Kernow & Daughter

Malcolm MacDonald, Author
Malcolm MacDonald, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13995-7
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Set in Cornwall at the turn of the century, MacDonald's (To the End of Her Days) absorbing historical novel is another in this dependable writer's skillfully fashioned narratives. The sign above Barney Kernow's business reads ``Kernow & Son,'' but heroine Jessica Kernow, whom we first meet on December 31, 1899, has a different future in mind for the family business. Jessica shuns her father's imperative that she assume the roles of wife and mother. Moreover, she refuses to exchange a domineering father for a bossy husband. Fortunately, she meets someone who sympathizes with her plight: Cornwallis Trelawney, a man of breeding and substance who wants to cut a wide swath between himself and the scores of hopefuls in pursuit of his hand. Scheming together, Cornwallis and Jessica concoct a false engagement--which, predictably, backfires. With Cornwallis's help, Jessica lines up conspirators, including her brothers, who see advantages in supporting their sibling; Cornwallis's witty mother; and Jessica's former governess, Cressida Pym. Meanwhile, Jessica, who can speak the language of electricity to engineers, sets out to create the Helston Power Co. and eventually must take on her father, owner of the rival gas company. Macdonald expertly blends romance and historical drama into an intelligent and satisfying tale. (Feb.)
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