When the Far Hills Bloom
When the Far Hills Bloom is the gently-told story of two people wounded by the death of a beloved. California rancher’s daughter Aislin D’Ary Byrne thinks her destiny is to marry Jamie Dearbourne. Golden son Jamie has always been the perfect child, the authority figure, the one destined for greatness, and Aislin’s feelings are not so much passionate love, but a mixture of awe, infatuation, and the knowledge that this creature so far above the rest of us mere mortals will someday be hers in the eyes of God and man.
When Jamie is reported dead after heading to join the war, Aislin’s world crashes down on her. Spence Dearbourne, Jamie’s brother, suffers his own anguish as he deals with the death of his brother, and, at the same time, struggles with the quiet, steadfast love he has for Aislin, who will not let go of Jamie’s memory. Their parents plot to unite the families and save the struggling ranchos, although there is more underhanded plotting than merely trying to have Aislin and Spence marry.
When Aislin leaves home to follow a rumor that Jamie may not be dead after all, Spence follows, even though he knows that if they find Jamie alive, he will lose this woman forever. Although it breaks his heart, Spence agrees to another plan that could save the ranchos without the need for him and Aislin to marry.
Along the way, secondary characters come into the fold and blossom. One reveals more than a shallow sister interested only in walking dresses and crinolines. Another, a young mother and widow, normally a stock character in so many books, is seen living with the grit and pain that lies underneath the long suffering façade. It is difficult for me to not share more of the plot here. While I know it would give away revelations that I prefer for the reader to find out firsthand, I liked this book so much that I must restrain myself from sharing all about Hallie and Emma, Sybil and Scotty.
Because Aislin’s feelings for Jamie appear more as worship than as true love, some of her initial actions are difficult to justify. Even when she discovers strong feelings for Spence, she pushes him away, time and time again. At one point during their journey, she tells Spence that she has run off to search for Jamie in the hopes of finding him dead, but even when she doesn’t feel the searing pain of Jamie’s loss anymore, she continues to keep Spence at a distance. Still, her desire for closure before giving in to her feelings for Spence is understandable. I found Aislin a compelling character; determined without being spunky, strong-willed without being annoying.
Spence Dearbourne, who could have been stoic to the point of becoming a martyr, is instead a gentle soul who would bear anything other than hurt the woman he loves. He knows that pushing Aislin to leave Jamie behind will only drive her away; when she announces her decision to marry Jamie should she find him alive, he does his best to make the situation bearable. It may not have helped Aislin’s cause, but it made him more likable. Spence is the quiet sort of man who has much to offer to a woman who might pass up the glitter of perfection and seek out a more spiritual mate.
Ms. Noble has created a story with many layers. She writes under her own name, and as Amanda MacLean, and I understand that most of her work is on the gentler side of Fiction/Romance. If you have never tried a book where the connection between the characters and God is strong, I urge you to try When the Far Hills Bloom.