I've heard so many wonderful things about this author, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review her latest. But after finishing In the Presence of Angels, I couldn't help feeling a bit let down.
Major Lord William Fitzpatrick is the estranged twin brother of the Marquess of Alconleigh. While returning home after the battle of Waterloo, William makes a detour to Broadhurst Farm to visit the widow of his friend, Val Merriem.
Val and William served together in the same regiment and Val often shared the letters he received from his wife, Louisa. Louisa's letters, filled with descriptions of tranquil life in the English countryside, gave William something to hang on to during the horrors of war. They also inspired him to fall just a little in love with their author.
Once William arrives at Broadhurst, it is apparent life is not as serene as Louisa described in her letters. Broadhurst Farm has obviously fallen on hard times.
When Louisa mistakenly believes William is answering her ad for a man of all work, he decides to hide his true identity and accept the position in order to find a way to help save the farm. Hence Lord William becomes Will Cutter, man of all work.
Normally, Louisa would be more thorough in checking her employee's references, but it's nearly harvest time and she is desperate for help. The responsibilities of running the farm, as well as caring for her eight year old daughter Pip and her ailing father, are overwhelming. Her gut instinct tells her to trust Will Cutter and, having no other
choice, she offers him the job.
While working on the farm, Will discovers his late friend Val was not the devoted husband and father he was led to believe. Will also realizes he truly loves Louisa and wants to marry her, but his deception could mean the end of their relationship.
When reviewing, I'll stick a post-it note on the book's cover to take notes. If the book is really good, the note will often remain blank (I'm too enthralled to stop and write). In the Presence of Angels is wallpapered with the things, and every note begins with why...
Why was it so important for Will to hide his identity? I know he thought Louisa would send him away if he didn't. But Will was a kind and thoughtful guy, it was obvious he would eventually win her over. Although I think Will was in love with the woman in the letters. Not the real Louisa, who could often be bitter and unreasonable.
Why did Louisa let Will take over her account books? Especially when her last manager nearly bankrupt the farm?
And, most puzzling, why did Louisa take her young daughter and go off on a weekend to the seashore with Will, when she believes him to be the hired help? And why would Louisa, who appeared to be an excellent mother, suddenly leave her daughter with a strange maid at the inn, in order to run off for a tryst in the sand with Will?
Confusing character behavior, a relationship built on deception, and an ending that tied up all the loose ends a little too quickly and neatly, all combined to make In the Presence of Angels a less than satisfying read.