Mrs. Smith-Porter observes her latest guests' arrival from an upstairs window of her London bed-and-breakfast: three American women. Lesley Vogel, Julia Englehardt, and Margo Skinner have no idea they're being watched - they're too caught up in the excitement of having finally arrived. This is the journey of a lifetime, one that began many years ago.... Best friends since their Missouri childhood, the three now lead very different lives. Lesley is a St. Louis society woman; Julia, a single, successful Manhattan ...
Mrs. Smith-Porter observes her latest guests' arrival from an upstairs window of her London bed-and-breakfast: three American women. Lesley Vogel, Julia Englehardt, and Margo Skinner have no idea they're being watched - they're too caught up in the excitement of having finally arrived. This is the journey of a lifetime, one that began many years ago.... Best friends since their Missouri childhood, the three now lead very different lives. Lesley is a St. Louis society woman; Julia, a single, successful Manhattan interior designer; and Margo, a teacher in Chicago and divorced mother of a recalcitrant teen. Then, suddenly, on what starts out like an ordinary day, Margo becomes the victim of a shocking act of violence. The terrifying event awakens the women to the often-fleeting happiness of their daily lives and to the importance of the friendships they've let slide. Lesley decides it's time for a real reunion, and they escape to London. Mrs. Smith-Porter's bed-and-breakfast is the perfect getaway, "with neither TV nor fax to ruffle the tone." Safe in these cozy confines, they enter a gracious world of high tea in the garden, long drives through the countryside, unexpected romance, and the promise of three whole new lives awaiting them.
Three middle-aged American women, childhood friends from Cape Vincent, Mo., travel to London for a vacation in Peck's effervescent fourth adult novel (after "This Family of Women"). With them, they carry the frustrations of unfulfilled dreams. After Chicago third-grade teacher Margo Skinner Mayhew is wounded in a classroom shooting by a deranged parent, her do-gooder friend, St. Louis society matron Lesley Vogel Hockaday, convinces third musketeer, Manhattan interior designer Julia Englehardt Steadman, that they should give Margo a break from a life that has been burdened by a divorce and a churlish teenage daughter. The three, each having endured disappointment and loveless marriage, find themselves at an extraordinary B&B run by Mrs. Smith-Porter, an intriguing character whose good-natured, no-nonsense British reserve hides a past full of tribulations. Although Margo's selfish daughter has come along as a wet blanket, the three grownups manage to find unexpected and heartwarming romantic adventures, which Peck conveys with stylish brio that eschews clich and sentimentality. Just as things begin to get interesting for them, Mrs. Smith-Porter is injured in an accident, and the Americans find themselves running the B&B and postponing their flights home. While the opening background chapters tend to lag a bit, Peck, well known for his Blossom Culp series for children, is at the top of his form once the travelers hit London. The epiphanies experienced by the three women pour over readers with the light, dry sparkle of good champagne. Among the highlights: Peck's glimpses of London (well-traveled, off-the-beaten-track and frequented by antique-collectors) and one of the funniest, most appealing love-at-first-sight stories to come along in some time.
Three forty-something women, friends since childhood, travel to London for a much-needed vacation. Lesley, the organizer, is a wealthy married woman whose days are filled with volunteer projects. Julia is a single Manhattan interior designer still mourning the AIDS-related death of her business partner, and Margo, a teacher and newly divorced mother of a teenage girl, is recovering from being shot in her classroom. What begins as a meticulously planned holiday quickly turns into something magical, as the three women rediscover one another and the joy that has been missing from their lives. Written by the award-winning author of a number of books for young adults, this is a wonderful novel, cozy, charming, and marvelously entertaining. Anglophiles will love it, and it is just the thing for Rosamunde Pilcher and Mary Wesley fans. A real treat; highly recommended. Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA
School Library Journal
YA-Lesley, Julia, and Margo became best friends in fourth grade. Lesley married the heir of a local well-to-do family who eventually moved her to the family's mansion in St. Louis. Her husband is increasingly absent, much to her relief. Julia, raised by her cold, strict grandparents and longing to escape the confines of small-town Missouri, returned home from college and inexplicably married a man she scarcely knew, only to leave him six months later for New York and art school. She is now a successful interior designer. Margo, struggling to escape near poverty and an alcoholic mother, won a scholarship to college, married a graduate student, supported his effort to achieve tenure at the university, and eventually became an elementary school teacher. Her marriage recently dissolved and she is trying to cope with an increasingly rebellious teenage daughter. The three are reunited briefly after a long separation for the funeral of Julia's grandmother. After Margo is injured during a violent crime, they realize how precious their friendship is and Lesley arranges a real reunion, a trip to London. They stay at the mysterious Mrs. Smith-Porter's elegant bed-and-breakfast and the experience dramatically changes them all. The story of these women (including Mrs. Smith-Porter) is told with understanding and humor. This author of many fine young adult novels is equally adept at capturing life in small-town America and in London's affluent Chelsea.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
A slight story about three girlhood friends, now in midlife crisis, who take a London holiday that miraculously takes care of all their problems. Reunited just outside of St. Louis for a funeral, Julia, a hardened New York interior designer; Margo, a recently divorced schoolmarm; and society lady Les can see clearly through each others threadbare facades of happiness. Through flashback we learn of the three women's youth: how Les became pregnant to catch Harry, the richest college boy in town, how studious Margo entered into a self-sacrificing marriage to an academic, and how Julia's fierce determination to leave provincial life fueled her relentless drive for successþand how, though all goals were achieved, the women are unfulfilled by their long-ago fantasies of perfection. When a random act of violence puts Margo out of commission and her arm in a sling, the three decide to visit London. They stay with a Mrs. Smith-Porter, a mysterious woman with an invented identity who serves as their fairy godmother. Mrs. Smith-Porter (whose oh-so-tasteful and elite bed and breakfast is furnished with exhaustively described antiques) introduces Julia to Hugh, a roguishly handsome antiques dealer, andþsurprise!þa landed lord, whom she falls quickly in love with. Margo also has an opportunity to fix her life when her surly teenage daughter runs away (the girl tagged along to rendezvous with her boyfriend, studying abroad) and her ex-husband and his - surprise! - male lover come to sort things out, allowing Margo the closure she needed to get on with her life, which she promptly does by hooking up with a widowed London doctor. Which leaves Les, whose terminal ennui is erasedwhen Mrs. Smith-Porter is accidentally killed by a speeding truck and Les decides to stay in London, too, taking over the B&B business and escorting socialites like herself around town. A thoroughly silly, predictable tale from a prolific YA author.
Richard Peck created Grandma Dowdel in a short story called "Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground," which became the first chapter of this book. He says, "Grandma is too sizable to be confined in a single story, to sizable and mystifying to her growing grandchildren, who in each visit discover in her a different woman."