Author: Mary Alice Monroe
Sometimes I wonder if I should start my reviews when I start the book because sitting here now, as I finish the book, my mind is filled with the ending and I can’t start the review with the ending. That would be a spoiler.
One thing I really do need to open with is that this is a re-release of Monroe’s first novel originally published in 1995. This is my first introduction to Mary Alice Monroe so I guess it’s fitting that it’s with her first novel. Fans of her later work need to be aware that this is from the childhood of Monroe’s career so may differ in style and structure from her later work.
Monroe has written some very believable characters in a gorgeous rural Vermont setting. The two lead characters are from New York though lived a more rural childhood and they are from opposing ends of the spectrum.
The two settings for the story are the high finance world of New York, and the small town farming community of Vermont. Again demonstrating the wide contrast between characters and locations.
Nora MacKenzie is a New York socialite left in dire straits by her husband’s suicide, it also opened the bag of shady dealings that led to his suicide in the office of Blair Bank President Charles Walker Blair.
C.W. (Charles Walker) is the mysterious field hand hired to help out on the MacKenzie sheep farm in Vermont, he has been working there for near on a year and in that time has shared very little information about his past with neighbour and farm overseer Seth Johnston.
Nora manages to hang onto the farm, for now, and has decided to make a new life in Vermont; away from New York and all it represents but to do that she needs to make the farm profitable, quickly, and hope that her husband’s estate can be settled without the hounds baying for the farm as well.
I found the storyline to be quite predictable, harbouring no real surprises. Damsel in distress meets and falls in love with knight in shining armour, who just happens to be the one man she really hates – if only she knew who he really was. Betrayal abounds, revenge ensues, and in the end they live happily ever after.
Having said that, this is still a book that I quite enjoyed. Nora has the will and determination to fight the fates and push through to succeed against all odds – and the odds are definitely stacked against her. She is a character that you empathise with and want to see get her happy ending.
From the beginning the sparks fly between Nora and C.W and they both fight it, for very separate reasons, but you know from the first meeting that the sexual tension is going to crescendo at some point. You do reach a point where you think, oh will you just do it already, but it is an integral part of the storyline as they work through the barriers holding them apart and get to that place where they can take that leap.
Nora is determined not to trust anyone, always remembering the last words her husband spoke to her. And C.W. knows he could love this woman but knows that the truth could destroy any chance he has.
The Johnstons also play an important role in the story, as the family that work the Mackenzie farm and have always done. Their roles serve as a contrast between the born & bred farmers and the New Yorkers opting for a change of pace.
The backdrop to this is a small mountaintop sheep farm through lambing season and approaching winter. The scenery is beautiful, and I could feel the serenity. Monroe certainly painted that picture well. There are some gorgeous spots described, and places that hold sacred spots in the heart of all the characters.
I found that even though this was a predictable storyline and not a gripping page turner in terms of suspense I still found myself picking it up at every opportunity and wanting to keep reading one more chapter because I wanted to see when the duplicities would be discovered and how they would be resolved.