on August 24th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Susan Wiggs—an author “who paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master” (Jodi Picoult)—returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story of love and family, war and secrets that moves back and forth across time, from the present day to World War II France
An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her.
Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again.
A car’s headlights swept across the front of the house, and crushed shells crackled under its tires. She glanced at the clock—nine p.m.— and went out onto the porch, snapping on the light. Her heart flipped over. Mr. Ponytail Professor was back.
“Did you forget something?” she asked when he got out of the car. “My manners,” he said.
What the . . . ? “Pardon me?” “Do you drink wine?” he asked.
“Copiously. Why do you ask?”
He held out a bottle of rosé, the glass beaded with sweat. “A peace offering. It’s chilled.”
She checked the label—a Domaine de Terrebrune from Bandol. “That’s a really nice bottle.”
“I got it from a little wine shop in the village.”
She nodded. “Grand Crew. My father was one of their suppliers. He’s retired now.”
“He was in the wine business, then.”
“He owned an import and distributing firm up in Rehoboth. And why are we having this conversation?”
“I came back to apologize. I got halfway across the bridge and started feeling bad for yelling at you, so I turned around and came back.”
She caught herself staring at him like a smitten coed with a crush on her professor. She flushed, trying to shake off the gape-mouthed attraction. “Oh.” An awkward beat passed. “Would you like to come in?” She held open the door.
“Thought you’d never ask.”
In the kitchen, she grabbed some glasses and a corkscrew. What was he doing back here? “Actually, you did forget something—your sunglasses.” She handed them over.
“Oh, thanks.” He opened the wine and poured, and they brought their glasses to the living room and sat together on the sofa. He tilted his glass toward her. “So . . . apology accepted?”
She took a sip of the wine, savoring the cool, grapefruity flavor of it. “Apology accepted. But I still feel bad about your film.”
“I know. You made a mistake. I should have been more understanding.” He briefly touched her arm.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t such a jerk. She stared at her arm where he had touched it. Why was this stranger, whose one-of-a-kind film she’d ruined, taking care of her? Watching him, she tried to figure it out. “I’ve never screwed up a project like that,” she said.
“So what happened?”
“Everything was going fine until I got a phone call from the local hospital that my daughter had been brought in by ambulance. I dropped everything and ran out the door.”
“The girl I met earlier? Oh, man. Is she all right?”
“Yes. Yes, Julie’s fine. She’s upstairs now, online—her favorite place to be.”
“So what was the emergency?”
“She was in a surf rescue class—most kids around here take it in ninth grade. She hit her head and got caught in a riptide.” A fresh wave of panic engulfed Camille as she pictured what could have happened.
“Thank God she’s okay.”
Camille nodded, hugging her knees to her chest. “I was so scared. I held myself together until . . . well, until you showed up. Lucky you, getting here just in time for my meltdown.”
“You should have said something earlier. If I’d known you rushed off because you got a call about your kid, I wouldn’t have been such a tool.” He offered a half smile that made her heart skip a beat.
At least he acknowledged that he’d been a tool. “Well, thanks for that, Professor Finnemore.”
“Call me Finn.”
She took another sip of wine, eyeing him over the rim of her glass. “You look like a Finn.”
“But not a Malcolm?”
“That’s right. Malcolm is totally different.”
He grinned, flashing charm across the space between them. “How’s that?”
“Well, buttoned down. Academic. Bow tie and brown oxfords.” He laughed aloud then. “You reduced me to a cliché, then.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“Want to know how I pictured you?” Without waiting for an answer, he rested his elbow on the back of the sofa and turned toward her. “Long dark hair. Big dark eyes. Total knockout in a red striped shirt.” He chuckled at her expression. “I checked out your website.”
Oh. Her site featured a picture of her and Billy on the “about us” link. But a knockout? Had he really said knockout? He was probably disappointed now, because on this particular night, she didn’t look anything like the woman in that photo.
“You look just like your photo,” he said.
Wait. Was he coming on to her? No. No way. She should have looked at his website. Did history professors have websites?
She saw something flicker across his face, an expression she couldn’t read.
“Go ahead,” he said. “You can look me up on your phone. You know you want to.”
She flushed, but did exactly that, tapping his name on the screen. The information that populated the web page surprised her. “Ac- cording to these search results, you’re a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former intelligence officer. You’re now a professor of history at Annapolis, renowned for tracing the provenance of lost soldiers and restoring the memories to their families. You’re an expert at analyzing old photos.”
“Then we have something in common. If you ever come across something mysterious in a picture, I can take a look.”
She couldn’t decide if his self-confidence was sexy or annoying. In the “personal” section of the page, it was noted that he had been married to “award-winning journalist Emily Cutler” for ten years, and was now divorced. She didn’t read that part aloud.
“I’m renowned? You don’t say.” He shifted closer to her and peered at the screen.
“I don’t. Wikipedia says. Is it accurate?”
“More or less.” He grinned. “I don’t know about the ‘renowned’ part. I’ve never done anything of renown. Maybe choosing this exceptional wine. Cheers.” He touched the rim of his glass to hers and took a sip.
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
Map of the Heart is a stand-alone novel by Susan Wiggs. It’s the first book I have read by this author and it definitely won’t be the last.
Camille Palmer is a widow of 5 years, bringing up a teenage daughter Julie. She’s gone from being an adventure lover to a woman terrified to do anything dangerous. Her fears also see her suffocating Julie who is slowly but surely withdrawing from society. She doesn’t go out, she doesn’t enjoy school, she has no friends and she is a very unhappy young girl.
Camille’s job is photo restoration, being able to get good photos from very old film. It’s in this capacity that she meets Finn. He is a professor who is searching for his father who went missing in WWII. Finn has an old reel of film of his father’s that he needs Camille to develop and he hopes that what is on there will give him some insight into his father’s last known whereabouts. His speciality is looking at old photographs and discovering where they were taken etc.
The tables are turned when Camille ends up going to Finn for help in a search for information about her grandmother. She’s developed some old photos sent to her father from his old home in France. Many questions need answering and together Camille and Finn are determined to find those answers. During that time a romance could very well develop, but both of them have reasons to guard their hearts. Do they give into their attraction, or do their pasts keep them from enjoying a possible future together?
What I love so much about this story is that it is so very much more than a romance. It really is a journey of discovery in many ways for the characters, we read the anguish that they have been through, or are going through in their lives, and how they cope. Some of the book is set in modern times, the rest is a flashback to the life of Camille’s grandmother in France during the war. It’s a beautiful mix of eras in time and provided a very emotive read. I found myself close to tears a few times, only to then find myself smiling. I love books that can make me run the gamut of emotions, and yet be wonderfully feel-good stories. I loved all of the characters, not least Camille’s father who I believe is the one to gain most from the discoveries made. As for Finn, does he ever find out what happened to his father, you will have to read the book to find out. You won’t be sorry if you do.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.