When, in an Author’s Note, an author apologizes for a reprint of an older book, especially when it’s a romance and she’s moved away from writing romances, you have to wonder if the book will hold up to the author’s current writing skills. And Aly’s House does. It’s well-written with good storytelling and entertaining characters.
Aly Kingston is a horse breeder in Claiborne, a small town in Oklahoma. Bold, perceptive, and compassionate, she loves and understands horses, even though she can’t ride one; and runs Green Meadows with an efficiency and integrity that has made it a top breeding stable in the nation. But it’s her home in the neighboring farm of Cedar Hill that nourishes her soul.
As she’s returning from a horse-buying trip, she spots her former love, Marshall Wayne, at the airport. She’s been in love with him since she was a first-grader and he, a fifth-grader.
She would have known him anywhere, at any age. A whole gallery of his portraits, sketched mentally each year, still hung in her heart.
Impervious to his repeated indifference and cruelty, her love for him has persisted nearly twenty-five years. Such devotion, such loyalty is the backbone of her character. Once she believes in something, she throws her heart over and doggedly pursues it.
Second in her heart has been Marshall’s mother, Elizabeth. Her warmth, her calmness, her patience, and her deep understanding of young Aly, made every weekly visit to Elizabeth’s home one to treasure.
“You live…very grandly here.”
“Grandly?” Elizabeth had puzzled over the words thinking no doubt of the splendid house where Aly lived, and wondered at the child’s meaning. “No, not grandly, child, but we live very happily here.”
“Isn’t that living grandly?” Aly had wanted to know.
Just as Aly’s love of Elizabeth and Cedar Hill keeps her apart from the rest of her family, she finds that her other life choices also contribute to her estrangement.
“Really, Allyson,” Victoria chimed in, “why do you play with such creatures?”
“Because they like me the way I am.”
Aly’s father’s foreclosure of the Wayne home of Cedar Hill hurt Aly’s heart as much as it hurt the Waynes’. Marshall’s dad dies within a year of their eviction and Elizabeth soon after. Marshall threatens to get even with the Kingstons over it.
However, he exempts Aly from the threat, because he knows that she’s not responsible for the actions of her father, even though she takes personal responsibility over it. Aly even tries to save Marshall’s beloved horse from being sold. In her bid to learn about horses in order to take care of Sampson, Aly discovers a keen love of horses and the horse-breeding business.
Scrolling to the present, Marshall’s first encounter with Aly at Green Meadows makes him take his first absorbing look at her. He’s stunned by her transformation into a beautiful woman of confidence and capability. Aly discovers that her love for him remains undimmed.
Despite Marshall acting as though his former threat to destroy the Kingstons is irrelevant, Aly has no doubt in her mind that his desire to bring down her father is undiminished. After taking a business degree at Wharton, Marshall has spent years working on Wall Street amassing a fortune. Thus, he has the wealth and the know-how to achieve his ends.
However, she’s determined to make him see that focusing on her is more important than on her father; love is more important than hate.
The financial aspect of the story is a bit weak, especially towards the end when it needs to serve the romantic plot. There, it descends to illogical claims. Similarly, the resolution to the romantic arc is a little pat and comes in a hurry, marring an otherwise good narrative.
Despite the author’s apologies, this is a good romance story. Aly and Marshall come across as real people, not merely characters in a story being acted upon instead of acting their parts. This is important to me in a story, and so it is good to see it here.