Berkley, Mar 2004, 5.99, 304 pp.
In 1890 Massachusetts, Fiona Downey is excited that Bennett College, where her father teaches history, has accepted her as a student. When she goes to tell her dad the good news, she finds her greatest moment has become her greatest nightmare as her father has died. Displaced by the college, family friend Professor Norton arranges for Fiona to teach school in rural paradise Falls, Michigan.
Fiona finds her host family quite bewildering. The older son Grayson seems quite considerate of others especially his stroke victim father while the younger son Fleming acts like a prima donna wastrel yet the mother showers her “baby” with all her love while displaying contempt towards her first born. As Fiona gets to know Gray betters, she falls in love with him and he reciprocates, but the townsfolk especially his mother warns her to stay away from him. Several years ago he allegedly ruined a girl who died aborting their child. Knowing him Fiona rejects the notion that he would not marry a lass that he ruined because though he is taciturn he is honorable; still he has never explained the incident from his perspective.
Though Flem is so odious that not even a mother could love him, somehow he incredulously pulls the wool over her eyes. Still, in spite of this, the story line is an enjoyable historical romance that brings to life the plight of single women in 1890 Michigan and to a lesser degree Massachusetts. The players except for Flem are a delightful cast as they enable the audience to see a bygone era inside a warm romance based on Fiona's faith in her man.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner