Sins run deep in the town of Gilt Hollow, with the worst of the corruption hidden under a shiny veneer provided by the quaint small-town atmosphere. Yet, the guilt and corruption does not lie on the shoulders of the town’s notorious murderer, Ashton Keller, at least that is what his best friend Willow Lamott has always believed. So when Ashton unexpectedly returns to town after being released from juvenile detention, everyone in town is suspicious and unwelcoming, except for Willow, who finds herself thrust into the middle of a complicated mystery to discover who really committed the crime for which Ashton did the time.
Gilt Hollow is a fun and exciting read, with a great combination of teenage angst, loyalty, forbidden love, betrayal, and mystery. The simmering tension between Ashton and Willow is so vividly detailed and explored, that it’s almost like you could reach into the pages of the book to cut it with a knife. The rush of relief when they finally give into their feelings for each other is almost palpable; it’s a great love story without any explicit content, just sweet tenderness, loyalty, and blossoming physical passion, making this suitable for teens and adults alike. Meanwhile, the twists and turns in the plot, as Ashton and Willow race to discover who the real murderer is, and how and why the truth was covered up, will keep you guessing until almost the very end.
The characters in Gilt Hollow are well developed and believable. Both Ashton and Willow are multi-dimensional, and easy to sympathize with. At times Willow’s penchant for second guessing her instincts is a bit tiresome, but also a realistic take on how a teenage girl would react when dealing with a murder investigation involving her best friend and love. Likewise, Ashton’s brooding darkness seems at odds with his heroic streak, even as it is a realistic image of how a young man would be scarred by life in a juvenile prison that he didn’t deserve to be in. My only real criticism regarding the characters, is that I would have liked to see some more detailed scenes from the backstory, in order to know more about the villains. But this is a minor criticism only, and doesn’t really detract from the enjoyability of the book. Overall, Gilt Hollow was an excellent, engaging story, that I would definitely recommend.