By Marcia Willett
‘Why?’ she’d asked him once – just as she’d asked her mother. ‘Why did she marry him, Bruno? He’s just … so not Mum. She’s so warm and kind and loving, and he calculates everything. What did she see in him?…
“You could say that he rather swept her off her feet but the fact is, Joss, that nobody can judge a marriage. However close you are to it, you’ll never understand what makes it work or see the million tiny invisible strands that hold a couple together. Emma is very loving and very loyal – to both of you – and it’s not for either of us to judge her.
It’s hard to explain the magic that Marcia Willett weaves. Her books are not funny, witty, or comical. The romance is a slow progression and realization, not a whirlwind of drama, conflict, and sex. There are no life-changing character arcs: People pretty much stay the same decent likable folks they started out as. Or the same weak morally challenged ones. The antagonists aren’t evil villains, and though they threaten the happiness of those we come to love and care about, they are given some nuance and we can at least understand why the good guys put up with them. We want them to be thwarted, but not consigned to hell. Of course, The Golden Cup is only the second book I’ve read by her, so I’m no expert. Her characters are each painted with detail and care. The relationships are complex and not always predictable. She has frequently been compared to Rosamunde Pilcher and the comparison is apt. As has been stated, she creates her world in the same way Rosamunde Pilcher does, with the same lovely-type people where the setting and place are as important as a human character.
This book begins with a beloved and respected elderly woman, the head of her family, on her deathbed. She gets a letter that threatens to expose a life-long secret she has been harboring, along with another family member, for almost three generations. The reader learns the secret through a cache of letters that are read by her likable young granddaughter and main protagonist. And it’s a doozy. I should have guessed it, but didn’t. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting something so big in what started out as a gentle bucolic story about a nice family. Some of the family members we think are kind of just “there” turn out to be key forces and towers of strength.
There is nail-biting suspense and tension, anticipation, wonder, fear, romance, thought proving passages, and surprises. Yes, disaster is averted, and everything works out fine. But there is also melancholy, lost opportunities, and lost love. It’s a deep world of character-building and character reveals and it was a world I was happy to live in with them.
So why not 5 stars? Well, the reading of the letters got a little tedious and repetitive. We know what happened in the end so rehashing the past with so much detail seemed a bit needless.**Spoiler**
The “villains” were dispatched too easily and handily. I would have enjoyed a bit more drama and some confrontation. And maybe even some hope for reclamation wouldn’t have come amiss,**end spoiler**
There were a lot of characters. We are given a lot of names and a brief description, but they don’t ever appear in the story. But you don’t know that so I felt I had to pay attention. I almost started a family tree and a flow chart, but got it straight enough to avoid this. It was a bit exhausting.
This type of book is not for everyone. Some will be bored, or complain that nothing happens. But if you love what Rosamunde Pilcher offers, you will love Marcia Willett. Guaranteed. **4 out of 5 stars**
May 2, 2021