Clare and Jess grew up in a small collage town in the Hudson River Valley and met in a special, selection only, high school writing class taught by Alden Montague. He was an experienced well known writer and he took a strong interest in Clare.
This is really Clare’s story, she is the narrator, as she tells us about her life story. Both Clare and Jess are writers, and Jess had his first novel published when they first got married. Both broke up previous relationships to be with each other. Clare had gotten pregnant but loses the baby and then they got married, went on to finish collage, and later moved to New York.
Clare is the more talented writer but works as a copy editor to pay the bills. Jess spends full time writing his second novel but seems to have writers block, their money is running out and their marriage is not happy. Jess thinks they should sell everything, pay off their bills, and move back to the Hudson River Valley where he feels they both can do better writing.
Jess finds Katrine, a realtor, who turns out to be his old girlfriend from school, and she takes them to see Alden Montague, where he offers them the position of caretakers, rent free, at his Hudson River Valley estate, Riven House.
Montague remembers Clare as his most promising student and, still fond of her, he becomes a resource to her as she starts to try to learn more about her past and begin her own book.
Clare was adopted and grew up not far from Riven House. She wants to know who her parents were and when Katrine tells her that many of the records from the past are now open she starts researching local records.
Montague’s family has lived in their big estate home for generations and, with Clare and Jess living on the estate, Clare starts to write about the history of the house.
The house is badly broken down with many empty rooms some where the lights don't work. The architecture is unique with the house built around an octagon center, surrounded by marsh fields and a large pond, both of which often are covered with fog. Riven House has a dark and troubled past with a reputation of being haunted and Clare has several encounters with ghosts.
With the story of Riven House unfolding, and Montague’s story of how his great-grandfather broke the heart of the local Apple Blossom Queen, Clare begins to research the legend, discovering parallels to her own life that include secret loves, illegitimate births, lost children, and mothers driven mad.
The strength of this novel is that you really see things the way Clare does but then Clare misses the real story until near then end, just as we do. She is not sure if the ghosts are real until the end and again we are not sure either. The details of Alden Montague’s parents, their parents, and the estate itself, turn out to be very important for Clare.
This is a suspenseful story that you won't want to put down.