She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things – Caren J. Werlinger

She sings of old, unhappy thingsMargaret Braithwaite was a rising Regency scholar and an acclaimed author. Thirty years later, she’s a one-book wonder, a fifty-something college professor with the dubious distinction of being an expert on Jane Austen, hidden in the shadow of her famous husband and his Civil War novels. “Too young to retire, and too old to start over,” Margaret feels as dried up and dead as the neglected gardens her husband took such pride in before he became ill.

Wyck Fitzsimmons is the Asheville landscape architect Gavin Braithwaite hires to restore his precious gardens to their former glory. She learned a long time ago that plants and trees are safer and more reliable companions than other people.

Under Wyck’s care, the gardens begin to come back to life, but the flowers aren’t the only thing blossoming. For the first time in decades, Margaret feels the stirrings of love, but those long-buried feelings frighten her more than the prospect of withering away alone in her ivory tower of academia.

Gavin, more observant than most people give him credit for, sees the attraction developing between his wife and his gardener. Using every means at his disposal, he arranges things so that Margaret has no choice but to remain faithful to him, even after death.

Margaret, confused and faced with losing everything that offers her any kind of security, flees to England – to Austen and Wordsworth country – where she tries to forget Wyck and all the feelings she has awakened.

Back in North Carolina, Wyck must come to terms with her own past and somehow find a way to forgive before it’s too late to make amends.

Love, it seems, can take root in even the most barren hearts, if only Margaret and Wyck can find the courage to let it grow.

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Caren Werlinger always writes thoughtful and thought provoking novels. No rote churning out of a formula time after time. Each of her books tells a very different story and speaks to us in different ways

“She sings” is, at heart, a ‘Traditional’ romance. Woman meets woman, both have insecurities and issues to overcome, but spend the book working through them. It is never absolute though, that this couple will resolve into the ‘happy ever after’ of less complex tales. Their past histories and present complications leave us wondering, throughout, whether one will have the courage to change, and the other will have the fortitude to wait, to trust.

Ms Werlinger’s characters are complex, multi faceted, layered – and very real. If you were introduced to Meggie or Wyck you would recognize and relate to them. She draws them subtly, without massive descriptive paragraphs, but through their thoughts and actions we learn them. Her secondary characters also get drawn in fine detail – Gavin the controlling husband, Taylor the annoying gay friend, Muriel the charming mother. They fill out an ensemble piece – although always coming second to Wyck’s wonderful companion – her dog Mandy.

Caren Werlinger BiogAgain, as always, Ms Werlinger challenges us to think about the complexities of an issue. This time it is the label ‘sex offender’ and how we react as a society, how we view the person. How our unthinking assumptions and rejection of the outsider can lead to violence and fear.

There has been much discussion lately of readers views on erotica, an MS Werlinger’s books are definitely the “fade to black” variety. It’s there, but not explicit. It’s important but not central. This will undoubtedly appeal to many who do not enjoy the explicit sex scenes in the majority of Lesfic

Well written, charming and full of excellent observation, ‘She sings’ will pull you in and lead you a gentle dance. An enjoyable read, a pleasant journey through literary allusion with two well-educated women. Definitely one for summer relaxation or winter in front of the fire.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Corgyn Publishing, LLC (April 22, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00JW2M60O
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