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by Frances Fyfield
Viking Penguin, April 2001
288 pages
ISBN: 0670896365

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Henry Evans has been a loner all his life. He has always wanted to visit England and when his beloved father passes away, Henry decides that it is time he realizes his dream.

Twenty years earlier, as a penniless student, Henry met the lovely Francesca when they were both backpacking through India. When she was suddenly called home due to the death of her father, Henry was torn between love of travel and love of Francesca. The lure of travel prevailed, and a heartbroken Francesca returned home alone. Henry has regretted that decision many times and now believes that finally he has the opportunity to renew their relationship and to sweep Francesca off her feet and into his life.

Arriving in the small coastal town where Francesca grew up, he is not impressed. A storm is raging; the hotel is flooded; he has lost his new hat to a gale blowing in off the sea; and then an appalled Henry is spirited away to a bed and breakfast, called the House of Enchantment, run by two aging gay men.

When the storm finally subsides and he has the opportunity to seek Francesca out, Henry is horrified to discover that she is in prison. A year earlier she confessed to the drowning murder of her handicapped five-year old son. As he attempts to make sense of the tragedy this lonely man, who has very few friends and no family, slowly learns to value many of the eccentric people he meets in Francesca's hometown. Timothy and Peter, the proprietors of the B&B; Maggie, Francesca's cousin and lawyer; the precocious young Tanya; and even a stray black dog all become important to him. As Henry seeks to discover the secrets of Francesca's life, he learns many truths about himself.

While the subject matter of a mother accused of murdering her child is tragic, the book is not as dark as some previous books of Ms. Fyfield. Nor does it have the angst of the Bailey/West books. A terrible thing has happened and people are confused and frightened, but there is hope here. There is also humor, a love story, a mystery and a twist at the end. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, November 2001

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