Libby, an archeological historian who works on historic preservation is informed that she has inherited a run down inn in a beach town where her father lived. “Why isn’t this place in the historical register?” she asks the Sheriff, who is helping her find her kidnapped friend. The kidnapping makes a semi romantic semi coming-into-money story into a (bad) mystery. Asking “What would Jesus do?” turns a (bad) romantic mystery into (bad) Christian fiction. Good narrator, though.
A widowed librarian makes friends with an old man who leaves her his land in Australia, near Perth, on the condition that she will live there for a year, alone. She leaves her brother with his communication problems and moves to the charming Western Australian estate, where the passionate, difficult artist next door intrigues her. The old man had wished for this before his death, and advised her that she would have to play seductress… Meanwhile, a wicked nephew tries to scare her off the land, her brother tries to boss her around, and the painter’s daughter comes for a long visit. Kirsty’s feisty personality blooms in Australia, and the local characters are cozy and sweet in their down under accents. Well read.
When she catches some of her wealthy highschool students plagiarizing their English papers, Carly wants to fail them. Instead, the School Headmistress tells her that she is being vindictive, and that Carly must overlook the “childish lapse in judgement” and give them another chance. It is on that very same morning that Carly is told that her grandmother has died, that she has inherited a house in Tulula, Mississippi.
It is not obvious that an educated single woman would want to leave San Francisco for a tiny little Southern town where little old ladies go to buy antiques and collectibles. And yet, Carly is charmed. She is also willful, pragmatic, resourceful, and a good cook. She does not look in a mirror in order to describe herself to us. She does not go shopping for shoes. She does not think about clothes, or boys. She buys books. She thinks about her white trash mother and her insecure childhood. She longs for a family she does not have. She wants to be useful, helpful, economic.
Perhaps the will to be economic is taking the place of the will to be free, for this type of woman, this type of American, in this type of century.
Here’s the recipe: a youngish, pretty-ish, orphaned wife in or near Manhattan; a deceptive, felonious, or sleepwalking husband; a repressed or forgotten family scene, and wealth. Large, plush estates in tony suburbs, classic co-ops on exclusive avenues, perfectly cut clothes and lawns, professionally designed apartments, luxurious offices, always seen as if by a dazzled outsider, a maid, a secretary, a clerk, a tradesman to a privileged class.
Somewhere, somehow, somebody is murdered, kidnapped, arrested, accused.
A crime develops by pulling at and pulling out the pins of identity: what happens if a person forgets what she has done? What happens when a person has no memories of a mother, a father? What happens when a person believes that she is married to a man who is not who he pretends to be? What happens when a person does not tell her husband about her past? What happens when a friend, a neighbor, a son, a sister, a priest, a doctor, a lawyer is untrustworthy? What happens when a child is removed from a mother, and a mother is removed from her child? What happens to a classy woman when she is removed from her class?
Cynthia Darlow always lends coziness and warmth to stories about Southern life, Southern manners, and Southern towns. Like many, this story begins with an inheritance: the old Farrington mansion along with its papers, pictures, and privy things. This time, the heir is a 45 year old single mother and editor, who was once sheltered and loved by Mrs Farrington, the grande dame of Arundel, North Carolina.
When Eden returns to this very small, very traditional Southern town she finds herself courted by a local lawyer, a wily FBI agent, and a killer.
She also finds herself.