The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

By Mark Toby

In the dream, Helen was not dead at all. she was in the bedroom, or the kitchen, out of sight, but within call, if I needed her…Pretty soon she would come to the door of the room, and look at us both, and smile. ad she might say something, or she might not.
So many nights it had been like that. So many little casual moments that I let slide through my fingers because they were so commonplace, so ordinary, so numerous.

This was a very cute if very short book (under 160 pages in the original hardback form.) It almost qualifies as a novella. I had just finished Ron Howard’s autobiography and he talked about the movie which he considers his best work as a child actor. It reminded me that the dramedy, a long-time favorite, was based on a book. It was not easily found for a price I was willing to pay.

It turned out to be as funny and touching as the movie. Sometimes more, sometimes less so. I was disappointed in the length but was surprised and happy that the movie was practically lifted from the book scene by scene. I had just hoped that there would be more to the story in the novel, not less. The movie actually adds some aspects and scenes that are not in the book.

Eddie and his father are recovering from the death of his wife a few weeks earlier and trying to get back to normal. It’s not long before Eddie starts to hint around, that as much as he loved and misses his mother, a new wife for his Dad and a new mother for him would not be unwelcome. After a minor false start, and a serious misstep, by the end of the book, Eddie’s wish is fulfilled.

The story is told mostly through dialogue between Eddie and his father. Their discussions and interactions are sweet, funny, and sometimes very touching. We are treated to many of Eddie’s ruminations and Tom’s reactions and inner thoughts as the plot plays out.

” Dad, you know why I like Elizabeth?”
“Why?”
“Because she doesn’t have skinny eyes.”
“Skinny WHAT?”
“Eyes. Like those ladies in the comic books who’re no good….You can always tell…they always have skinny eyes.”
It did sound very reasonable to me, and I decided to remember it. “No other clues? Just skinny eyes?”
“Well.”…The bad ladies always got big busts. Don’t get mad, Dad. It’s true. Very big. Skinny eyes and big busts is how you tell a bad lady from a good one.”

You will be relieved to know that the woman Eddie settles on very early on and the one Eddie’s father finally realizes is perfect for him has “round eyes” and a “medium bust.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

January 14, 2022

Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

“Everybody likes the ice cream man.”

“The woman says her name is Holly Gibney, but I think she’s really Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

“It’s as if there’s a fumble-fingered but powerful universal force at work, always trying to put wrong things right.”

One of the reasons I wanted to read Mr. Mercedes was because I heard tell of Holly Gibney, who is introduced in this book and is a character in several others of King’s works.

“I just love Holly, and I wish she were a real person. […] She just walked on in the first book she was in, Mr. Mercedes, and she more or less stole the book, and she stole my heart.”

-Stephen King

I was further encouraged because it won the Edgar Award for best novel of 2015. Unfortunately, Holly doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through, and I liked her, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hype, including the miniseries which features her character. Just a little. I don’t think SK knew what he had with Holly Gibney until the book was almost finished. I look forward to seeing more of Holly. This was a good introduction and there is a lot of promise there. (I’m sure the great Mr. King will be relieved I think so) But I also hope Jerome and his family are in other related books because I loved them right from the get-go.

Mr. Mercedes is about the cat and mouse game between a twisted evil young man and a broken-down retired detective. The young man is Brady Hartsfield who has already committed mass murder by mowing down a group of innocents with a borrowed Mercedes.

“Most people are fitted with Lead Boots when they are just little kids and have to wear them all their lives. These Lead Boots are called A CONSCIENCE. I have none, so I can soar high above the heads of the Normal Crowd.”

The old before his time “ret-det”, Bill Hodges, is so done with life that he is flirting with suicide.

“What he knows now is that guilt isn’t the only reason people commit suicide. Sometimes you can just get bored with afternoon TV.”

Brady has already driven one innocent woman connected with his heinous act to suicide and now he is targeting Bill Hodges, who was the head investigator in the murder and failed to catch him before his retirement. But Bill is wily.

Once Brady makes contact with Bill, it gives him the purpose he needed to keep living. He starts to re-investigate. Thanks to the puzzle, what he learns along the way, and a lovely woman he meets in the course of his search, he is rejuvenated. When he learns that Mr. Mercedes had a role in the death of the woman who owned the car, whom he and his partner had wrongly accused of negligence, it ups the ante. When Mr. Mercedes victimizes someone closely connected to Bill, it gets personal. Along with his young friend Jerome and the neurotic emotionally disturbed Holly, his junior detectives, he is hot on Mr. Mercedes’s trail. But will they catch him before he can commit an atrocity that will make his first mass murder look like just a prelude to the main event? I loved that the car comes full circle from a force for evil to a force for good. It just depends on who’s doing the driving.

