A Place in the Countryby Elizabeth Adler
From The New York Times bestselling author of From Barcelona With Love comes a new novel that will transport you to a world of intriguing locales and bring you home to where the heart is
From The New York Times bestselling author of From Barcelona With Love comes a new novel that will transport you to a world of intriguing locales and bring you home to where the heart is
“Bestseller Adler ... smoothly blends suspense and romance in this tale of betrayal and murder.” Publishers Weekly
“Adler portrays the tensions between a mother and her teenage daughter very well.... The vivid descriptions of the setting and interesting glimpse into Caroline's restaurant business make the story entertaining.” RT Book Reviews
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)
Read an Excerpt
A Place in the Country
By Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Elizabeth Adler
All rights reserved.
Caroline Evans was having a day out from her rented London flat, driving through rainy Oxfordshire with her fifteen-year-old daughter slumped in a silent sulk next to her.
They had taken in Oxford, "city of dreaming spires," which seemed to have more traffic than a motorway in rush hour, plus a couple of thousand young people smoking and drinking coffee and hanging about outside pubs. Issy ignored it all but Caroline had fallen for the rain-slicked courtyards and the ancient colleges half-hidden behind tall gates that had been there long before Henry's time. That would be Henry VIII, who, Caroline now figured couldn't have been all bad, despite the six wives. After all, her own husband had had two, and that was before her.
"A serial husband," she had said doubtfully when James told her he was going to marry her, though she was longing to say yes because she was so besotted by him she couldn't see straight, even with her glasses on.
Forget charming the birds; James Evans could, and did, charm everyone. Caroline remembered thinking it was okay about the other two wives, she would be the last wife. That's what James told her. And she'd believed him. She was twenty-two.
Now she was thirty-eight and an ex-wife, with a teenage daughter whose name was Isabel, always known as Issy, who some days talked to her and some days did not; who looked mostly like her father; and who, Caroline suspected, was smoking. However she did not yet have a tattoo, or at least not one in any place visible to her mother.
"Oxford's a lot different from when I was a girl," she said, maneuvering the old Land Rover bumpily out of the city and onto the A40, toward Cheltenham, though she had no specific destination in mind.
"Of course it is. That was a long time ago." Her daughter turned to look at her. "You should wear lipstick," she said. "And mascara."
Caroline sighed, remembering not so long ago when her child had thought she was perfect. She fiddled in her handbag for the lipstick and Issy told her she shouldn't do that while driving. It seemed she could do nothing right.
"Bloody rain," Issy said, looking at the wipers sloshing water sideways across the windscreen.
Caroline glanced sharply at her, then caught the sign for Burford and swung right into one of the prettiest high streets in the Cotswolds. Picture perfect, lined with small shops selling the usual souvenirs and postcards, but also art galleries and antique stores, bakeries and tea shops, as well as trees dripping onto the umbrellas of the few hardy citizens who waded through the puddles, heading for shelter.
Caroline slammed on the brakes as a car pulled out in front of her. "Look, we've got a parking spot. We were meant to stop here. Let's have tea."
Issy's sigh matched the stoop of her shoulders as she clambered unwillingly out of the car and stood in the rain, looking, her mother thought with a twinge of pity, utterly helpless and defeated in her new Marks & Spencer parka. Rain slicked her brown hair and there was a look of sadness in her brown eyes. It had been there ever since they'd left Singapore a year and a half ago, and Caroline did not know what to do about it.
Now, though, she grabbed her hand firmly and hurried her across the road into the nearest tearoom. As they climbed the stairs and took the last available table, she wasn't thinking about the strawberry cream tea she would order for them both, she was thinking of James, wondering, as she had so often, if she had done the right thing, leaving him.
"Mom." They had just sat down and Issy got up again. "I'm going downstairs to look at the shop."
The tearoom was over a junky jewelry-souvenir shop. "Okay." Caroline watched her go.
The tea came, carried on a plastic tray decorated with birds of the region, by a young woman not much more than her daughter's age, but who at least smiled at her and said it was the Earl Grey you wanted, Madam.
