THE DARKENING LEAF by Caroline Stickland


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 Once again, British writer Stickland (The Standing Hills, 1986, not reviewed) tackles 19th-century Dorset and spunky heroines--in this cookie-cutter (but reasonably likable) tale of love lost and love regained. It's 1847, and beautiful, eccentric Philobeth Alleyn is riding under cover of darkness with her lover Frederick North, a well-to- do land owner, when they stumble upon a shipwreck with--apparently- -no survivors. The body of a naked woman has washed ashore with the wreckage; thinking her dead, Philobeth and Frederick transport her to Frederick's grandmother's home--but when the carriage rolls over a hump in the road, the woman becomes consciousand tells them that her name is Ellen Farebrother. To spite Philobeth, who as an artist and the daughter of an artist is seen as a bohemian and no proper match for her grandson, the venomous old Mrs. North takes the beautiful Ellen under her wing and conspires with her to steal Frederick from Philobeth. Against his better judgment, Frederick is too weak-willed to turn from Ellen's superficial charms, so Philobeth's friend Mahala Graham (wealthy, and dying of tuberculosis) arranges to marry Carmody, the village doctor who loves her, with the intention of leaving Carmody her fortune so that he can marry Philobeth and support her career after Mahala is dead. Finally, after much soul-searching, a vicious murder, some harsh truths, and a terrible separation, Frederick comes to his senses and makes his inevitable decision; in the end, even Carmody sees light at the end of the tunnel. A surprise-free zone with all the twists and turns of a yardstick, but Philobeth and some of the secondary characters (Philobeth's offbeat father, for example, and the wily Mahala) lend a refreshing, original note.

Pub Date: July 12th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14308-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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