DAYS OF GRACE by Brenda Jagger


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The latest in Jagger's gallery of passionate, ambitious period heroines is narrator Olivia--whose exquisite, adulterous mother Lavinia nipped off from her respectable marriage to James Heron, son of a Yorkshire squire, leaving her baby son behind but taking along the infant Olivia. So Olivia has grown up in Paris, along with two younger half-sisters (Victorine, Madelon) and a younger half-brother too (Luc). And through feast or famine--flowers and chocolates and a new man for Mother, or scrimping between ""providers""--Olivia copes and manages the family. Then, for the first time, she meets her full brother, Guy Heron, with mutual adoration; but Guy is killed in the Boer war. Thus, Olivia suddenly Finds herself the heiress of Clarrow Fell, the estate of her Yorkshire grandfather--a bleak, sour icicle who gloomily awaits the end of his life. . . and his neo-feudal agricultural era. At Clarrow Fell Olivia will meet: disapproving Aunt Sybella, pretty cousin Alys, colorless land agent Amyas Hird, and delightfully welcoming, handsome Robin Esmond, who speaks in those thrilling ""accents of privilege."" So, notwithstanding Grandfather's hostility, Olivia brings her French siblings to England and begins a campaign to crash local society, marry off her sisters well, send Luc to a gentleman's school, and stabilize Mother. And, indeed, Olivia will marry Robin. But when Max de Haan (nÉ Heron), greedy son of the Squire's profligate, late younger brother, arrives on the scene, Olivia's plans go aglae. Robin wants his freedom; he's not the ""squire"" she imagined--and Robin feels relieved when he sees Olivia in the embrace of Max: ""I had believed Robin to be the personification Of Clarrow Fell. How terrible that it should be Maxi"" Furthermore, Olivia's siblings do not take the straight and narrow paths she planned for them; and Grandfather will die leaving her the Manor--but no money to keep it. At the last, then, her balky siblings, the martyrdom of Alys in the women's suffrage movement, and the punishment of a loveless marriage--all these open Olivia's eyes to the need for strong and honest relationships outside the artificial frames of social standards. With doughty, free-standing characters: a solid, dilemma-dotted tale, with Jagger's usual lib slant.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow