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An eccentric English clan, in and out of love—in a first from Britisher Ashley.

Charlotte (“Charlie”) Rhymer may be too old for the droopy gothic get-ups her stodgy husband Matt thinks make her look young—but she doesn’t give a damn what she wears anymore. She’s absorbed in her painting, and in her sorrows after many miscarriages. She didn’t even notice when Matt cleared out most of his things before announcing that he wanted a divorce. He’s off to Saudi Arabia in a jiffy, but not before absent-minded Charlie accidentally cracks the skull of his lecherous best friend with a frying pan. Cleared of murder charges, back she goes to her family in a rambling old parsonage on the windswept moors. Nearby, a stone cottage houses her dear old dad, Ranulf Rhymer, a distinguished literary biographer who named his brood after the Brontës. He wants to move his idiot mistress-of-the-month, skinny Jessie, and her giggling twin girls up to the main house, but Em, Charlie’s virgin sister, a devotee of white magic, won’t have it. Branwell, their genius brother, can’t be bothered for his opinion, not that anyone would understand it. He mutters to himself in Amharic as he pens his latest indecipherable tome. Then there’s tough-talking foreign correspondent Anne, who comes home after breast-cancer surgery swearing like a pirate’s parrot. Charlie takes on the thankless task of babysitting an assortment of brats at a New Age nursery and meets Mace North, a handsome actor/playwright and the conveniently single father of the only child she likes: precocious Caitlin. Soon Em and the Yorkshire-bred housekeeper are brewing spells and reading tealeaves, conjuring up true love for those who deserve it and tummy-aches for those who don’t. They succeed beyond their wildest dreams when the local vicar goes Wicca and falls for Em, and Mace North waylays Charlie in the hedgerows for the erotic romp of a lifetime.

Shrewd but gentle satire of various contemporary British types that never misses a beat. And it’s wonderfully funny to boot.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-31372-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2003