Most of the book is told from Bill Hodges’s point of view. But it was necessary to tell some of it from Brady Hartsfield’s as well. What we learn about him and his thoughts are so gross and disgusting, it actually took away from my enjoyment of the book. Every time we had to go there, I had to force myself not to skip through those parts. But don’t worry, the dog is not harmed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 9, 2022

The Clue of the Broken Wing (Judy Bolton #29)

by Margaret Sutton

“I dozed off and didn’t wake up until I heard those police sirens.”
“Then what?,” asked Judy. “I don’t suppose you knew they were coming to arrest me?”
Peter grinned. “I should have known it. Past experience should have taught me that something was bound to happen. You enter a queer old house. The police arrive. You vanish. It all adds up.”

The cheer of the kitchen had vanished. Like the rest of the house, it was suddenly filled with ghosts. Their names were fear and suspicion and guilt. Prejudice was there, too, and panic that drives a person who runs away.

Like many of Margaret Sutton’s books, this one has some dark elements in it which reveal her social consciousness. Although those children reading it in the ‘50s or even today may not have picked up on these, an adult reading it today surely does.

A little girl, afraid of a temperamental and harsh mother’s punishment, runs away from her in a department store and is helped by a woman who finds her at a bus terminal. The little girl tells her she is alone in the world and the woman takes her with her while visiting her estranged mother who is neighbors with Judy Bolton. Her mother disapproved of the man she married, who is poor, and will not accept him. She tells her mother that “Anne” is her own little girl in hopes that when she dies (she has a terminal illness) her mother will not try to take her real daughter away from her husband and his mother. Anne is happy with her loving grandmother but still thinks of her real family and misses them.

The book picks up a year later with Judy and Peter traveling to New York City at Christmas time to visit her friend Irene, her husband Dale, and her daughter, little Judy. When they get to Irene’s address, they are surprised to find Irene’s house is razed to the ground and an apartment building in its place. She goes across the street while Peter, tired from his long drive, takes a nap, to find out what happened to Irene and her family. It is the home of the Lakes, the same family that lost little their little girl and believes, along with the police, that she is dead. They suspect that Judy is part of a gang that kidnapped their daughter “Sukey” for reasons I won’t go into here, and the adventure begins when the witch-like Mrs. Lake locks Judy in an upstairs room and calls the cops. Plus we have the mystery of what happened to Irene and her family. They soon find out that Irene and Dale moved out to Long Island and didn’t tell Judy and Peter because Irene wanted it to be a “surprise.” It was a surprise all right. Irene is a real dingbat among other things, but after we get past that bump in the road, she turns out to be a valuable partner to Judy while she tries to help the dysfunctional Lake family against their will.

While the ending results in a happy reunion between the Lakes and their girl, Mr. And Mrs. Lake’s behavior throughout the book has been alarming, to say the least. While their actions are smoothed over at the end, we can’t help but be concerned about their parenting skills and can only hope for the best as far as the fates of their younger children. (Polly, their oldest, seems to have escaped their negativity and is remarkably likable and well-adjusted.) Margaret does a good job balancing the bleakness of the Lakes with the cheerful Christmas celebrations at the Meredith’s new home. (when they finally find it.) Despite the loose ends, I think it’s one of her best. **4 1/2 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

January 8, 2022

Madam, Will You Talk?

Charity suffereth long and is kind.-1 Corinthians 13:4

“Where’s David?”
“Who’s Johnny?

This is the first published work of Mary Stewart, who is widely credited with inspiring what became a whole genre of fiction: Romantic Suspense. So I guess you could say that this is the book that started it all. Set in the early ’50s this first novel introduced readers to the evocative descriptions of exotic locales that she became so famous and appreciated for. To say the least, her heroines do not suffer from dreary lives. Mary’s exciting adventurous novels must have been a welcome respite from the gloom and hardships of post-war England.

