Emma Porter is forty, fat, frumpy, and a passionate amateur gardener. When her longtime lover dumps her for a younger woman, Emma escapes the cloying sympathy of family and friends by setting out on a summer-long driving tour of England's glorious gardens. A Dimity-contrived coincidence brings her to Penford Hall, a sprawling Gothic mansion in Cornwall, where she finds a duke in search of a missing lantern with extraordinary powers. Suspecting there's more than one mystery to be solved at Penford Hall, Emma accepts the duke's invitation to stay on and restore the once glorious chapel garden to its former beauty. The dark rumors surrounding a rock star and the near-death of the duke's beautiful cousin confirm Emma's suspicions, and set her--with Aunt Dimity's ghostly guidance--on the path to Penford Hall's secrets and the pleasure of unexpected love.
Atherton's second novel proves more amusing than her first (Aunt Dimity's Death) as it recycles several characters from that mystery/ghost story. Bostonian Emma Porter-a 39-year-old computer analyst and ardent gardener recently jilted by her longtime lover-is on her own in England, exploring Cornwall's gardens. A seemingly chance encounter leads her to Penford Hall, a name prominent in the tabloids five years earlier when a rock star's death peripherally involved Grayson Alexander, the 14th duke of Penford. At the Hall, Emma is greeted by Grayson as the savior of his ruined chapel garden, waiting to be restored in time for the village "Fete" that occurs once every 100 years to celebrate a legendary local supernatural event. That act is memorialized in a chapel window being examined by restorer Derek Harris, a widower who soon becomes Emma's romantic interest. Also present is a fading supermodel whose acerbic tongue cuts the story's high sugar level until she is rendered unconscious by a blow to the head. The source of Grayson's largesse and the identity of the model's attacker, when revealed, leave some questions unanswered, but romance runs rampant, happy endings abound and most readers will be smiling at book's end.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 31, 1995
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