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.
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?