Charlotte Dean can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in love with Garth Wisdon, her childhood playmate and next-door neighbor. Although Charlotte is merely the daughter of the local vicar, while Garth is the heir to a large estate, she grows up confident that they will marry someday. As they reach adulthood, Garth seems to reciprocate her feelings, but their love is arrested by the outbreak of World War I. Garth goes off to fight in the war, and when he returns, Charlotte no longer recognizes the man she once knew. The new Garth is angry and cynical and seems to hold her in contempt. Nevertheless, she is still overwhelmed with shock when he quickly becomes engaged to her younger sister, Kitty. Now Charlotte is living in a shabby flat in London, where she has little contact with Garth and Kitty. But a tragic turn of events brings them both back into her life — along with their strange, shy daughter, Clementina — and Charlotte must make a decision that could alter the entire course of her life.
I’m so glad Sourcebooks is reprinting the novels of D.E. Stevenson, because I’ve really enjoyed all the ones I’ve read so far! This book is a bit more somber than her Miss Buncle series, but it’s still a nice, leisurely, and ultimately sweet read. I was expecting the central storyline to be a romance, but really the book is much more about Charlotte’s growth as she is forced out of her comfort zone. In the beginning, it’s a bit difficult to feel much sympathy for her because she accepts her sister’s betrayal so passively. But as she emerges from her solitary cocoon and starts to cultivate friendships, she becomes a much stronger person who is capable of standing on her own two feet. On the other hand, I never felt much sympathy for Garth, even after he explained his actions; in my opinion, everything he suffered throughout the novel was his own stupid fault! But overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to people who like slower-paced, old-fashioned books with a contemplative feel.