Caroline said it was and the girl put the tray down, arranged the small flowery cups in front of her and indicated the two-tier china cake stand with its nicely browned scones and a choice of small cakes; éclairs, fruit tarts, and iced buns. There was a dish of strawberry jam and a deep bowl with cream so thick you could stand your spoon in it.
"Perfect, thank you." Caroline found herself smiling as she poured pale tea into the flowery little cup. She had been brought up in London, an English girl who'd married and gone to live in Singapore with a husband she loved, a daughter she adored, a beautiful penthouse home with a view of the river and the city and its twinkling nighttime lights.
"Best of both worlds," James said, when they first looked at it. They were young marrieds; he American in his early thirties, successful in hedge funds and investments, and so attractive and charming he didn't need a penthouse to feel on top of the world. And she was so hazy with love and sex she couldn't think of anything else.
That was then. Now, was this rainy English day, a steamy little tea shop, and an almost silent daughter who finally came back, taking the wooden stairs two at a time. She sat down, took a scone, sliced it neatly, slathered it with jam and a dollop of thick cream, took a too-large bite, then picked up her phone and began texting.
Who she was texting Caroline didn't know. Still, she took a scone, and smiled. "This is the best," she said hopefully.
"Yeah." Issy's thumbs were busy but Caroline noticed she was also watching her as she struggled to arrange cream on top of the crumbling scone without it collapsing entirely in her hand.
"You should cut it into two pieces," Issy informed her.
"You sound just like my mother," Caroline said, making Issy smile. It was the first smile Caroline had seen all day.
"Here, this is for you." Issy pushed over a small package, wrapped in pink tissue paper.
"Really? For me?"
"I said so, didn't I?"
She looked away and Caroline knew she was embarrassed and thought she was being loud, and that everyone was looking.
"A present," she said, unraveling the pink tissue. "Ohh, Issy, how lovely."
It was a tiny brooch, junky, cheap but somehow sweet. She ran a finger over the fake silver. Fake or not, she would always treasure it. "A little bird, on the wing," she said.
"Sort of like us. Birds on the wing, never alighting anywhere."
"You mean us not having a real home anymore?" Caroline felt that clench in her heart again. "We'll get one, soon. I promise you."
Her voice sounded more confident than she felt. Money was tight, to say the least. When she'd married James, she had been young, she hadn't known any better and had signed that prenup, which of course meant that all she'd gotten from the divorce and sixteen years of marriage was a very small lump sum, and child support until her daughter became eighteen.
She glanced round the small tearoom at the other people; ordinary people, mackintoshes and parkas steaming over the backs of their chairs in the heat wafting from a long white radiator under the already steamed-up windows. People, Caroline thought, whose lives were all set; who had a pattern, a routine, and probably not a care in the world as they ate their scones and jam and cream and talked about the rain, as the English always did because it always rained anyway.
"Come on, have that last chocolate éclair, why don't you," she said briskly, pulling herself together. "Then we'll get out into the countryside, see a bit more of the Cotswolds."
Issy gave her that world-weary fifteen-year-old shrug. "Whatever," she said, which Caroline guessed meant she agreed.CHAPTER 2
Back in the car, she turned on the heater and the wipers and drove down the high street, over the narrow stone bridge that crossed what she guessed was the River Windrush, smaller here and brown, though running quite fast on this stormy day.
Issy did not even look. She seemed not interested in any part of their weekend. She'd hated the small inexpensive hotel where they'd booked in because Caroline had seen their ad with a black-and-white drawing of a pretty timbered house. It turned out to be faux-Tudor with an air of gloom about it that made her want to check out before they'd even checked in. The only thing in its favor was that it was cheap.
She had been given a key by a tired-looking and completely disinterested woman. Ignoring the small gas fire sputtering fitfully in the "lounge," she had carried her bag up the spindly staircase, Issy clomping behind, lugging her own.