It has been decades since I last read this story but there were a few things that I had never forgotten from the 4 or 5 times I read this previously. This time I listened to it on Audible read by famous actress Emilia Fox. The friendship blossoming between the young English tourist and a haunted but charming young boy in France and his evident fear of his father. She is determined to protect him at all costs. I remembered the tense cat and mouse chase between Charity Selbourne, our heroine, and her very scary “enemy” through the countryside and towns of France. Charity sabotaging his car using a secret trick her late husband Johnny taught her in order to buy her some time to get away from him. The ghost of Johnny, who was a race car driver before he was killed on a mission over France during WWII, is present throughout the novel. The war looms large in this story. Johnny taught Charity how to handle fast powerful cars. That skill saves her life.

“When you let excitement in, Johnny would add, in a lecture-room sort of voice, fear will follow.”

That quote always stuck with me.

The episode that stood out for me more than any other was her car race to rescue her love and the boy David from the hands of their potential murderers. Her use of her considerable driving skills becomes a deadly weapon. Charity’s development from just a nice and very frightened young woman to a formidable adversary is just awe-inspiring.

I remembered how quickly and shockingly the love story flared when I first read it. With my modern sensibilities, It was a little troublesome how firmly trust and long-term commitment between the two were established. But I went with it. I guess it does happen like that sometimes. Two other things that were also difficult for me on this re-read were the constant smoking and the way that Charity was marginalized and kind of infantilized by the hero after her courage and heroics.

But after the darkness and fear, the closure, joy, and hope of the ending were so satisfactory.

“And so it ended, where it had begun, with the little Jewish painter whose death had been so late, but so amply avenged. And, ten days later, with The Boy David carefully boxed in the back of the Riley, my husband and I set our faces to the South, and the Isles of Gold.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

January 7, 2021

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family

By Ron and Clint Howard

When The Andy Griffith Show was first finding its feet, Ron Howard’s father (and acting coach) took Andy aside and told him he thought Opie was being too much of a “smart-aleck” with his father, Andy.

After their talk, Andy said, he directed his writers to model the Andy-Opie relationship more on the Rance-Ronny one. I was flabbergasted to learn about this conversation; Dad had never breathed a word of it to me. But I was also moved—more than moved. This was a key moment in my life, revealed to me years after the fact: in the distant past of my early childhood, when they still barely knew each other, the two men who effectively charted my future had held this conversation, and they had come to a mutual understanding derived from mutual respect.

I have been a huge fan of the funny, sweet, and wise Andy Griffith Show for practically my whole life.

Andy was also keen to counteract Hollywood’s prevailing stereotypes of southerners…He was no fan of such contemporaneous “southern” TV programs as The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, in which men were mushmouthed hayseeds and girls were buxom sexpots…“The South is plenty funny as it is without playing it like Li’l Abner,” he would say. 

The Music Man is one of my favorite musicals and I’ve seen it many times, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father is one of my favorite movies. No one can watch that movie and doubt that Ronnie Howard was one of the most talented child actors ever, bar none.

This biography was everything I wanted it to be, and more. And Ron Howard is just as nice, well-adjusted, and happy with his wife and family as I hoped he would be. The book ends when he leaves Happy Days and his boyhood behind, for a new career as a director. I hope he (and Clint) write another book as full of insights on acting and encounters with the famous and respected show people as this one was: Yul Brynner, Gig Young, Liza Minelli, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Tim Burton and his father, Richard Dreyfus, George Lucas, Eddie Murphy, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the actors you would expect: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Ron’s fellow child actors: Jay North and Johnny Crawford, Henry Winkler (who is godfather to all 4 of Ron and Cheryl’s children), Cindy Williams, Garry Marshall, etc. That is interesting enough, but another connection I had to this story is that I am only 6 months younger than Ron Howard. The times he grew up in were my times as well.

It is a chronicle of Ron and Clint’s life and experiences as actors, the course of their careers, but also just as kids. And at times it goes deep. But this dual autobiography of Ron and Clint Howard is more than anything a loving and affectionate tribute to a great man, Rance Howard. And also the love of his life, the boys’ mother, Jean. Complex, sometimes troubled, but always a great mother and partner. This is the biography of a family, snippets of famous friends and acquaintances, musings on acting and directing, the TV and Film industry, and a love story. Told by a heck of a great guy.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

December 29, 2021

Amberwell

By D. E. Stevenson

This is the story of Five Little Children and How They Grew. I listened to this on Audible read by Lesley Mackie. With her gentle voice and slight Scottish accent, she added a lot to my enjoyment of this sometimes somewhat dark novel. While we hear about the children and their story it almost felt like I was being told a fairy tale and it was lovely, hoping as I was for happily ever afters for the children after the storms had passed. And lessons learned and justice served for those that required them.

