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.
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So I've seen two reviews of The Walnut Tree this evening. One was a 5 star and yours which was polar opposite. This is a new to me author and I'm kind of on the fence about reading. I guess I'll see what other reviews pop up and get the whole spectrum first!ReplyDelete
My review is probably harsher than it should be. I still managed to read the book and enjoyed immersion in the time period, although it was another case of not feeling like the book was written by a Brit. I'm sure you could tell even better than I can. It really just depends on what you're seeking in a book, whether or not I'd advise that you read it. It just felt so contrived to me. But, I've felt that way about other books and known people who absolutely loved them. I would definitely read a lot of reviews before making a decision. As I recall, there were quite a few at Goodreads.Delete
That's too bad about The Walnut Tree. :-( I have a copy sitting on my dresser to read. I am glad you mentioned it isn't really a Christmas tale. It'll make me feel less guilty when I don't get it read this holiday season. I've only read one Charles Todd book, which I really liked. It's too bad The Walnut Tree didn't do it for you.ReplyDelete
Comet's Tale sounds wonderful (thank you so much for mentioning that he is still alive at the end--I would have asked if you hadn't). I've often thought maybe I should adopt a greyhound--but my husband is strongly opposed. He's not a dog person and I know I'm lucky just to have my Riley.
Hopefully, you'll like The Walnut Tree better than I did, Wendy! It just wasn't for me. But, I'm still looking forward to giving a Charles Todd mystery a try, just for a change of pace.Delete
Comet's Tale is wonderful! I understand your husband's viewpoint. I'm just not a dog person. We've actually just returned from visiting Eldest and our granddog is really sweet but I cannot stand being "kissed" or jumped on by a dog. And, I rather like the convenience of a litter box. But, I'd love to have an animal that I had to walk. Dogs are good for your health! Greyhounds are, the author says, like cats in dog bodies -- very gentle and kind of lazy, although they do need to get out and run, regularly. I love the sound of their personalities.
I enjoyed A Walk in the Park as well, but you're right that it's not her best. My daughter grabbed my copy of Comet's Tale, but only after we peeked at the end to make sure the dog didn't die. ;)ReplyDelete
It's pretty cool that Jill Mansell's less than stellar work is still so entertaining, though, isn't it? Comet's Tale is safe, but the saga of the author's health might bore her just a tad. Such a sweet story, though, of friendship between dog and man.Delete
You got me on Comet's Tale. I'm a dog person and think I would like this. Though it saddens me to no end to read about animals that have been abused or hurt in their lives. People are crazy, & cruel. Lucky that Comet got rescued! Seems like a sweet dog. thanks. http://www.thecuecard.com/ReplyDelete
Yes, same here. It makes my heart ache to hear about abuse of animals. Both of our kitties are rescues and they are absolutely wonderful pets. They are very sensitive, but I'm okay with that. I kind of get a kick out of the slow process of building trust in a little critter that had a rough start. It's incredibly rewarding.Delete
Comet sounds like a real peach. I'm sure you'll love the book!
Hmmm, you always read such interesting sounding books. It makes me choice of silly YAs seem a little pathetic. I love the picture...of course.ReplyDelete
Do I? LOL I read a wide variety, that's for sure. Nah, your choice to focus on YA isn't pathetic. If that's what you love, more power to you. I can't stand a steady stream of any particular genre; I've discovered that I burn out easily. YA is fun to mix in, now and then, though!Delete
Thanks! So exciting that Isabel is now occasionally sleeping on my legs. That's a *huge* step for her.
I've been contemplating Comets Tale...good to know it doesn't have a desperately sad ending! And yes...rescued pets are the best!ReplyDelete
You have to appreciate a pet story in which the pet doesn't die, don't you? There are sooo many sad ones. Fortunately, Comet is still alive -- or, at least, was at press time. I prefer a happy ending.Delete
Rescues are wonderful! They know they've got it good and they are so, so grateful!