In Wade’s debut romance novel, a woman struggles with love and family troubles in early-20th-century England.
Mabel Crowley, a young, headstrong woman, falls for Charlie Archer, who cares for the horses in her family’s stables. Charlie’s father is a respectable business owner, but Mabel’s upper-middle-class parents don’t approve of the union and send Mabel from Wells to Bath to keep her from marrying; there, she becomes governess of the Hartley household. When World War I breaks out, Charlie volunteers to fight for England but thinks of Mabel all the while. When he returns from the battlefield, he seeks her out in Bath, but a miscommunication leads him to believe that Mabel died two years before, after marrying Mr. Hartley. In actuality, Mabel became the guardian of Mr. Hartley’s three daughters after he and his wife died. After Mabel and Charlie sort out the misunderstanding, the long separated couple has a son together out of wedlock. Mabel is contractually bound to the Hartley family, so she insists that Charlie raise their son and never reveal to him who his mother truly is. Mabel goes on to raise the Hartley daughters and helps each young woman grow and find love, while struggling with her own desire to wed Charlie and call her son her own. Each chapter covers a year in the characters’ lives, from 1910 to1943, which allows Wade to show how much the characters grow and change during their lifetimes. Mabel and the Hartley girls make surprisingly autonomous decisions regarding their futures, which keeps the novel from becoming a predictable romance. The novel also realistically shows how the path to happiness is often fraught with mistakes (as when one of the daughters moves to America with her emotionally abusive husband). The novel’s engaging action and drama arise not from war, but from matters of the heart.
A pleasing read for fans of romances and unique family sagas.