Holiday Reading: Hilltops Clear

Hilltops Clear wpr
“Real love… is a glorious adventure.”

Christmas lights are up outside, the tree is decorated, and snow is in the forecast. Now is the time to curl up by the fire with a soothing, hot drink and read Hilltops Clear.

This is a heartening story. Written three years after the start of the Depression and the death of Emilie’s brother, the title comes from a Congregational hymn, a testament to enduring faith and courage and optimism.

“We praise thee for the journey’s end,

The inn, all warmth and light and cheer;

But more for lengthening roads that wend

Through dust and heat to hilltops clear.”

Prudence Schuyler has gone “back to the land” on the Maine coast to make a living on her own. She has brought her ill brother with her, hoping that fresh air will make him better.  Nearly immediately, she has two suitors—rich Rodney Gerard and solid citizen Len Calloway. The men tangle over both Prue and the harvesting of lumber from her land.

“Some owners have to construct railroads; we will snake our logs down to the pond road and haul them to that old granite wharf on your shore, big lumber boats will load them—and there we are.”

This was a detail from real life, as Emilie had lumber on her land and a granite wharf from which it could be carried away. This is also the book that features the real, sunken garden that I shared in Emilie Loring’s Clue-filled Novels.

ring 1
“I like them splashy, or not at all.”

Prue has range. She raises chickens, cans beets, makes custom jewelry, and then appears at a holiday party, dressed to the nines. I love the dress-up parts of Emilie’s books. She dressed her characters in the latest fashion—this time, a glittering gown of ice green–and gave them sparkling jewelry to wear. I don’t know how many times I’ve read Hilltops Clear, but when I chose my sapphire wedding ring, I unconsciously picked the same design that Prue describes:

With pincers she laid a large emerald in the center of a ring design on white paper, placed small diamonds. She indicated spaces.

“I want studding baguette diamonds there and there and a platinum setting. When I’ve made my fortune on the farm, I’ll make this ring for myself.”

For most of the book, Prue is making a collar as a Christmas present for a child’s kitten. We give our cats new collars for the holidays, but never quite like this. Prue’s is made of silver and decorated with enameled, Mickey Mouse designs. Something to strive for, I guess.

This is about all I can say without giving away too much. Hilltops Clear is a wonderful read, full of romance and spunk, careful thought about things that matter, and something special that happens on Christmas Eve. That’s what we want in a holiday read, don’t you think?

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10 thoughts on “Holiday Reading: Hilltops Clear

  1. Blue Hill is one of my favorite places and Nana loved it too. Many fond memories of our times in Blue Hill, swinging on the porch and watching the sun set over Blue Hill. Your blog brings back many memories of fun times as Nana’s books have over the years especially the ones set in Blue Hill.

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  2. Is it Keepers of the Faith? I know the reference you mean. It’s when we also learn that Johnny Grant won’t be coming back. Lucky you, to have a library with Emilie’s books in stock. Have you ever read them in order?

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  3. I adore Hilltops Clear. I like how a girl who has had her life sort of sunk and low, makes an effort to make a go. She’s fully of moxie and is not willing to give up despite frustrations. A common theme for most of E. Loring’s books. Hence why I love them. I want to read any of her books that are Christmas-y and Holiday themed, but I just finished Across the Years and they flew through the holidays! I forgot that and was sort of disappointed. Then promptly went on to a summery book in We Ride the Gale. Oh well. I happen to love Hilltops and I should read it again.

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    1. It’s great to hear from a fellow Emilie Loring fan! Have you read “There is Always Love” lately? Madame Steele celebrates the holidays well at “the Castle” with Linda Bourne, her friend Ruth, and the handsome Greg Merton. There is a lot of back story to Hilltops Clear. Emilie dug down deep to assert her optimistic convictions in that one!

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      1. I read that one years ago, tried to read it earlier this year, but didn’t have time, so now I just put it on order with my library. I love when the books relate. Like how in As Long As I Live references Rainbow at Dusk. (Oh gosh, I hope that’s right. The part where Van comes back looking thinner) I am in a serious Loring phase right now. I only want to read her stories. Happy sighs.

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  4. This must be another example of Emilie including a little Blue Hill locale in her narrative, though in the ’30s there was probably not enough tree growth between Stone House and the harbor to warrant lumbering. On the other hand, did she own acreage on the North side of the E. Blue Hill Rd? That had not been heavily cut over.

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    1. She owned all the way to the top of the hill north of the East Blue Hill Rd., including the quarry on Stepping Stone Lane, 250 acres total. But good point about tree height between Stone House and the shore. The Lorings had a great, water view!

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