"It'll be lovely," Caroline had said, hopefully, unlocking the door to their room and taking a look. There were two narrow beds with green silky coverlets and thin blankets that promised no warmth. The single pillow on each bed had a washed-out green polyester case. A table with a brown plastic top and a single drawer stood between the beds, with the smallest bedside lamp Caroline had ever seen. Reading in bed would be impossible unless you held the lamp up over your head, plus the ceiling light had the kind of round shade that exposed the bulb, blinding you. The room had the damp chill of a place long unused.
"Bloody hell," Issy said, not even putting down her bag.
"Oh, it's not so bad," Caroline replied, but she knew it was terrible.
"Mom!" Issy pleaded. "Let's just go back to London."
Caroline noticed she had not said "let's go home."
They stood there for a minute while Caroline thought. She had paid in advance and couldn't really afford to go anywhere else. Besides, this was Oxford on a weekend, places were bound to be full. Last time she had stayed here, what seemed decades ago, they had been at the Randolph, comfily old- fashioned and warm, with a bar and a suitably proper air of "belonging" about it. The thought of her past life trailed through her mind, as she knew it must her daughter's. This place was the end of the line. They absolutely could not stop here.
She grabbed her bag, nodded and said, "You're right. Let's go. But we can't just turn around and go back to London. We'll take a look at the countryside. We can drive back later, after the traffic eases up."
Issy hefted her bag over her shoulder and led the way back down the stairs. There was no one at the counter in the tiny hall so Caroline simply left the key and they walked out.
And that's how later, they'd ended up having a cream tea in pretty Burford, and were now driving through wet countryside while Issy texted the friends she had left behind in Singapore when her mother had uprooted her, and made her what Issy now called "a displaced person."
Guilt wrapped Caroline with a chill deeper than that of the hotel room. It was all her fault.
She swung the car into a narrow lane, past an enormous house glimpsed behind iron gates with rampant lions on the stone gateposts; past a couple of fields where the long grass bent sideways under the buffeting wind, with the most miserable-looking wet sheep Caroline had ever seen. But then she had never really looked at sheep before, maybe sheep always looked miserable, wet or dry. Chestnut-colored cows turned their heads surprised when Caroline suddenly stomped on the brakes so hard they squealed, and Issy shot forward and dropped the iPhone her father had bought her when she was still considered his daughter.
"Sorry," Caroline said, getting out of the car. But she was looking at the FOR SALE sign and an old stone barn, set right next to the river.
It was not "love at first sight."CHAPTER 3
"Oh, Mom," Issy said, in what Caroline recognized as her "what the hell are we doing here" tone of voice. Why were they here? In the wind and the rain in England when they could have stayed in Singapore with James and had a nice life.
She pulled her woolly scarf tighter over her hair, took off the red pointy glasses she always wore because she couldn't see much farther than her nose, and wiped the rain off them. Truth to tell, she had no answer. A soggy English field with wet sheep and cold-looking cows was a long way from the Disney version of English country life. Hadn't the sun always shone in their past in Singapore? And when it did rain, didn't it come down with monsoonlike force for a few hours, then blue skies and warm breezes returned, transforming streets back from rivers, returning the market stalls to their usual glory of golden fruits, and the "hawker" food stands to their fragrant, tempting, mouthwatering goodness, with their handmade noodles and barbecued meats, their Chinese-style shrimp and Malaysian curries. You could eat at any hawker stall in Singapore and feel you'd had the best meal of your life. The rainy English high street cream tea suddenly seemed a bad exchange.
"Well," she said, as cheerfully as she could manage. "I think it looks charming." Was she crazy? It looked like a stone barn that had seen better days stuck next to a muddy-looking river, with only a single and currently brown-leafed tree to soften its rectangular, workmanlike outline. "It's for sale," she added. "Maybe we should take a look."
