WILLOWWOOD by Mollie Hardwick


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Another of Hardwick's bouncy, gossipy Victorian romances--not to be confused with Elizabeth Savage's elegant literary historical of the same name and milieu (1978). Young Lilian de Wentworth, because of a childhood fall from a pony, has not walked for seven years; and her poetry-loving twit of a mother is smothering her with attention. So bored, desperate Lilian is about to accept a proposal from a timid clergyman when along comes Jack Ellershaw, virile under-gardener and Yorkshire cricketeer. But the romance is discovered, Jack is sent packing, and Lilian is off to London with wealthy, formidable Aunt Frederica. Except for good-natured cousin Digby, London seems full of weird types, particularly Aunt Freddy's latest enthusiasm--the poets and painters of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, who appear with their pale damosels at an Aunt Freddy bash, where Lilian is displayed, appropriately wan, on a couch. Rossetti asks if she's just come from the grave (a compliment), and ""Topsy"" Morris reads a dreary poem (""'What awful rubbish,' Lilian thought""). But there's real danger here too: painter Leoline Bevis woos Lilian in Rossetti's house (owning up to some alarming necrophilic fancies), visits Lilian daily at stupidly unaware Aunt Freddy's house, and soon Lilian is slipping away with daily doses of opium. Thankfully, however, Digby and dear loyal Jack catch on, so Lilian is spirited away to Yorkshire for marriage (Jack will finally be accepted by the family) and a snappy cure for her non-walking problem. Lots of cricket play, some nonsense about thought transference, solidly anti-feminist hearth-kettle sentiments--featherweight and happily flighty folderol.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's