Alys Weston is running from her past, and Reggie Davenport is fleeing his future. Fate brings them together on Reggie's Dorset estate, Strickland.
It's uncommon, to say the least, for a woman to be an estate steward, yet Alys has been able to pull off that job for four years, communicating with the absentee owner in writing. When Reggie's cousin, the new owner, gives the estate over to Reggie, Alys sees her idyll coming to an end. Yet, when Reggie arrives at Strickland, he proves to be surprisingly open-minded, impressed Alys's success, and keeps her on as steward.
Reggie is a rake of the first order, but more than that, he's a drunkard who, at age thirty-seven, has begun to suffer blackouts. Even he has become convinced that his life is on a dangerous trajectory; a voice in his head keeps telling him, "This way of life is killing you." He believes that Strickland may be his salvation.
Alys and Reggie gradually become friends, and though they are attracted to one another, nothing more than a few kisses are exchanged. When fire destroys the steward's house, Alys and her three young wards move into the estate house, and Reggie begins to know the joys of a family for the first time in his life.
But Reggie's real problem is his drinking, and a great deal of this story revolves around his efforts to first get it under control and later to stop altogether. It's heartbreaking to watch him try and fail and try again.
Mary Jo Putney does an excellent job portraying the inner demons that plague Reggie. At the same time, she doesn't succumb to the temptation that some writers might feel to make Reggie's recovery all about his love for Alys. Reggie is getting sober for himself, not for someone else. And while Putney does lapse into a bit of AA one-day-at-a-time-speak occasionally, she is able to keep the story from sounding too modern.
There's an engaging cast of secondary characters and a couple of other romances. And I particularly enjoyed the epilogue: after Reggie and Alys marry, the other characters are shown reacting to the news, wrapping the whole story up quite nicely.
I picked out this book because of its high GR ratings, its having won the RITA in 1990, and its ranking in AAR's Top 100 romances of all time. All these accolades are well and truly deserved.
I don't know what else to say other than this is a really
good book, and I highly recommend it.