The Ayrton children, two boys, and their three younger half-sisters are the children of two parents who don’t know or love their children or even care to. They are not socialites, jet setters, or workaholics, or V.I.Ps who are too busy with their own affairs to pay attention to their children. They are conventional and stolid pillars of the community. They keep the children from church and school and pretty much just ignore them unless they are of use or can’t avoid them. They just do not have any love in them. It was very odd.

Left to their own devices, they bring themselves up, thanks to a loving Nanny who unfortunately has little influence with the parents, and they do a wonderful job. Roger and Tom, in time, go off to boarding school where they learn that their parents and family are not normal. The reader spends the most time with Nell and Anne. The beautiful older sister, Connie, is nice as a little girl, but grows up only wanting to avoid unpleasantness and difficulty and doesn’t feel things very deeply. She gets married because that is what girls did and like her parents before her, we learn she is a horrendous parent, but in a different way. Nell and Anne are almost pathologically shy (unsurprisingly) sweet, and very close, with Anne being somewhat of a free spirit. They are both bright but ignorant scholastically and socially. It is Anne who was the most interesting with her fey ways, stronger spirit, and her unusual infectious laugh which is triggered mysteriously and unexpectedly.

It was no use of course. When Anne began to giggle it was hopeless trying to stop her. Anne shook with internal convulsions; she was seized with uncontrollable mirth and flung herself upon the bank writhing helplessly. The others caught the infection and laughed too. “What are we laughing at?” asked Gerald at last in a trembling voice. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes. “Come on, Anne. Tell us the joke.” “Anne can never tell you,” said Nell hastily …“Anne can never tell you the joke, and even if she does it isn’t a bit funny.

The war comes and has a dramatic effect on Amberwell, the center of the universe in this book. Mr. And Mrs. Ayrton are inconvenienced by the war, but that is the end of their involvement. But Roger and Tom go off to do their duty and become fine young men. Roger marries and has a baby. Nell comes out of her shell somewhat and becomes the dependable rock of the family. Anne, however, goes off to London with their Aunt and under her influence disgraces the family by eloping without the blessing of her parents. She disappears off the face of the earth. And we lose the most fascinating character in the book. Throughout the novel, the reader and Nell are consumed by Anne’s fate. Is she well and happily married? We have reason to hope, but why doesn’t she write? Or is she in dire straits? We don’t know until the end.

There are some sad and tragic times as well as a lot of growth and hope in this novel. Despite the happy ending, there were some disappointments and a boatload of loose ends and unrealized promise. Hopefully, the sequel (Summerhills)will resolve some questions and fates and provide some more closure. But I really liked this gentle and serious story with its intricately fashioned characters, insight, thoughtfulness, and atmosphere. **3 1/2 stars, rounded up**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 22, 2021

The Book Charmer

by Karen Hawkins

Jane, a softhearted child who loved animals, cried at the thought of all the thirsty farm animals. As her tears fell, clouds gathered, and it began to rain. From then on, every time Jane cried, it rained. It was said that whenever local farmers wanted it to rain, they would bring Jane onions. And when they wanted sunshine, they brought her cake.

(From page 1)

I loved the way this book began! It had a whimsical fairytale-like aura that was charming. After a few pages, I was hooked. In 2001, The eccentric youngest of 7 daughters who loves the library discovers a grouchy old 18th-century book about the history of her town that is demanding she read it. Literally. I loved the way she just took this in stride and even would not let the book boss her around. There was even a promise of future romance in an exchange with an awkward schoolmate who overhears her answering back to the book. And it turns out that at least some of her sisters also have special powers. I was thinking “Oh, Great! more to come once the intriguing Sarah’s story is told!–Lot’s of possibilities!” Then we meet Grace, a hostile young girl, seeming unrelated, trapped in the foster system whose only care is protecting her beloved and beautiful younger sister. She is finally taken in by her “last chance”: a feisty, wise, no-nonsense woman who strangely seems to take to her, instead of her pretty and seemingly sweet sister. This was all in the prologue.

