Review: The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

The Beautiful Daughters

Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Beautiful Daughters will be available April 28, 2015.

I’ve never read anything by Nicole Baart before, but I think I’ll definitely be giving her other books a try after reading The Beautiful Daughters. Her writing was beautiful, even when it was heartbreaking. I was drawn in, straight from the Prologue.

“She felt sometimes that she had loved him before she even knew him…Heart and soul, up until the moment her loathing matched her love and she found herself trading places with a woman she didn’t recognize…He was the beginning. And his death was what felt like the end.”

Adri Vogt grew up on a small farm in nowhere Iowa with her twin brother, Will, and father, Sam. She dreamed from afar of the neighboring Piperhall estate and especially of it’s heir, David Galloway. When she enrolls into college and is almost instantly befriended by the beautiful, alluring, and vibrant Harper, Adri counts herself as lucky. She’s even luckier when Harper tracks down David and brings her into their inner circle with Will and his best friend Jackson, naming themselves The Five. They spent all their time together, often at David’s home in Piperhall, where they relaxed with just The Five of them or throwing large parties, either way always, always orchestrated by Harper.

It’s a surprise to Adri when David picks her over Harper, and they become engaged. But not all the relationships that make up The Five are what they seem and when their last hurrah after graduation ends in David’s death, Adri and Harper both vow to leave and never return. The Beautiful Daughters tells the stories of their unexpected return home, the guilt they’ve lived with in the intervening years, and the journey and relationships that brought them to their escape in the first place.

I really enjoyed Baart’s writing style. She weaves present and past together into one cohesive story very well. She employs a lot of imagery, though at times it was a little too much description for me. I found myself skimming at parts, but quickly found out that I couldn’t do that because in the midst of the descriptions of the present were brief clues to the past that slowly built up to the truth.

The characters were very well-developed. I loved Adri’s dad and brother. Jackson and Caleb, Adri’s partner in Africa, weren’t quite as developed as the rest, but I still loved them, too. But the real story is Adri and Harper and their relationship. I hated Harper almost instantly and while she ended up being a pretty sympathetic and often tragic character, I still disliked her, even as I rooted for her to have a happy ending. The relationship between the two women reminded me a lot of the two main characters in Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas – though a more adult, less psychotic version.  They were two people that loved each other more than anyone else, but their relationship was often dangerously co-dependent and toxic. Ultimately, the story of their friendship and estrangement comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, I really enjoyed Beautiful Daughters. It’s a story of family, love, abuse, regret, guilt, and forgiveness that I think anyone could relate to. I would definitely recommend it to fans of character-driven novels.

Overall rating (out of 5):

4 stars

*Please note the quotes used are from an ARC and may not match the final copy*

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*Win a copy of any book I’ve reviewed in my Tax Refund Share The Wealth (Ha ha) Giveaway (open though May 9, 2015*

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7 thoughts on “Review: The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

  1. I don’t usually go for contemporary fiction but this sounds interesting enough I might take a look. I will probably have the same problem with the amount of description as you do. I find that a lot of detail and information on the setting and physical appearances in a book mucks up the flow and can get boring after a while.

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