Her daughter was asking the question Caroline knew she should have been asking herself. Sometimes Issy was so like her father it took her breath away. Those deep-set eyes, the frown between her brows, the straight, almost aggressive nose. She had her mouth though. Not that that was too good a feature: a touch too wide, a touch too full, and a whole lot too vulnerable. Her daughter wasn't really "pretty," not yet anyway; she was all scowls and skinny legs and long brown hair. One day, though, she might be, when she got rid of the attitude and that haunted look in her big brown eyes. Looking at her, Caroline suddenly had a brain wave.
Brain wave? Crazy was more like it. But that's the way she had always been; acting on impulse, jumping in with both feet, and almost always in over her head. Her life was one cliché after another. That's how she'd gotten married in the first place.
She grabbed Issy's hand, and said, "Come on, let's take a look at it," and marched her daughter, feet dragging in her new green wellies, along the rutted once-graveled path that led between the fields to the gray stone house.
Caroline knew houses were not normally gray in Oxfordshire; they were built from the beautiful, honey-colored, Cotswold stone. She guessed this one was so wet it had simply given up and turned gray with defeat and age. It stood on a slight rise almost directly on the narrow muddy bit of river that snaked in a curve around it before doubling back again. It was rectangular with a small outbuilding, and close-up somehow looked more solid than it had from a distance. The rain had stopped but Caroline could hear the sound of rushing water.
Leaving Issy standing in front of the barn, forlorn and wet as the sheep, she walked round the corner of the house to a terrace where a low stone wall separated land from water. To her right the river picked up speed and tumbled over a small weir. She didn't know whether it was the pretty, frothy weir, the rushing river, or the stone terrace, but suddenly she could imagine herself, on a calm summer evening sitting on that low stone wall with a glass of wine in her hand, watching the tiny tributary flowing peacefully past. Why, she wondered wistfully, when people dreamed their dreams, was the weather always blissful and there was always a glass of wine.
She told herself sternly to stop. She had a daughter she was bringing up alone; she did not have money; she did not have a job; she did not have a husband. Responsibility sagged her shoulders when she realized, as she had only too often recently, that she was no longer that fun, free girl who'd met the man of her dreams. She was no longer the wife with a lovely home in Singapore and time on her hands.
She had given up cursing in front of her daughter (though she had heard Issy use a few choice words on the phone when she thought her mother wasn't listening. Didn't she know mothers always listened; how else were they to know anything, since they were never told?). So she merely said, "You're right, honey. This place isn't meant for us. Maybe we'll go to France, be near Grandpa and Grandma."
Caroline's parents had recently sold up their London home, right before she could have used it. A free London base would have been perfect. Or would it? Issy running around London the way she was now? A city school? Good kids? Bad kids? Sighing, Caroline thought life was so much easier when you lived it young and alone and made decisions based only on what you wanted.
Excerpted from A Place in the Country by Elizabeth Adler. Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Adler. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
ELIZABETH ADLER is the internationally acclaimed author of novels including The House in Amalfi, Sailing to Capri, and Please Don't Tell. She lives in Palm Springs, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Caroline Evans life has been in stasis ever since she and her daughter left their home and lives in Singapore and went back to England. She knew she couldn’t stay any longer knowing her marriage was a lie, knowing about her husband’s betrayal. The move however has many difficulties, money that she doesn’t have anymore, child-support that never seems to arrive but the most troubling is her fifteen year old daughter, Izzy’s unhappiness at leaving behind her friends, her home but most of all the father she adored. And on a rainy weekend get-a-way to the Cotswolds Izzy’s unhappiness is about to increase when Caroline spots a for sale sign on a run down barn that calls to her and she suddenly has a place in the country she didn’t even know she wanted. With the support of newfound yet staunch friends and the help of their new community Caroline and Izzy are starting to settle in when Caroline gets some disturbing news about her ex’s business dealings then fixing up a run down property becomes all of a sudden the least of her worries and her world keeps spiraling when the bad news doesn’t stop and Caroline and Izzy are thrown into a seemingly unsolvable mystery. In the midst of all this it seems the fates are having a grand time with Caroline when they decided to throw romance into the mix as well. Elizabeth Adler has taken me to the most beautiful places on earth, San Tropez, Malibu, Amalfi, and Barcelona so I was surprised to be in rainy England, in a small village in the Cotswolds. I should have known the surprise would be on me because inside the rundown spider infested barn she brought me another unforgettable tale and like many times she added a spectacular mystery twist or two, plus it didn’t stop at the shores of the Thames but she took me to Hong Kong and Singapore as well. She brings it with her remarkable eloquent narrative that’s not only easy to read but also vivid in detail so much so that I could feel the rain on the windows and the scents of the flowers and the food, oh yes it’s always about the food with her too and it’s spectacular in it’s simplicity and comfort. It’s also about her characters who I knew each intimately by the end, some of which I wish I hadn’t and some of which I want more of. And as usual it’s about love, this time the love spreads from romance to friendship and family but it’s no less intense in the telling. All in all it’s a beautiful story about faith in oneself and in those closest to us, it’s about starting over, it’s about looking forward without forgetting to look back as well and most important is that it will resonate with fans from multiple genres and leave all of them satisfied. Ms. Adler thank you for this journey and I just have to wonder what stamp my passport will show with our next one, which I can’t wait to take.
