Freeman’s romance (Wildflower Hill, 2010) weaves together the stories of two women, separated by a century, who finally move to embrace their futures.
When Isabella Winterbourne accompanies her wealthy husband on a voyage from England to Australia in 1901, she’s still grieving the death of their infant son a few years earlier. She despises her authoritarian husband, Arthur, and his family, renowned for their jewelry empire. The couple is accompanying a piece of great value, a jewel-encrusted gold mace, which was commissioned by the queen as a gift for the Australian Parliament. But the ship sinks off the Australian coast during a storm, and Isabella is the only survivor. She saves the chest that contains not only the mace, but a small bracelet she’s hidden there, the only remaining memento of her son. Barely alive when she reaches Lighthouse Bay, she’s cared for by Matthew, the lighthouse keeper, who buries the mace after Isabella retrieves the bracelet. Isabella, desperate to travel to America to be with her sister, adopts an alias to avoid detection and finds work as a nanny for a local family whose son was born on the same date as her late child. She hopes to earn enough money for her passage, but her plans are delayed. In a slightly less interesting account and over 100 years later, Libby Slater, distraught over the death of her married lover, returns to her hometown and settles into a cottage adjacent to the same lighthouse that once was a haven to Isabella. Libby’s dead lover, Mark, was Arthur Winterbourne’s great-grandnephew. Her sister, Juliet, runs a B&B nearby, but the two are estranged because of a tragedy that occurred 20 years earlier. Libby’s unsure about her future, but she accepts work from Mark’s widow and considers an offer that would make her quite wealthy, a proposal she knows will put her at further odds with her sister. Smoothly transitioning between the two tales, Freeman establishes a believable link between Isabella and Libby and allows each storyline to play out to a reasonable resolution.
And although her attempt to build suspense is weak, the author’s description of the beautiful Australian coastline will linger with readers long after they finish the book.