|Doris Elaine Fell: Willows on the Windrush|
H. Revell Co. (Paperback), ISBN 0800757327
Thirty-year-old Sydney Barrington possesses everything: beauty, intelligence, wealth, suitors lined up around the block, and a promising career as CEO of her late father's defense contracting corporation. Yet the father-shaped hole in her heart silently mocks her worldly success.
The unexpected inheritance of Broadshire Manor in England's picturesque Cotswolds district jars Syd from her routine. But something seems decidedly amiss when the executor insists that the manor must be sold to settle the deceased's debts, and that Syd need not trouble herself to travel to England to effect the transaction.
The lawyer may as well have unfurled a scarlet hanky. The indomitable Sydney bulls her way across the Pond to investigate the matter firsthand. She arrives to find the quaint hamlet of Stow-on-the-Woodland, over which Broadshire Manor presides, deceptively quiet. The shady solicitor and his tourism plans for Broadshire drop to the bottom of Syd's priorities as she discovers war orphans, elderly invalids, a convoluted line of succession for the manor and a nest of IRA sympathizers.
Does "love conquer all" in Willows on the Windrush? Well, not exactly -- and that's exactly why I like this book. Sure, the guy gets the girl. No spoiler there; it wouldn't be a romance otherwise. But their path to happiness lurches through plenty of thorny issues and ambiguities. In that respect, Fell's work comes closer to portraying real life than many romance authors. For that, I enthusiastically applaud her.
From a technical standpoint, I thought some of the flashbacks could have been handled a bit more smoothly, especially since the book set off some -- but not all -- of the flashbacks in italics. Also, I would have preferred a clearer explanation of how Sydney became the designated heiress, since the inheritance doesn't make sense once all the facts come to light.
However, if your definition of a good read includes intrigue and drama, with well-drawn characters whose faith -- or lack thereof -- drives their actions and decisions without being preachy, then I invite you to spread your picnic blanket under the Willows on the Windrush for a pleasant diversion.
Kim D. Headlee
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