ballerina, if not roughened in a way that told of hard manual labor.

"Someone coming to meet you?" If she had family on the island, it was more than likely, he thought.

"No," she said simply, not offering an explanation.

"I'd offer you a ride, but mine doesn't look to be here yet," said Colin, scanning the cars along the curb for the white Chevy Suburban Clark Findlay, his grandfather's lawyer, had told him to look out for.

"Thanks anyway, but I don't have far to go." After a moment, in which she appeared to have forgotten he was there, she straightened her shoulders and tipped her suitcase onto its wheels. "Well, I guess I should be off. It was nice meeting you. Enjoy your stay."

As he watched her walk away, he continued to wonder about her. Had she taken a wrong turn somewhere? Hooked up with the wrong guy? Or merely gotten hooked, like him? Before Colin could ponder it further, she'd turned the corner and was out of sight.

He hoisted his backpack onto his shoulder. That was when he noticed the border collie he'd spotted earlier. It was standing half a dozen feet away, its intelligent brown eyes fixed on him with a mixture of curiosity and wariness. Colin sank into a crouch and extended a hand. "Here, boy. It's okay. I won't bite."

The collie — a male, he saw — edged closer. Despite looking well-cared-for, he was skittish in the way of pets left to fend for themselves. It was a good minute or so before he'd crept close enough to take a tentative sniff. "Good dog," Colin murmured encouragingly. "See? Nothing to be afraid of." He patted Dickie's head — for he couldn't stop thinking of him as Dickie — which was black except for the softly folded tips of his ears and the patches of white around his eyes and on either side of his nose. The dog allowed it, but it was clear he was only tolerating it out of politeness. Either that, or he thought Colin might know something about his master's whereabouts. When it became clear that Colin wasn't going to be of much help in that department, he retreated, sinking onto his haunches to regard Colin with a look almost of reproach.

Colin drew himself up. "I'd take you with me, but I'm guessing you know the way." The dog cocked his head, eyes fixed on Colin as if in comprehension. How much longer would he go on waiting for his dead master? The thought wrenched at Colin. But was it any better knowing there was no hope? When he dreamed of Nadine, with her smile as wide as the world in which she'd lived — a world in which everyone had a good side and every bad thing its shades of gray — he would invariably awake with a fresh sense of loss, knowing that was all he would ever have of her from now on: memories.

When several more minutes had passed with no sign of Findlay's SUV, Colin fished from his pocket the scrap of paper with the lawyer's number on it. But he was unable to get a signal on his cell phone, and when he went off in search of a pay phone, there were none to be found. On Grays Island, the lack of modern conveniences seemed a conspiracy of sorts, a gentle reminder to slow down, not be in such a rush. Here, people moved at their own pace, not by your timetable, and if you couldn't reach someone by phone you'd run into him or her eventually.

His grandfather's lawyer proved no exception. Moments later a mud-spattered Suburban that might once have been white pulled up to the curb. The driver, a very un-lawyerly looking man in a fisherman's hat, stuck his head out the window. "You must be Colin," he said, with a grin. "Hop in."

Colin climbed into the passenger seat. "Thanks for coming to meet me." He stuck out his hand, which was seized in a firm, dry grip. Clark Findlay looked to be in his late forties, early fifties, gangly as a late-summer plant that's bolted, and freckled all over.

"No problem. Sorry I'm late." The lawyer spoke casually, as if it were the norm. "I got tied up at the office. Missus Brunelli. Her husband, Frank, passed on a few months back. She's lonely and likes to talk. I didn't have the heart to cut her off. How was your trip?"

"Long," Colin replied, with a weary smile. The flight from JFK had been delayed, and he'd had to stay the night in Seattle, followed by the four-hour ferry ride.

"That all you brought?" Findlay jerked a thumb at the backpack Colin was tossing into the backseat.

"I travel light," he said.

"Smart man. Anyway, you won't need much. Couple changes of clothing, warm jacket, boots, that's about it." As if Colin needed to be reminded of the island's dress code, or lack thereof. "'Course, it depends on how long you plan on sticking around." Findlay darted a curious look in his direction as he edged his way back into traffic.

Colin offered no response. He didn't know any more than Findlay what his plans were.

They turned off Harbor and began the climb up Crestview. At the summit stood the Queen Anne — style mansion that had once been the home of shipping magnate Henry White, since converted into a bed-and-breakfast. However many times it had exchanged hands throughout the years, it would always be known to the townsfolk as the White House, a place as firmly fixed in the local firmament as the lore surrounding its original owners, Henry's son, Lowell, in particular. Now, seeing its windows lit up and its gingerbread strung with fairy lights, casting a welcoming light in the gathering dusk, Colin wondered briefly if he wouldn't have been better off getting a room there rather than facing the cold, shuttered cottage where his grandfather's presence would be so keenly felt.

Findlay turned left at the top of the hill, headed in the direction of Ship's Bay. "I had Edna give the place a thorough cleaning. It's in pretty decent shape, all things considered. There was some damage with the last storm — some off the roof, a couple of trees down — but Orin took care of that." Orin Rayburn and his wife, Edna, Colin recalled, had worked for his grandfather. "That reminds me, he wants to know if you plan on keeping him on once everything's settled." Findlay was referring to the fact that the probate period was almost up. "You didn't say whether or not you were planning to sell."


Excerpted from Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge. Copyright © 2007 Eileen Goudge. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Eileen Goudge writes like a house on fire, creating characters you come to love and hate to leave." —-Nora Roberts

Meet the Author

Eileen Goudge is the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Dance and Garden of Lies.

Susan Ericksen lives on the East Coast, where she performs on stage and on television. An Audie Award and AudioFile Earphones Award winner, she has recorded many audiobooks.

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Woman in Red 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
barbCA More than 1 year ago
HOoray, I found another favorite author. This is my third novel by Goudge. I love her style of writing. With this one you can't read fast enough...it's great!
Shelterdogs More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It had some mystery as well as sadness and love. She captured human frailty and strength.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a little biased, I guess, as Eileen Goudge is one of my all-time favorite authors. However, this was the first novel of hers that I ever read, and that may be part of the reason that I love her so much! The book was just basically fantastic all-around! The characters were unique and dynamic and easy to relate to. It is a story full of emotion and passion and loyalty mixed in with hardship and suffering, told in the most engrossing way possible. I could not put this book down, period, because I was so desperate to be a part of the story that I absolutely did not want to break away from it, even for a second. It was that good. Really! I guess it's not necessarily a must-read for everyone, but if you are reading the description and thinking that it might be something you would enjoy, I would say -- definitely give it a shot!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never read anything by this author until I red Woman in Red. The book was excellent. I am now looking for more reads by Eileen Goudge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The setting of WOMAN IN RED was described so well that you could just picture the town, wooded areas and coastline as you were reading it. As in Ms. Goudge's GARDEN of LIES and THORNS OF TRUTH, the characters become quite real to you and you almost hate to see the end of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NancyT More than 1 year ago
This was a little different story line and the characters were interesting. It certainly was a page turner for the story itself. Even though I would not classify this a thriller, there were some very surprising twists and turns. I will definitely re-read this book in the next couple years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to this paperback by the cover and the title and of course, the author, as I have read other books written by Eileen Goudge that are very good. I couldn't put this one down and found myself grabbing it in between chores and when I took a work break to read more. I was sorry when it ended! Now that's a defining moment for a book. I want to buy it on tape for my dear friend who is blind but from what I see, it is not yet available.