Caroline Evans has left her cheating husband and her high class life behind in Singapore and takes her 15 year old daughter with her. Starting over is not going to be easy but it better than living a lie. Caroline and Issy end up Oxfordshire, England. They happen upon an English pub where owner Maggie takes them in and has Caroline cooking up a storm in the kitchen in no time. Caroline loves to cook. Issy makes friends with Maggie's daughter but she still blames her mother for taking her away from her father and ruining her life. Their lives take a turn as Caroline decides to follow her dream and create her own Place in the Country while Issy is stuck in that time between being a girl and becoming a young woman and is making some dangerous choices. Their past also comes up close and personal when someone is murdered and an unexpected visitor comes to visit them in the country. Elizabeth Adler has given us an engaging and emotional story of a mother and her daughter and the bonds they share. Caroline is doing what she knows is right no matter how difficult. Issy just wants things to go back to normal. They meet many new people in the country that quickly become friends. Caroline needs to free herself to love again. More than one man wants to be "the man" in her life. The mystery added to this mix was surprising and exciting. Twists and turns that maneuver they story in a different direction. A direction that shows Caroline how strong she has become since she was at her ex-husband's beck and call. The descriptions of the English countryside painted a beautiful picture even when it was raining or foggy. Sounds like A Place in the Country would be a wonderful place to visit. This is my first read of this author but it won't be my last. The story gets my highest recommendation.
As a serious reader of fiction, and a fan of the original style of Elizabeth Adler, I cannot understand how the readers who rated this book one star!! and 2 stars!! could possibly send a review (Threadbinder'; 'Anonymous' and Babette-dYvine) so obviously destructive and with a motive! One is publicizing another writer (shouldn't be allowed) and the others are either jealous of the writer, or who have another motive! A review should be instructive, and not used by the customer reviewer to promote a negative feeling towards the writer. Please readers, sample the book and come to your own conclusions. I thought it was well-ploted, with lots of ambience and atmosphere. interesting characters entertaining characters, plot and narrative
Elizabeth Adler is my favorite author, and I've read every one of her books since I first discovered her about 20 years ago. I was really looking forward to her lastest, but I was terribly disappointed. The plot was choppy and went off in several different directions. It just didn't "grab" me. I really hope Ms. Adler does better next time.
This was a very uneven story with lots of implausible plot turns, including being embraced by total strangers and starting a restaurant on next to nothing with no business plan (read Restaurant by Joe Bastianich). The story felt like it was written by several different writers cand the tactic of using different voices didn't work, since it wasn't consistent. I liked her previous novels and their settings; EA is good at good scene description and doesn't write formula mysteries so I don't know what happened with this one.
After waiting for this new book from Elizabeth Adler, I'm so disappointed. I can't believe I finished it. I kept thinking it would get better. The plot was all over the place and really didn't make sense. I've read, re-read and loved everything she has written but this was just plain BAD.