London literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw accepts the invitation of one of the her clients, children’s writer Bridget Cooper, to spend the Christmas holiday with her in Angle, a small town in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, at the home of Bridget’s latest boyfriend. This boyfriend happens to be James Swift, an excellent author, and the thought of snagging him as a client adds to the appeal of the sojourn for Lyn.
Bridget confesses that she actually thinks James is rather dull, but “James isn’t the only interesting man in Angle.” Bridget is thinking of Gareth Gwyn Morgan, a young reclusive Welsh playwright who has not published anything since “Red Dragon Rising” seven years before. That play told the story of Owen Glendower’s fifteenth-century rebellion.
[Owen Glendower, or more properly Owain Glyn Dŵr, was a 15th Century Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales. He led a long-running but ultimately unsuccessful revolt against the English rule of Wales. Upon his death, Glendower acquired a mythical status (along with Cadwaladr, Cynan and Arthur) as the hero awaiting the call to return and liberate the Welsh people. Fans of Maggie Stiefvater will of course recognize Glendower as the focus of “The Raven Cycle” series.]
Bridget had met Gareth on a previous trip to stay with James, and found Gareth intriguing, especially because he didn’t seem at all interested in her.
Lyn is widowed; Shortly after her husband died in a car crash, she also lost their child, Justin, who died shortly after birth. This was all five years ago. Since then, Lyn, still only 29, has had recurring nightmares about losing Justin.
When Lyn and Bridget reach Angle, Lyn meets James and his handsome brother Christopher, but any speculation on who Lyn might end up with ends when she goes for a walk and comes upon a dog, always a sure sign with Kearsley of Relationships to Come. In this case, the dog belongs to none other than the mysterious Gareth. Of course, the two react hostilely toward one another immediately, another clue.
Meanwhile, Lyn’s dreams have taken on a new shape since she arrived at the old house in Angle. These dreams feature a woman who repeatedly asks Lynn to protect a young boy. Lynn thinks these dreams might have been triggered by the fact that there is a young mother and son, Elen and Stevie Vaughan, living next door. Elen, believed by townspeople to be daft since her own husband died in a fishing accident, is convinced a dragon is out to steal her son. The men of the house, however, are all protective of her. Owen, the caretaker, explains to Lyn that Elen isn’t mad at all:
‘No, Elen knows what’s real,’ he told me, certain. ‘She’s just inherited her mother’s way of seeing things, the Celtic way that sees the past and future worlds all blended in with ours. That isn’t mad, it’s Welsh.’”
Indeed, that might also be a statement about the dream subplot of the story.
While all this is going on, there is still time for sightseeing, and Lyn discovers the area is rich in history. Not only are there many legends associated with Arthur and Merlin in the area, but Henry VII, the first Tudor king, was born at Pembroke in 1457. Thus we learn, along with Lyn, a great deal about early Welsh and Tudor history. As usual, Kearsley manages to impart history lessons smoothly, just making it part of the conversation among the characters.
As the Christmas sojourn continues, all the relationships work themselves out, and the meaning of the dreams becomes more clear to Lyn.
Discussion: This is one of Kearsley’s earlier books, originally published in 1999. Her books since that time use the same basic structure but are written more skillfully. Still, this is a very enjoyable book. And it is definitely romantic, in spite of not one single kiss between the two main protagonists.
As usual, Kearsley provides a lot of history for readers, and it is quite interesting.
I’m quite glad Sourcebooks decided to republish this book. Kearsley is an entertaining author, and I always learn a great deal from her well-researched books, while enjoying atmospheric countries and some romance on the side!
Published originally in Great Britain in 1998; this edition published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, 2015