FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
When it comes to finding a candidate, or candidates, to share a house with, it’s not just about placing an ad and accepting the first one or two who responds to it. That is what best friends Hilary Dempster and Mavis Montgomery have to learn in Ruth Hay’s women’s fiction novel Harmony House (Home Sweet Home Book 1). Hilary and Mavis are looking for candidates who meet a specific set of requirements. Two weeks and one day since putting their advertisement up on bulletin boards, the calls start coming in for the house that the two women have called a “Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity”.
Both of them retired widows, Hilary and Mavis feel that care facilities are just not for them. So they come up with a plan to buy a large family-type home with six rooms and find four like-minded women to live in this home with them. Seven women attend the meeting at Hilary’s own house at 46, Camden Corners, London, Ontario. Four are initially chosen, but of those four women, two concern Hilary. One woman is like a child who has difficulty functioning as an adult while the other is married to an abusive husband. Before Hilary and Mavis can realize their dream, they have to get a couple of road blocks out of the way first. Can they choose the correct four and can they find the home that they’re looking for?
Hilary and Mavis met when Hilary was still the principal of a high school and looking for someone to help her with a particularly troublesome teenager. Mavis, who had worked in a courthouse, was the one that came to her aid. Though Mavis might be less of a talker than Hilary and more likely of the two to become suspicious of something foxing, the two do make up a good team. Hilary has the ability to sum up another woman quickly. When we first meet Vilma Smith, she is dressed elegantly in good clothes and high heels. It takes only a second for Hilary to mark Vilma as someone who might challenge her for control. I was mildly interested in seeing how exactly Vilma would become a problem for Hilary, but it quickly looks like there won’t be any problems between the two.
No doubt a rich woman, Vilma is a stepmother of fully grown stepchildren who hate her. She is looking for comfort, company, and less responsibility. Having acquired a property on a beach all the way in Jamaica from her first husband, her quest for friendship rather than living the life that she can afford is clearly more important to her when she says the following after being asked why she wouldn’t rather live permanently in her Jamaica property: “Well, it’s nice to get some sun but the tourist population changes so much, it’s difficult to form friendships.”
Howard Dobrinski is the name of the husband that abused Eve Barton. Eve is definitely frightened of her husband because when she comes out of Hilary’s house in the beginning, she arranges a cab to wait for her on a side street so that the driver cannot see the address of Hilary’s house. Eve gives readers a bit of a scare when she collapses and is hospitalized with a brand new scar, but this is what ultimately makes Hilary want to choose her for the house. Eve is well portrayed as a woman coming from an abusive relationship because she shows all of the characteristics that one would normally expect from a person with her experiences.
Seeing Eve, who may not be as worldly as Hilary and Mavis, do her best not to just be an abused victim with little to say or contribute to the story and becoming more comfortable with the group, was great. After her eventual confrontation with her abusive husband, she has ample reason to feel secured. Interestingly enough, it is Mavis, as violence had been something foreign to her, who gets affected.
Vilma is by far my favorite character. Whenever I thought about Vilma, I kept wondering about Hilary and how she wondered if Vilma would ultimately battle her for control at some point. “Now, both advice and hope were being dispensed by the same amazing woman who was so far out of her class that Jannice would never expect her to give a damn at all.” While Hilary can clearly be seen as the leader of the newly formed Harmony House group, it is Vilma that ultimately steals the show. She does so in pernicious ways. With little deeds. By the time readers realize exactly what the author has done to show readers how she might in fact become a threat for Hilary later on, it will be nothing short of a wow moment.
Harmony House is not a home readers will be taken to quickly enough. There is a long way to go. The choosing of the candidates. The looking at houses. Financial matters. In the beginning, the novel seemed like one of those fast-paced types where authors cut straight to the point, but later on, you start wishing that the buying of Harmony House would be over and done with already. Hay has obviously chosen a slower path towards the goal of Hilary and Mavis, but I didn’t see the point. I’m sure that more interesting things in this book could’ve happened had this house been bought before the first half of the book ended.
The repleting excitement that the first few chapters bring with it might subside during the middle parts, but the last few chapters brings with it its own measure of developments to look forward to. Anyone looking to start a similar co-housing project like Hilary and Mavis will find great value in reading this book. Ruth Hay offers much to learn about these types of endeavors. With Harmony House far later than readers would expect, I can’t wait to see what the future of its residents will be like in the next installment of this series.
Date Published: April 3, 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
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