Unfortunately, starting in Chapter 1 when we meet them again as adults, it started to go downhill. Grace turns out to have made a successful career as a financial advisor, her spoiled sister is dead, and she has become the ersatz parent of her 8-year-old niece as well as the parent of her parent, “Mama G”, who has Alzheimer’s. The depiction of that tragic disease and its effect on the victim and their family was handled beautifully. Not so the depiction of the 8-year-old girl, who acted more like a difficult teenager. Instead of feeling sympathy and caring about Grace’s growth from an angry closed off sour old biddy, I just didn’t like her. Plus, she is not an old biddy, she is only around 25 years old. That just didn’t track with me. Actually, how she overcame her difficult childhood with the help of Mama G would have been an involving journey. But I still liked and was interested in Sarah. Unfortunately, she devolved into a side character and her “book charmer” capabilities were only a sidelight and a catalyst to Grace’s story.

At about a third of the way through the book, it got very slow and dull. And though I kept reading, it lost me. And the reason was the writing. The author kept circling back and going over old territory without doing much to advance the plot and deepen the character development. It’s as if she was circling back to ensure understanding like she was a 4th-grade teacher whose class is not keeping up. We got it the first time, Karen Hawkins: Grace has a lot of anger, She does not want to be friends with anyone, Daisy is struggling, Sarah is nice and wants to be friends because she believes Grace is the key to saving the town. Travis is hot, a good guy, damaged, and he and Grace are fighting their mutual attraction but are meant to be, even though Grace is determined to move back to Charlotte.

**spoiler**

It picked up a bit when Grace unraveled the town’s neglect of finances, took the negligent townspeople by the scruffs of their necks, and reconstituted the beloved Apple Festival to revitalize the town. She also did a 180 personality-wise. After all the turmoil and hurt feelings she is turned around after a short conversation with Kat, the local femme fatale. After the build-up to the all-important festival which took over more than half the book, we don’t even get to go! She skipped right over it! I was also grateful (yes, grateful) that we didn’t get any more of Grace’s determination to leave town once her neighbors saved Mama G’s life, made Daisy a nice little girl, and brought her love and friendship. **end spoiler**

I won’t go into the idyllic southern town where black people go to the same 2 churches as their white friends. And a prominent character, Zoe, looks like a “black Audrey Hepburn” whose family owns the bank and is so powerful and popular that the Mayor lives in fear that she will run for office because she would win in a landslide. The other black person that we get to know a little is Aunt Jo who has a dog named “Moon Pie”. I’m just not going to go there. I looked up Karen Hawkins’ biography because I was sure she had never been within two states of the South. I guess Tennesee is really different? I liked the magical realism when it popped up from time to time, but I’m not sure feeding into this kind of fantasy of what it is like in small-town southern America is helpful. It would be wonderful, but unfortunately not remotely recognizable.**a rounded up 3 stars**

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 16, 2021

Christmas at Maple Creek (A Christmas Village Romance)

A Sweet Old-Fashioned Vibe

I really liked this one for some reason. Maybe it was the perfectly lovely actress that played the lead. Maybe it was her character’s sweetness and shyness. Maybe it was the old-fashioned atmosphere and the historical village setting. It almost had a YA vibe. I know for sure that Jake Epstein, who played the love interest is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, had a lot to do with it. So far, whatever he is in, I’ll give it a try.

Diana is a very successful romance novelist who has a crush on the guy who is the male model for her book covers but she really does not want to make a move. I think it’s mostly because she is shy and old-fashioned. If you immerse yourself in historical romance, it makes sense that you would tend to take on the attitudes of that time. She is basically being bullied by her editor to date him, which really annoyed me. The male model is clearly wrong for her because though he’s nice, he is not very smart, he’s shallow, is more interested in physical activities rather than more thoughtful pursuits. All he’s got is good looks and a good bod.

She decides to go to her hometown, which is a historical village like a very poverty-stricken man’s Williamsburg Virginia. Maple Creek is struggling and will soon have to be shut down unless they can up the attendance and make more money. There she meets a history professor (check) who is doubling as the town blacksmith (check, check) and is tall and good-looking in a down-to-earth way (check, check, check) I think we have our winner. He does not approve of the way she approaches history in her novels although he respects that she is a good writer. He teases her and is nice to her and soon she has come out of her shell and they have become friends with a lot in common. Plus, they are trapped in a storm together. Like something in a romance novel!

Of course, the male model shows up in the village, attracted more by the fact that she is not chasing him than by genuine affection and attraction to her, and the inevitable misunderstanding occurs with Carter. Seeing the two suitors together, she definitely knows which one is for her, and all proceeds to the happy ending for the couple and the village.

Jeni Ross is a perfectly lovely young actress and her chemistry with Jake Epstein was great. The only criticism I have is that she says her lines way too fast. The Gilmore Girls was canceled! Slow Down!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 15, 2021

Well Met

By Jen DeLuca

I’m gonna be the best damn wench he’s ever seen.”

