JLYZ sets the scene artfully with a love story in which an American woman, Jenny, is displaced to a castle-keep ruin following her English husband, David, to their new home.
The story slips easily between current time in a small sleepy English village with one main road and no rail service, and medieval times with hardship, death and forgiveness of the centuries previous owner.
Once ensconced in the English countryside, the story quickly develops into what seem to be several overlapping intrigues that send Jenny’s life into a spin between now and the past, with lies and deceit in both eras.
As a botanist, David must go to Brazil for fieldwork just five months into their coming to England. Jenny develops daily rituals to make the time pass that include daily walks with her dog Shakespeare (a stray that came into her life two months before David left) to the post office to check for seed packages David has mailed, grocery shopping and visiting with the old couple down the road from the keep on her way home. Arriving home she puts the packages into the file cabinet unopened to save for David’s return, mulls wine and makes dinner before taking a stab at writing, a bath and turning in.
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The keep is old, and even though they spent some of Jenny’s $3,000,000 inheritance from her deceased parents to fix it up — the plumbing and electricity could still be iffy. Like the evening Jenny was doing laundry in the cellar and as she turned on the washing machine the fuse blew, throwing the cellar into total darkness. Feeling along the wall towards the fuse box, Jenny trips over Shakespeare, who is madly digging and barking at the wall — and then falls through it into a passageway that has mysteriously appeared.
The stench almost floors her, but Jenny has to follow Shakespeare, she has no choice. As she stumbles out of the darkness of the passage she finds herself in a room, a cell, she didn’t know existed. Shakespeare is lying on the cot as if he belonged there, and a candle is burning on the desk.
When the same thing happens more than once, Jenny begins to explore the room and finds a journal and a bible from Lord Roland d’Albernait, from the late 1400s. Reading his journal entries before bed, Jenny dreams of a man who has come to love her — until it becomes all too real and she wakes herself up with a start. Shakespeare’s frantic barking ceases as he cautiously settles down.
To top it all off, Inspector Jarod Butler, of Scotland Yard, shows up on her doorstep one morning looking for her husband, searching the home and taking the file cabinet with all of the unopened packages, with no indication as to why. Jenny is confused and not at all sure what has happened, but continues on with her daily routine.
She meets the new intern in town, Dr. Bear, who invites her to dinner, and has her make an appointment for a checkup (drumming up business). As Jenny walks, well — staggers home after dinner, she finds Inspector Butler waiting for her at the keep, still looking for David.
Ghosts of both the past and present merge with lies and false identities, making Jenny wonder if she has gone insane or if everyone around her has lost their minds.
Easy read for a lazy afternoon. Ignore the distraction of the misplaced words and missing punctuation and enjoy the fast-paced story.
Shelly M Doty is associate academic program coordinator at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library.