The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd is subtitled "A Holiday Tale" and I'm not quite sure why. It may end at Christmas, but otherwise it is most definitely not a Christmas tale. In fact, it's more of a war tale with a rather lame romantic love triangle and a heroine, Lady Elspeth Douglas, who feels compelled to deceive her best friend, everyone in the service in which she's trained as a nurse and both of the men in her little love triangle.
Get the feeling I didn't like The Walnut Tree? Well, I did finish the book. That's saying something. But I think The Walnut Tree is flawed, a bit juvenile and extremely cliche. Lady Elspeth (again, in a manner that simply does not make sense) ends up on the front line of an important WWI battle and after seeing the casualties, decides to imitate Sybil of Downton Abbey and become a nurse. By this point, she's helped a friend deal with childbirth and has become engaged. But, she then encounters an old friend and falls even more in love with the second guy.
In the end, I was able to completely predict the outcome of absolutely every plot point. It's ridiculously obvious what has to happen at every turn and the tiny hint of a mystery that's tossed in like an afterthought is patently annoying. Why did I keep reading? I suppose the war scenes are rather interesting. And, even though the book was terribly predictable, I still wanted to get to the goal and read about the heroine ending up with her guy. But, honestly, I do wish I hadn't spent money on The Walnut Tree.
Since I've read a number of reviews in which regular readers of Charles Todd have said The Walnut Tree doesn't live up to the mother-son team's normal standards, I'm planning to give one of their mysteries a try, soon, because I'm now doubly curious. We'll see how that goes. Not recommended unless you don't mind transparent plotting . . . say you're just a fan of historical fiction and/or romance but you're not picky. Maybe then.
I must warn you that the words "have" and "had" are so overused that they even appear in dialogue:
"You must know how much your presence had brightened the lives not only of your cousin but of the other three officers who are working with Sister Macleod." -- p. 153
Drop the "had" (or change it to "has") and that bit of dialogue is acceptable, if a bit awkward. If this particular grammatical atrocity continues in the mystery I intend to read, I will never touch another Charles Todd book. It truly is unbearable. But, The Walnut Tree may simply be one of those books that was rushed to press with minimal editing and I figure almost everyone deserves a second chance.
In A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell, heroine Lara Carson returns to her childhood home in Bath, England, for the funeral of her father. At 16, she was kicked out of the house by the father who never loved her and the stepmother from hell -- and they didn't even know she was pregnant. Now, Lara's daughter Gigi is 18. Lara's best friend will be marrying soon and it turns out Lara is in her father's will. So, as much as she'd like to avoid the boyfriend she left behind, Lara will have to stick around Bath a bit more than she intended.
Flynn always wondered what happened to Lara. One day she was suddenly just gone and he never heard a word from her. Now that she's back with his biological child in tow, he wants answers.
Evie is thrilled to finally walk down the aisle but on the day of her wedding, things are going horribly wrong. After she cancels the wedding, her ex-fiancee won't let go. Determined to prove he's changed, he pursues her with a vengeance. But, there's another man wooing Evie. Will Evie make the right decision, or is there even a decision to be made? Is Evie destined to make bad choices and remain alone?
There's always so much going on in a Jill Mansell novel that it's a bit mind-boggling. I love her books. They're cheery and plotty and terribly fun. I must admit, I felt dangled a bit more than I like, didn't buy into one of the major plot points and thought A Walk in the Park ended too abruptly. And, yet, A Walk in the Park is classic Mansell and I enjoyed it. Recommended, but not her best.
Comet's Tale by Steven D. Wolf, with Lynette Padwa, is a pet story in which -- get this -- the dog doesn't die in the end!!! Awesome. You have to appreciate that, since most pet memoirs do end with a death.
Comet is a rescued greyhound. I had no idea greyhounds came in a variety of colors; you can see from the cover image that she has an interesting calico-like coat of brindle and black and shades between. When she was rescued, Comet had been left in a cage with a muzzle on. The author, who goes by the name "Wolf", had two golden retrievers in Nebraska. But, because his spine was severely degenerating, he was living away from his family and their pets in Sedona, Arizona most of the year. Colder weather caused even more trouble with his constant pain.
Lonely and depressed after being kicked out of his own law firm, Wolf eventually decided to consider adopting a greyhound and visited the home of some people who fostered quite a few of them. Comet was off in a corner and appeared to be depressed, herself. But, just as Wolf was about to make a decision to adopt one of the other dogs, she appeared at his side. The choice had been made for him.
Comet's Tale tells about how Comet became not only a devoted pet but also eventually was trained by the author as a service dog when his condition further deteriorated and he needed help with simple tasks like opening doors and picking up dropped items. Comet's Tale is a deeply touching story. The only thing I disliked about it was the fact that the author went a little nutso when he had surgery that helped significantly reduce his pain. However, he eventually "redeemed" himself, just like a fictional character, thank goodness. An amazing story of love and devotion between pet and human, highly recommended.
As I was reading Comet's Tale, I found myself desiring to adopt a greyhound -- which is pretty odd because I really don't have the right personality to be a dog owner, although I tend to fall in love with friends' dogs. The way greyhounds are used and abandoned or killed is truly appalling.
Here's our little Isabel hanging out on my legs on a day that I stayed in bed feeling yucky, recently. Rescued pets are the best.