Emily, who has been recently dumped by her long-term boyfriend, goes to her sister’s small Maryland town to assist in her recovery from a bad auto accident. Her sister can hardly walk and she is there to help. The small town is famous for the annual renaissance faire that is put on as a fundraiser for the school. Emily gets roped into it because her niece Caitlin wants to participate but can’t do so without an adult partner. Signing up, she and the head of the fair, Simon Graham strike sparks off of each other right away. He is a micromanaging and controlling “my way or the highway” type of guy. He doesn’t like how she filled out her form. He doesn’t like the “faire name” she picked out. He keeps giving her hostile and disapproving looks. Later, he seems to look down on her when she tells him she dropped out of college. What she doesn’t tell him is that she put her ex-boyfriend through law school with the understanding it would be her turn after he passed the bar. He cruelly dumped her before he could honor his promise. ( He should have paid her back, surely? I mean wow.) He makes her feel the same way her ex did: small and inadequate.

Can this romance be saved? Well yes. We learn the sad reason that Simon is resistant to changing the faire in any way and why he initially resents her light-hearted approach. It doesn’t hurt that he intriguingly seems to be another person and much more friendly to her, once he puts on his swashbuckling pirate costume. As Emily comes to understand him, they give way to their attraction, and a serious love affair ensues. There is the inevitable big conflict and both Emily and Simon have some changing and growing to do before the happy ending can occur.

I was initially attracted to this book because of the Renaissance Faire angle. I’ve been to at least 5 so far and I’m a big fan. Emily’s first-person voice is funny and likable. It is a light fun book with only some mild challenges to overcome (Molly needed to learn her worth, and Simon needed to let go of the past, move forward, and be his own man.) It didn’t completely ruin the book for me, but the one fly in the ointment was Emily’s paranoia and insecurity about Simon and her job at the book shop. It happened late in the book and at that point, there was no foundation for her to feel that way. In fact, it was made crystal clear to her that just the opposite was true. It was tiresome.

There are two follow-ups so far. The 3rd one starring Emily’s sister looks promising as her repression and anti-social tendencies made her an interesting character, ripe for development.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 10, 2021

The Fair Miss Fortune

by D. E. Stevenson

What a sweet, funny, and charming book! That is if you like old-fashioned chaste romances set in the English countryside. And who doesn’t? Well lots of people, I guess. But I like them. Not as a steady diet, but if they are as well written, and as beautifully narrated as this one, I could get used to it.

Miss Jane Fortune causes quite a stir when she comes to the insular village of Dingleford with her old nanny to open a tea shop. She charms everyone in sight with her beauty and sweetness. Especially the eligible bachelors. Everyone except Mrs. Prescott who sold her her cottage/future tea shop. She is an overbearing entitled old battle-ax who mercilessly bullies and dominates her son Harold. You know the type. Miss Fortune and the most eligible bachelor in the village, Charles Weatherford, soon become quite close. One day, Jane’s twin sister, Joan, a slightly more impulsive and unconventional version of Jane, comes to stay. She is escaping from an amorous Frenchman who has vowed to chase her to the ends of the earth. Jane agrees to keep Joan’s existence a secret, to protect her. Thus begins, at times, an hilarious comedy of errors, wonderfully narrated by Patience Tomlinson. I listened to this on Audible. Charles, meeting Joan, thinking she’s Jane, is very confused by her indifferent behavior and falls out of love with her. Joan unaccountably falls in love with the browbeaten mama’s boy, Harold Prescott, who is amazed at her sincere interest (as is the reader). The scene where Mrs. Prescott visits Jane, thinking she is the shameless hussy who is attempting to ensnare her beloved son is priceless. Jane may be sweet, but she has enough spirit and poise to spare. She is not to be underestimated, especially in the face of the character assassination of her beloved sister.

The book is peopled with some very well-drawn characters: Jane and Joan’s nanny, Charles’ Mother, the shopkeeper who sells Harold some exercise books, the middle-aged colonel, horrid Mrs. Prescott, and especially Harold, who knows he is “a worm” but vows to make himself worthy of the Fair Miss Fortune.
The only criticism I have is the book ends too abruptly and leaves some loose ends regarding the endearing Harold and his mother.
Probably if I had read it it would have been 3 stars, the narration made it 4. so **3 1/2 stars**

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 2, 2021