New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky returns to the town of Lake Henry, New Hampshire, scene of her beloved earlier novel Lake News, with an unforgettable story that explores the ways in which we limit our own chances for happiness -- and the accidents of fate that can set us free.
Heather Malone has made her home in Lake Henry for the last fourteen years. Known for her kind, gentle nature, she lives with Micah Smith, a widower, and his two young daughters. When the FBI takes her into custody on charges of flight to avoid prosecution, purportedly for a murder that took place in California, the local reaction is stunned disbelief. Yet, when those closest to her, including Micah, think back over the time they have known her, they realize that they have learned virtually nothing about her earlier life.
Poppy Blake is Heather's closest friend. A lifelong resident of Lake Henry, Poppy is confined to a wheelchair, the result of a snowmobile accident nearly a dozen years prior that left her a paraplegic and killed her male companion. Since then, she has worked hard to rebuild her life. Currently, she runs a local telephone messaging service out of her specially equipped house on Lake Henry. Fiercely independent, Poppy refuses to let her physical limitations break her spirit. However, it is her guilt over past mistakes, more than her present disability, which is holding her back from pursuing a future that includes a husband and family.
Writer Griffin Hughes originally traveled to Lake Henry to investigate a national news story involving Lily Blake, Poppy's older sister. What keeps him coming back is his attraction to Poppy. However, a chance comment made to his brother, an FBI agent, provides the thread that leads the law to Heather. To redeem himself, Griffin is compelled to solve the mystery of Heather's past. Along the way, he becomes key to freeing Poppy from her own past and helping her see the possibilities of a richer future.
Setting her story against the backdrop of a picturesque New England town during the maple syrup harvesting season, when the harshness of winter yields to the sweet promise of spring, and when the whole town is involved in the race to process the sap before the thaw sets in, Barbara Delinsky has written a tightly knit and compelling story that celebrates the values of community, friendship, and the redemptive power of love.
An Accidental Woman is a tender novel of life's second chances and the accidents of fate that can determine one's destiny. Heather Malone lives a quiet life with her boyfriend, Micah Smith, until the FBI arrests her for a murder she supposedly committed 14 years before in California under the name Lisa Matlock. The citizens of the small town where she now resides, Lake Henry, NH, join forces on her behalf. Her friends Cassie (her lawyer) and Poppy Blake are determined to prove Heather's innocence. Poppy is facing past mistakes of her own: she never overcame her guilt from the snowmobile accident that killed her boyfriend and left her paralyzed. Suspense intensifies as Heather refuses to talk to authorities and defend herself. Read by Anna Lauris, this enjoyable, thrilling love story about a close-knit community thrown into chaos over the discovery that one of its most respected citizens is a fugitive keeps the listener engrossed throughout. An absorbing mystery; recommended for fiction collections.-Carol Stern, Glen Cove P.L., NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
June 30, 2003
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Excerpt from An Accidental Woman by Barbara Delinsky
Within seconds of coming awake, Micah Smith felt a chill at the back of his neck that had nothing to do with the cold air seeping in through the window cracked open by his side of the bed. It was barely dawn. He didn't have to glance past Heather's body toward the nightstand clock to know that, but could see it in the purpling that preceded daylight when February snows covered the forest floor.
The purpling seemed deeper this morning, but that wasn't what caused his alarm. Nor was it any sound from the girls' room that caused him to hold his breath. They would sleep for another hour, he knew, and if not sleep, then stay in bed until they heard Heather or him up and about.
No. What held him totally still, eyes on that inch of open window, was the sound that came from beyond. Even in winter, the woods were filled with live things, but what he heard now was neither deer, nor owl, nor snowshoe rabbit. It was a car, moving very slowly down the snow-crusted drive toward the small house that Micah had built for his family.
Get out of bed, cried a silent voice, but he remained inert. Barely breathing, he listened. Not one car. Two. They inched their way closer, then stopped. Their engines went still.
Do something, cried that silent voice, more urgent now, and he thought of the rifle that was mounted high above the front door, out of reach of the girls. But he couldn't move -- couldn't move -- other than to turn his head toward Heather. She continued to sleep, oblivious to what he heard, unaware of the thoughts that held him there against her warmth.
As he watched the swirl of her long dark hair touched by a generous dusting of silver, he heard the stealthy click of car doors -- one, then a second. He imagined that there might be even more doors opening silently, carefully guided by hands trained in covert operations.
A patch of Heather's pale shoulder showed through the tangle of her hair. He would have touched it if he hadn't feared waking her, but he didn't want that. Once she was awake, once she heard what he heard, once this moment ended, their lives would be changed. He didn't know how he knew that, but he did. A part of him had been waiting for this moment, fearing it for four years -- and it wasn't just a superstition, the idea that because one woman had left him, this one would, too. Heather wasn't like anyone else; she was unique.
The footsteps coming toward the house were careful, making only the occasional crunch on the snow, but a lifetime of living in the New Hampshire woods had trained Micah's ear well. The house was being surrounded. He figured that his rifle wouldn't do much good against the five or six people that he guessed were outside. Nor did he figure gunpower was called for. The people out there weren't intent on violence. And what was happening was inevitable.
A soft knock came at the front door, a sound he might have missed if he'd been asleep. It had begun. He quickly slipped from under the thick down with a grace that belied his height and firm build. Silently he pulled on jeans and left the bedroom. In seconds, he was down the hall and through the living room. Not bothering with a light, he pulled the door open before another knock came, though Pete Duffy's hand was already raised.