In this light, endearing story of love and modern anxiety, second-novelist Cobbold (Guppies for Tea, 1994) peoples an English village with characters worth getting to know. Inadvertently trapped with Mr. Scott in his attic, Clementine is compelled to explain why she and his son parted company. Starting at the beginning, we learn of 36-year-old Clementine's inheritance of the house next door, once belonging to poor old Aunt Elvira. She moves into the house with her younger sister, Ophelia, and almost immediately proceeds to dither. Clementine is the champion of all worriers, a devoted reader of the newspaper's crime page, the queen of evasive action. Recently divorced from a Swedish painter, she plans on giving piano lessons by day and continuing on with Aunt Elvira's major work, the compilation of fairy tales, by night. Working from her aunt's notes, Clementine intends to polish and publish the fairy tales as a reminder to the hustling modern world of an older, gentler, better way of life. And how fortuitous to have Prince Charming living next door as a role model—namely, Nathaniel Scott, a successful photojournalist, who's temporarily staying with his father to dry out. Clementine falls head over heels, and Nathaniel warmly reciprocates the affection, until Clementine's worry and pessimism spike the growing romance. Heartbroken when sister Ophelia starts courting Nathaniel, Clementine vows to slay her dragons and face the myriad fears that engulf her. She walks around the town after midnight. She works hard to be less fussy. And she begins to speak her mind. Her newborn frankness provides the greatest shock; best friend Jessica and Ophelia can't understand why meek, fretting Clementine can no longer be pushed around. Clementine, an unlikely heroine, undergoes a believable, moving alteration as she acts to shake off the past and pursue the future. Full of fun and wit and keen insight—an ideal fireside read.
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