Althea “Thea” Mottram is not having a good time of it. As the book begins, Thea is just turning 44. It has been three weeks since she lost her job and ten days since her husband of fifteen years, Chris, left for her (so-called) friend Susanna.
Things take a turn when Thea learns she has inherited the house and property of her Great Uncle Andrew, whom she met only a few times, but who had no other relatives. Thea leaves Sussex, in England, to go to Scotland and inspect the house. It is situated in a small Scottish village near the coast, and is actually a lodge on the estate of Lord Hollinshaw, who lives about a mile up the road. The attorney for the estate tells Thea that Lord Hollinshaw, a.k.a. Charles Maltravers, is interested in buying the lodge, so she would have money to live on if she wanted to see it. Charles’ estranged brother Edward, who renounced his title and has an antiquarian bookshop in town, would be willing to buy the books from the house, which are quite valuable and could also contribute to her support.
While Thea is deciding what to do, she makes herself at home in the cozy cottage her uncle left and applies for a job opening as a sales assistant in Edward’s shop. Edward made clear that if he weren’t desperate he would never hire a female, but takes her on because his current assistant is moving and he happens to be in need of assistance.
Thea loves the work in the shop and makes friends in the town. She comes to love the lodge as well. She and Edward become friends in spite of his determination to be curmudgeonly, and she learns the history behind the feud between Edward and Charles, both of whom happen to be single and attractive.
Thea is still struggling with the emotions roiling around in the aftermath of her breakup, and never conceives that anyone could find her desirable. She soon learns that isn’t so accurate an assessment. But she is also afraid of happiness: didn’t she think she had that before? And look how that assumption turned out. . . . .
Evaluation: This lovely story is like a Hallmark Channel movie but with cursing and sex, making it a bit more realistic than Hallmark fare. I found myself rooting for all of the charming characters to find happiness, and of course, what can beat the setting of a picturesque Scottish village?
Published in the U.S. by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, 2021