A well written and complex plot of then and now. 1960’s and Beth, the small town girl, falls head over heals for the cosmopolitan – and straight – Hollywood star, Dawn. Present day and renowned author Beth is a recluse locked away in her mansion, but her cook, Maggie, thinks something is wrong with her care.
Maggie has always gotten in trouble for her mad imagination, so it is going to be a struggle to convince anyone of a conspiracy, especially the buttoned up and controlled lawyer, Nikka, sent to stop the town’s small businesses using Beth’s books as a tourist attraction.
A mix of old fashioned love story and a tragedy, Ms Lane cleverly weaves two romances throughout the beginning of the book and gradually brings them together for a charming denouement. While complex, the mix of voices and timelines is well done and easy to follow and the author manages to clearly differentiate the accepted social mores of the time without having to lecture.
It’s an interesting tale, meshing the then and now, merging the lives of the women, and offering us a range of complex and powerful characters. Each one of the players is well portrayed, but Maggie and Nikka are particularly sympathetically drawn. 1960’s Beth’s naiveté and fear make her rather painful to read, and Dawn is self centered. Perhaps the intolerance of the time justifies her behavior, but on a personal level her scheming is simply cruel. They create their own tragedy.
Heartwood is well written and edited, it has humour and pathos, moments of joy and yet is based around a deep life-altering tragedy. The conspiracy is tenable and while some of the bit players are rather stereotypical others, notably the characters of the modern day town, are rendered with obvious affection. Josie is particularly adorable and I would love to know more of her story in a whole other novel.
And yet, the tale of ‘then’ didn’t grab me. I liked the plot concept and how it was done, but I didn’t like Dawn, I found 1960’s Beth annoying, and without giving a spoiler her inaction in the aftermath of the pivotal crisis did not ring true. For me, her deep flaw, then and now, was rather simplistically depicted. I loved the Maggie and Nikka storyline, however, and look forward to reading more from this obviously talented author.
(publisher review copy received)
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