THE MICHAELMAS TREE by Helen Ashfield

THE MICHAELMAS TREE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1772, under the Michaelmas Tree, Caroline, vile Lord Castleman's daughter, exchanges eternal love vows with Patrick Kinnersley, young son of the Earl of Milford--despite their fathers' mutual hatred; but, in this sub-par Ashfield effort, Fate busily snips the love-knot. The Earl, you see, forces Patrick to wed beautiful and horrid Marion, a lusty gel impregnated by Patrick's elder, deceased brother. Patrick miserably agrees to do his duty, but he can't tell Caroline why (he must protect his brother's name). So poor Caroline travels with her hateful, sadistic father; when he dies, she must find her way alone, accepts a post as a governess, flings herself into the cold when the lustful master begins advances, is briefly rescued by a highwayman, has her money stolen, and is about to end her life in a London sweat shop. . . when a kind but officious lady finds Caroline a post in her native Yorkshire with a ""Lady Marion."" The very same, of course! And now Caroline will enter Suffering, Phase Two. Marion is vicious and horrid; Patrick, writhing inside with grief, is offhand and cruel to Caroline so that no one will Suspect. And when kind neighbor Henry fancies Caroline, lustfully jealous Marion decides to eliminate Caroline by trumping up assault charges: poor Caroline is off to gaol for two years of horror. Finally released, she's nursed back to life by Henry's mother, but refuses his proposal of marriage; she still loves (why? why?) Patrick. Then dear Henry is accidentally killed, Marion (now fat and tippling) reels off on her horse to settle Caroline's hash, and it all ends tidily as the lovers meet again and forever at the Michaelmas Tree. . . to which, one feels, Patrick should be strung up. Weak tea, brought to a boil.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's