Beauty for Ashes

T. R. Wilson, Author
T. R. Wilson, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-08143-0
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The latest historical romance from Wilson ( The Straw Tower ) spans the period between the Industrial Revolution and WW I as experienced in rural England. When Hannah March, the bright but poor daughter of a farmer, meets charming, calculating rich girl Isabel Goodwin, the stage is set for years of prolonged battles. As children, they are friends; later, Hannah is obliged to become a servant in Isabel's house and Isabel marries the weak aristocrat whom Hannah loves. When Hannah and her husband become successful, Isabel tries to sabotage their happiness. Issues of class and friendship are again confronted as Hannah's children, Lewis and Madeleine, seek to define themselves in a new society where rules are changing. While certainly well researched and less heavy-handed and cliched than many other romances, the novel suffers from inconsistent pacing and too broad a scope, so that the narrative doesn't always hang together. And an overabundance of facts, especially those related to the war years, bogs the book down in its second half. (Nov.)
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