Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz
Lovers and Newcomers is a very large book (439 pages) that seems to present life as a large game of musical chairs, or beds, or roofs, for that matter. At the beginning there are four couples, who became friends while in their 20s. At the time of this story, they’re all approaching 60 or thereabouts.
Miranda was a fairly well-known actress when she met Jake Meadowe, who was twenty years older, but it was a strong instant attraction. Jake was the last of his line, and had enjoyed being the squire of his community of Mead, in the Norfolk area. The house itself was fairly ancient, by today’s standards: rambling, mostly remodeled, but without having obliterated all the charming older features.
A year or two after Jake’s death, Miranda invites the others – two male/female couples plus Colin, a gay man whose long-time partner, Steve, had broken up with him and was subsequently murdered by his new lover – to come and live with her to help keep the house together, and provides independent living spaces for all of them. The house and its surroundings will be a terrific influence on all of them.
Of the two couples, the most secure financially are Amos, an attorney (unwillingly and temporarily retired) and his wife, Katherine, who manages a charity. They have two sons, who are independent now, although neither are married: Toby and Sam. The other couple who never married but have lived together for some thirty years are Selwyn and Polly, a writer. Although Selwyn had originally studied medicine, he gave that up for the more care-free existence of buying, restoring and reselling antique furniture. Occasionally he’d dabbled at being a DJ at parties. Mostly, he is a large, cheerful free spirit. He and Polly have three children: the mirror twin girls –known as Alpha and Omega, but officially Alexandra and Olivia (very ultra-city mod) – and a son Ben, who is very like his father, continuing the free spirit lifestyle.
Miranda had been christened Barbara Huggett, but chose the name Miranda for her acting career. Very soon it was only her aging, widowed mum, Joyce, who still called her by her original name. Other than the occasional slip by Selwyn, who shared some of her theatrical background, before she became Miranda.
The village of Mead is not very large, just a normal British country town. As Miranda’s friends begin to settle in, other people are drawn into the circle. Jessie is a young, female hippie, with a large intriguing tattoo on her chest, who is a waitress of sorts at the local tavern, The Griffin. Sometimes, she dates a guy named Damon, who drifts in and out.
Amos has in mind to build a huge glass house on his corner of the Meadowe landscape. It will be as near totally green as possible. But then the project runs into a snag. While digging the foundation, the workers discover ancient bones and other remnants of a prior civilization. All work halts until the archaeologists are called in for an opinion.
To everyone’s astonishment, the skeleton is determined to be a female and the artifacts would proclaim her a warrior, possibly a princess from the Iceni age, perhaps near to that of the more well-known Boudica (d. AD 60 or 61). The lead archaeologist is Christopher Carr, who patiently explains the importance of this discovery. Unfortunately, even with a 24-hour security guard, the treasure and the skeleton are stolen. Of course, the thieves cannot do anything with the stolen items, but no clues surface as to their whereabouts.
Carr becomes intrigued with Katherine, while Selwyn and Polly’s son Ben suffers the loss of his girlfriend Nicola (Nic) who is pregnant. Katherine persuades the younger woman to return with her to Meadowe, where she meets Kieran, a younger archaeologist, and they form a duo of sorts. Ben is most unhappy at this development, but at least she will carry his baby to term. Polly is thoroughly enchanted with the idea of becoming a grandmother.
All this is merely touching on the entire scope of the novel, which I did read to the very end, although in places it was a struggle. I did enjoy the history, especially as it unfolded, and the characters are sufficiently well-drawn to make it easy to keep them separate in your mind as you read.
The ending is as bizarre as anything I’ve ever read! This is not my favorite method of story-telling, but the author is highly acclaimed on both sides of the ocean, so perhaps you should try it and decide for yourself.
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by The Overlook Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.