Lake Henry, New Hampshire was the backdrop for Lake News, which first introduced the characters in this, Ms. Delinsky’s latest offering, An Accidental Woman. Since the story follows the fates of two of the local residents, I’m not sure which of them was “accidental” or if the title alludes to both women; I’m not even certain what the title means, but it goes that way sometimes with fiction.
Poppy Blake was made wheelchair-bound by a snowmobile accident twelve years ago when she was only twenty. The accident took the life of her boyfriend, and changed Poppy’s life forever. The other storyline involves Heather Malone, who may or may not have been a California girl named Lisa Matlock, and who may or may not have been involved in an accident that took the life of an influential politician’s son. When the story opens, Micah Smith, the Lake Henry man who loves Heather, awakens one morning to the FBI at his door. They have come to arrest Heather (who they think is Lisa) and send her back to California for trial.
Heather showed up one day in Lake Henry fourteen years ago – about the same time Lisa Matlock fled California. Even when confronted with the possibility of a capital crime and even though every person in Lake Henry believes Heather is not Lisa and is not capable of murder, when questioned, Heather says nothing. Poppy, Heather’s best friend, is devastated. She can’t understand why the woman who helped her through her traumatic snowmobile accident and recovery, won’t speak up in her own defense – for Heather will neither confirm nor deny whether she is Lisa.
Writer Griffin Hughes loves Poppy Blake. He has ever since he met her in Lake News. But the willful Poppy insists she is not worthy of love, being unable to hike or swim or care for babies or keep up with a husband. Griffin sees Poppy as more than her wheelchair, but for the moment, that’s all Poppy sees.
So, is Heather really Lisa? If she isn’t, why doesn’t she just say so. If she is, why doesn’t she speak up and explain what really happened that night? Can Griffin get through to Poppy? Why does she still feel so guilty after twelve long years, for what happened the night of the snowmobile accident? Is Griffin’s love and patience enough to bring Poppy around?
An Accidental Woman answers all these questions, and more. If you read Lake News, you’ll probably want to read Poppy’s and Griffin’s story. I didn’t read the first book, but everything’s explained quite well here, making this book work just fine on its own.
Did I like An Accidental Woman? Well, yes I did, but there were times I got bored with it. The pace is slow and much time is devoted to the making of maple syrup, and other local pursuits. While it’s very interesting information, I got anxious to get on with the main storylines. The secondary cast is huge and many characters play roles in the story, some substantial, some quite brief. It’s pretty obvious right from the very beginning whether Heather is Lisa or not, and it doesn’t take much guesswork at all to figure what happened in California to Lisa Matlock and why the truth is difficult to obtain. When all was revealed, there were no surprises.
Mostly, this is the story of Poppy. The love between Griffin and Poppy is slow in unfolding, and when her big secret is revealed, I wasn’t surprised at all, because it seemed from the very beginning that it was obvious what had really happened. Griffin is a nice hero. He loves Poppy and he works hard to set things right (it was an inadvertent comment to his FBI brother that set them on Heather’s trail in the first place). Micah Smith, Heather’s lover and the man who wants to marry her, is tall, dark, handsome, and reticent. Perhaps there was more of him in Lake News but he is also a stalwart hero doing what it takes to make his life work, both for himself and for those he loves.
While the population of Lake Henry is very nice, for me, the two main storylines weren’t compelling enough to keep me turning pages frantically to find out what happened. I was ready to grade this book a C+ until I got to the end. It all came together for me then, and I got wrapped up in Poppy’s final release of the guilt she had carried with her for twelve years.
In An Accidental Woman, as in life, happy endings are not guaranteed, but I can say this, you won’t leave Lake Henry disappointed.
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