An agreeable tale of friendship—broken and mended—set in the Scottish countryside.
Nine-year-old Claire and her mother Daphne get along just fine, thank you very much, since the death of Claire’s father. But when Daphne invites an exotic-plants expert for a talk at her Sussex garden club, Leo enters their lives for good. A funny, preoccupied man Claire likens to a clown, widower Leo marries Daphne and whisks the two away to his grand, dusty, Scottish estate named Croich. Leo’s own children, Marcus and Charity, are spoiled and rotten, but are luckily away most of the year at school, leaving Daphne to befriend Jonas Fairwether, who lives on a farm on Leo’s estate. Claire and Jonas are best friends for years, but just as Claire is finally prepared to confess her undying love, Jonas vows never to see to her again. Heartbroken, Claire postpones college, travels the world and ends up in New York, where she marries a restaurateur. Much of the novel takes place in the present after Daphne’s sudden death and Leo’s declining health. Claire’s husband Art is looking for an investment and thinks of turning Croich into a conference center (with a condo for Leo) but heartless Marcus and Charity have other ideas—they want to put Leo in a home, bulldoze the estate and put up a housing development. Then there is Jonas, returned to the farm rich, with a Swedish wife and maybe with a bit too much influence over Leo, or so the bitter Claire thinks. Though it’s unclear why developing Croich into a business center is such a good idea, or how the gentle Leo managed to raise two horrible children in Marcus and Charity, Pilcher’s unhurried tone and cozy description of Scotland makes for a companionable, if unexceptionable, read.
Mild-mannered stuff for a rainy day.