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A rather odd D.E. Stevenson

Smouldering Fire - D.E. Stevenson

This book was classic D.E. Stevenson until about 75% - Iain MacAslan is the owner, and laird, of Ardfalloch, a Scottish estate and in the years after WWI, the finances of the estate have become increasingly untenable. As a result, MacAslan finds himself forced to rent Ardfalloch to a business man from London, Mr. Hetherington-Smith, for the shooting season. When Mr. Hetherington-Smith, and his wife, arrive at Ardfalloch, they bring with them some houseguests for a country house party, including Linda Medworth and her young son, Richard.

 

Iain is humiliated at having to rent out his beloved home, so he sends his mother and her companion/the housekeeper, Janet, off to London for the summer and he goes to live in the rustic, lochside cottage. While he is there, staying out of sight, he meets Richard Medworth, who helps him to repair a boat, and gives him the fairly adorable nickname of "Boatmender." He and Richard create an immediate bond of shared interest and affection, and when he finally meets Linda, he realizes that she is a woman that he met years ago in London, where he spent a few magical hours with her, and she has been the woman of his heart ever since.

 

Linda is married to a fairly awful guy named Jack, and is in the midst of a divorce.

 

There's a lot of drama that happens in a book where very little actually occurs - Linda and Iain end up being swept off to an island in the middle of loch during a story, and shelter overnight in an abandoned castle where they share confidences and generally begin to fall in love. Richard is a fragile child and Linda is worried because Jack views him as a possession and she is afraid that he will try to take Richard from her in order to bully him into being more like Jack. And Meg, a local girl, is brokenhearted because she has been in love with Iain for years.

 

I'm pretty sure that Meg shows up in a later book that I've already read, either Katherine Wentworth or The Marriage of Katherine.

 

Anyway, once we hit the 75% mark, things get pretty crazy.

 

 

Jack shows up and accuses Linda and Iain of having an affair and threatens to expose them and reopen the divorce case to prove she is an unfit mother (because sexy time with the hot Scot?) and take Richard from her. Then Donald, who is Iain's best friend and is also some sort of an estate manager, figures out what what Iain and Linda need in order to be happy is for HIM TO MURDER JACK. And so he does. In cold blood, which brutally and yet neatly removes the obstacles to Iain & Linda's happiness.

 

Up to the point where he commits cold-blooded, premeditated murder and then disposes of the body in a peat bog, Donald was a really good person, which made the whole thing even more bizarre. 

 

Wow. That just got really freaking weird. 

(show spoiler)

 

I really didn't like the ending at all - it was cheap and deeply unsatisfying. I wanted Jack and Linda to overcome this adversity on their own, and the deus ex machina removal of the problem rang really hollow to me. 

 

There were a number of characters that I did really like, especially the two Hetherington-Smiths. They had both grown up in fairly impoverished circumstances, and Mr. Hetherington-Smith was a self-made millionaire who made his money in trade. He is constantly making gaffes and is worried about being the butt of the joke among the more "well-born" contemporaries when he has double the character of any of them. In addition, Mrs. Hetherington-Smith was a very likeable woman, who still feels a bit "fish out of water" in her current affluence, and who sort of wishes that she could just hang out with people she understands. She develops a close relationship with Linda and is a pretty awesome character over all.

 

Elements of the plot were definitely a departure from Stevenson books I've previously read, and I didn't really think it worked as a whole, although I generally enjoyed most of the book.