Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Gentle Wind's Caress by Anne Whitfield

After the death of her mother and sister, and the abandonment of her father, Isabelle Gibson is alone in the world with a young brother to raise in an 1876 workhouse. The living and work conditions are horrible, but if she leaves, she will be a woman without resources on the street. To make matters worse, the matron’s son, Neville Peacock, grows more and more obsessed with Isabelle. When he tries to rape her, Isabelle knows she must find a way out. Unbeknownst to Isabelle, the matron pays a moorland farmer named Farrell who is looking for a wife to marry Isabelle. Because it is the only way Isabelle has to escape the clutches of Neville, and a life of servitude, Isabelle agrees to marry in the hopes that farm-life will bring security to their lives.

But Farrell turns out to be a drunkard and a thief who regularly beats isabelle and Hughie. To make matters worse, because of a long-standing feud Farrell has with the landlord, Ethan Harrington, the farm is in a pathetic, run-down state of poverty.

Farrell’s life of crime soon progresses to robbery and when one of his plunders goes awry, he flees, leaving Isabelle and Hughie to fend for themselves. When Ethan meets Isabelle, a strong interest burgeons that soon turns to love. But Ethan is trapped in a loveless marriage with Clarice, a hefty woman who indulges in bonbons and immerses herself in a life of lethargic leisure.

As Ethan and Isabelle struggle to keep their love a secret, one hardship after another haunts them. Isabelle’s attempts to earn money by baking pies for the market are thwarted as scandalous gossip about her and Ethan spreads.

Because Ethan and Belle are both married to someone else, it seems like their love is impossible.

Anne Whitfield has carefully crafted a powerful love story with vivid characters who will stay with you long after the book is read. The ending is gripping and unexpected, leaving the reader breathless with both sadness and joy. This book is beyond a simple romance. Rather, it is an enduring tale about the strength of a woman to overcome poverty, destitution, and scandal by fighting for love. If you want to read a romance story different from all other romance stories before it, then this is the book to read. This is one story where you can expect the unexpected!

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