Beth Moran has become one of my favorite authors, but this isn’t my favorite of her offerings. Some of the themes are pretty grim, though it does have her signature happily-ever-after.
The story follows Marion, a 20-something girl trying to find both herself, and the mystery of who her father was in the Sherwood forest where all Moran’s books are set. Marion had a rough childhood: her father died when she was young, and her mother blamed her for his death. This led to a diagnosis of selective mutism, in which Marion literally found herself incapable of speaking for long periods of time. During this time, she was raped by the next door neighbor, repeatedly (though fortunately we never get the nitty gritty details of this) and was saved by a boy who later becomes her fiance, but whom she never truly loved–she just felt indebted to him and didn’t know who she was or how to advocate for herself. When she goes to Sherwood, she intends just to research who her father was (since her mother will never speak to her about him), but she ends up getting hired on at a local retreat property on accident by a gorgeous middle-aged woman named Scarlett who becomes the mother Marion never had. Scarlett has one natural daughter, Grace, filled with teen angst, and one semi-adopted daughter who probably has Asberger’s named Valerie, the natural daughter of a troubled woman in town named Amanda.
Almost as soon as Marion arrives in Sherwood, she finds herself the target of attacks from someone unknown, trying to frighten her away, though she can only guess who or why. She meets Reuben, the son of a local lord and lady, and he’s her dream man even though he has a perfect girlfriend already, and Marion doesn’t see herself as being particularly attractive.
Like all Moran novels, this one is episodic, more complex than just “chick lit,” including a mystery, a little bit of thriller, and it explores all kinds of relationships, not just romance. The themes include forgiveness, as well as coping with tragedy (which I could have done without, but I wasn’t as attached to the characters as I might have been so I suppose it was all right.) I like my chick lit a little less gritty than this one, though it was still enjoyable.
My rating: ****
Sexual content: nothing major
Violence: nothing major
Political content: none (what a breath of fresh air! There easily could have been)