British writer Hucker (Cousin Susannah, 1996) introduces a charismatic stranger into the lives of three women craving a shake- up in the rural English village of Abbotsbridge. Louise Bennett is a cosmopolitan at heart with a plum, hard- won job in London, where she is able to combine her love for scholarship with her knowledge of fine art and antiques. So when longtime boyfriend Simon Fennell proposes not just marriage but a move to Abbotsbridge, where he hopes to become a father ASAP, Louise is understandably of two minds: City life and career, or country life and family seem to be her options, and she's torn. Louise's friend Maggie Easton is thrilled with her own country living but has just lost her only daughter to spinal meningitis. Husband Jack is vehement--no more kids--but Maggie's emotional recovery is slow; with three sons, she's desperate for a girl. Middle-aged Brozie Hamilton, whose husband Hubert is dying of cancer and abusing Brozie in the process, feels exhausted and trapped. Hubert's heavy medication and general ill-temper turn him into a tyrant, and Brozie's a servant in her own home. Enter the dashing, mysterious Charley St. George, whose presence in the village promises to transform the lives of these three women in dramatically different ways, helping Louise reconcile her two worlds, giving Maggie the daughter she can't live without, and freeing Brozie from her prison/home. Fortunately, Charley's languid blond girlfriend Melody remains in the background as Charley works his magic; when the inevitable tragedy strikes, Louise, Maggie, and Brozie are prepared to face the world with newfound strength and the courage of their convictions. The standard mix of one part quaint British setting to three parts gushy romance, but Hucker knows her territory and has crafted a quietly charming second novel.