Unabashedly heartwarming, Patrick’s (The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, 2016) second novel is set in a quaint English village where our hero drinks lots of tea and eats too many sweets.
Benedict Stone is a mild-mannered, risk-averse jewelry maker who runs a shop originally owned by his late father in a town called Noon Sun. Much to his dismay, Estelle, his wife of 10 years, has left him, partly due to the couple’s unresolved feelings about their childlessness. Lucky for Benedict, his plucky 16-year-old niece, Gemma, suddenly appears, on the run from her family in the States. Gemma takes her uncle in hand, helping him spruce up his shop and turn out more creative pieces of jewelry. She also prods him to woo back his wife. (While clearly meant to be amusing, some of Benedict’s ploys—one involving a sword; another a llama—are deeply cringeworthy.) Gemma, meanwhile, is clearly harboring a secret; but so, it turns out, is Benedict—a secret that has alienated him from his brother, Gemma’s father, Charlie. The latter eventually arrives on the scene, and family fireworks ensue. Still, the ending is never seriously in doubt. And though the book is eventful, much of it is plodding; the pace only picks up toward the end. Throughout, there’s much talk of gemstones—each chapter heading bears the name of a different stone and a brief description of its potential powers (e.g., Emerald: equilibrium, patience, honesty). Yet despite the attempt to confer a magical aura on the proceedings, the book remains stubbornly earthbound.
It does bear some resemblance to the author’s first book, but it lacks the charm and genuine eccentricity of the earlier effort.