First sentence from the prologue: ON a summer’s morning, between thirty and forty years ago, two girls were crying bitterly in the cabin of an East Indian passenger ship, bound outward, from Gravesend to Bombay.
First sentence from chapter one: THE OWLS. IN the spring of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight there lived, in a certain county of North Britain, two venerable White Owls.
Premise/plot: Anne and Blanche are best, best friends. As were the parents--Blanche and Anne. But Anne, both Annes, haven't had the best fortune when it comes to choosing wisely whom to love and trust. One Anne was doomed to die in despair...but will the second Anne suffer the same fate? Or will Blanche and her family prove to be her salvation?!
My thoughts: I first read this one in 2009. It was my first novel by Wilkie Collins. I loved, loved, loved it. I still love, love, love it. My favorite character--and probably the eldest book crush I've ever, ever had--perhaps with the exception of Matthew Cuthbert--is Sir Patrick Lundie. Now, I don't want you to think this book is really a ROMANCE with him as the romantic lead. No, he may be a scene-stealer (at least for this reader!!!) but the romantic lead is played by Arnold Brinkworth, a young man madly, deeply in love with Blanche.
Here is a little love scene between Arnold and Blanche:
[Blanche] could have boxed Arnold on both ears for being so unreasonably afraid of her.
"Well," she said impatiently, "if I did look in your face, what should I see?"
Arnold made another plunge. He answered: "You would see that I want a little encouragement."
"Yes--if you please."
Blanche looked back over her shoulder. The summer-house stood on an eminence, approached by steps. The players on the lawn beneath were audible, but not visible. Any one of them might appear, unexpectedly, at a moment's notice. Blanche listened. There was no sound of approaching footsteps--there was a general hush, and then another bang of the mallet on the ball and then a clapping of hands. Sir Patrick was a privileged person. He had been allowed, in all probability to try again; and he was succeeding at the second effort. This implied a reprieve of some seconds. Blanche looked back again at Arnold.
"Consider yourself encouraged," she whispered and instantly added, with the ineradicable female instinct of self-defense, "within limits!"
Arnold made a last plunge--straight to the bottom, this time.
"Consider yourself loved," he burst out, "without any limits at all."
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews