We have all been victims of false advertising. After all, “buyer beware” is a popular saying for a reason. The particular bit of false advertising that lured me to read this book was a note proclaiming it to be for fans of Downton Abbey. I am an avid Downton viewer and I can assure you the two bear little resemblance to each other.
Frank Parrish moved to Seattle for a job that evaporated out from under him. Forced to pound the pavement to look for work he is surprised – and a bit chagrined – to meet an old “army buddy” he is reluctant to call friend doing the same. He had never really gotten along with Preston Benedict but he agrees to eat dinner with the man’s family. Frank’s second surprise of the day is Margot Benedict, only daughter to the wealthy clan. She is a doctor who adds a splash of life to the otherwise boring dinner party.
The dinner not only introduces him to Margot but also good fortune. The Benedict connection opens otherwise closed doors in the rainy city. Frank soon finds himself with an excellent job, a humble but pleasant place to stay and a growing friendship with the fascinating Margot. Since losing his arm in the war Frank’s life had seemed on a downward spiral of pain, whiskey and loss. Seattle looks to be a brand new start for him.
Margot Benedict has never taken her life of privilege for granted. She worked hard in medical school and is proud to have a clinic in a less than auspicious part of town. The only one of her siblings to take a risk and strike out on her own, she knows she is in a precarious position. While she is doing good work, her patients can’t pay her. She is forced to also work at the hospital just to make ends meet but running a clinic on her hospital salary has her strapped for cash and living at home. Her brother, who has always hated her, makes that a tense situation. Adding to her stress is the fact that as a female doctor in a time when women aren’t welcomed in the profession means her every move is scrutinized by her superiors. It will only take one mistake to see her out on her arse without any hope of a new position.
The budding friendship (and possible romance) between Margot and Frank provides them both comfort and joy initially. Then a common enemy begins to stalk them and danger lurks around every corner. With only Margot’s aging butler as an ally, can they defeat their foe and find true love before one or both of them perish?
Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less if they did or didn’t. One of the many problems with this novel was lack of character development. I knew only the most basic facts about Frank: he cannot go home since a one-armed man on a ranch is more than useless, he is in constant pain from his amputation, and he is attracted to Margot. Add in the fact that he works as an engineer and can do basic engine repair and you now know as much as I do. Margot is a bit more nuanced but still very difficult to connect with. Perhaps what is the most difficult thing to understand about her is the way she solves problems. That is to say, for a woman who pushed her way into a man’s world and would have had to fight every inch of the way in, she is oddly passive about her problems. She has a wait-and-see attitude that I found rather annoying. A good example of this is her clinic. Given where it is was located and the kind of patients she had, it could easily have been run as a charity. She certainly had the connections to make that possible and it is very likely her mother would have looked at what she was doing much more fondly if it had been something other than “work.” That possibility never seemed to occur to Margot. She had the same attitude towards the serious problems between her and her brother.
Speaking of her brother, we learn early on that Preston is the villain of the piece. That might have been interesting, even intriguing, but he was an over-the-top psycho with delusions of magic. The magic had absolutely no place in this tale. As a strong fan of the paranormal I can assure you I normally appreciate a good magical twist but this one was silly and misplaced. Preston, who should have been frightening, was a bit silly, too. That meant that the suspense angle of the plot was at points ludicrous and at other points irritating.
The rest of the tale meandered and was boring. Especially sad was the romance between Frank and Margot. Margot, who has been made to feel ugly and odd, seems happy to have a man who accepts her as she is. Frank, whose self-esteem has been battered by the loss of his arm, seems happy to have someone who will take him in spite of that. Their only interest in each other seemed to be the pathetic fact that the other would date them. Needless to say I didn’t find that romantic.
Adding insult to all this injury is the false advertising. Where the idea came up that this could possibly be compared to Downton is beyond me. The only link I could find is the time period, since both take place around the First World War. Benedict Hall is in no way the Abbey. It is a modest house, run with a staff of five, possibly six (we never learn about the grounds so there may have been a gardener). It is also not an entailed English country manor with a family desperately trying to hold on to it. Much of the drama in the book takes place away from Benedict Hall, so that aside from the fact that the main characters have all stepped foot in the building the location has no real impact on the plot.
In the end this novel was boring as heck and shot itself in the foot by having delusions of grandeur. I wouldn’t recommend it on its own merits. I especially would not recommend it to fans looking for a taste of Downton Abbey in a romance or women’s fiction novel.