Rafe was born in a small village in Mexico that was well insulated from the advance of civilization. The village elders were convinced that he had the blood of an ancient emperor and the conquering conquistador. When an avalanche of mud destroyed the village, Rafe, who was then a young teen, believed the gods were punishing him. He left Mexico and years later ended up in Forysthe, Virginia, as a horse trainer.
Foxhaven was an old Virginia horse farm that had been the ancestral home of the Forsythes for generations. But unlike most Southern dynasties it barely had one heir per generation. Rafe was hired by Brooke, who is also the daughter of a very close friend of the Forsythe family. Brooke and Lily, the daughter of the Forsythes, grew up as sisters.
The story is told by flashbacks and very early the reader learns that Lily’s mother, Carolyn, died in her sleep. When Lily subsequently developed an autoimmune-like disease, Brooke’s mother, Marla, had stepped in to help care for her.
Brooke and Rafe had nine days together before Lily, her father, John, and Marla return from a clinic in Switzerland. Marla tells Brooke that she and John are going to be married. As Brooke is rushing to the stable to share the news with Rafe, gunshots are heard, and Marla and John are found dead, each killed by the other. The friends separate, and the story picks up twelve years later.
During this time these two very close friends did not speak, each fearing the other was blaming her parent for the killings. Lily recovered from her illnesses and Brooke became an archeologist. Brooke returns to Foxhaven to go through her mother’s possessions, which have been left intact these twelve years.
The mystery of the killings is an intriguing one and is cleverly revealed by the author. The romances in this novel are less credible, with very little time devoted to them, although the main characters are fairly well developed.
Since the story is told in the third person, it is very short on dialogue and actual character interaction. But in a novel that weaves Aztec legends into the theme, along with the cultivation, and hybridization of flowers, and technical description of a rare medical condition, it is hard to imagine how an author could create a crisp, ongoing interchange unless all parties had an extraordinary range of knowledge.
Stone’s treatment of three somewhat exotic themes is as memorable as the characters are forgettable. Whether you will enjoy this novel will depend, in a large measure, on whether you, as a reader, care more about the former or the latter.