All I can say after reading the third in Antonia Abbott’s romantic trilogy is that if you thought rural Oxfordshire was the sleepy English countryside, you had better think again. I wrote about Book One and Book Two previously, so am delighted to share my thoughts on Book Three which I devoured on my Kindle in just over 24 hours, ignoring my son, clients, friends, cats and dogs as I pored over it voraciously.
Have the Rowlands moved on from their tortuous past?
In a word, no.
Despite the decorous, genteel appearance of the central Rowlands characters, underneath all that lies a seething, squirming mass of frustrations, misunderstandings, pomposity, downright stupidity, delicious meals, wine and champagne to die for, and various other nice traits to create utter hell.
There are quite a few extra characters in this book but they really do serve to keep you on your toes so you absorb every bit of the galloping story of the Rowlands and their nearest and dearest.
I especially enjoy the way Antonia Abbott doesn’t just describe her secondary characters, but also gives them strong names and personalities to flesh out the sub-plots a lot more than is the case in similar fiction.
And the core Rowlands characters?
Spoilt little bitch Susie Rowlands, has been left pregnant and in the lurch by her long-suffering fiancé David when he understandably thought she had been playing away with her ex – the evil Jonathan – in the second book of the trilogy.
Without wishing to give too much away, in the early part of this Book Three she manages to give birth by C-section and get married to David after all not only all at the same time, but all while confined to her hospital bed.
Needless to say the young newly-weds experience needling challenges from a number of places not least of which from the pompous Jonathan, still lurking, who eventually gets what’s coming to him. (And later, he then surprises us all.)
Papa Peter Rowlands grunts and grumps while choosing the right claret from his cellar but on one very unfortunate occasion takes his grumps too far and ends up in a place he never would have dreamt of. Later, he finds himself in a similar, er, cliff-hanger. If he were a cat, we would say he is rapidly using up his nine lives.
Mama Annabelle Rowlands is being leaned on by everyone around her and eventually chooses a somewhat risky way to obtain solace. Understandable, perhaps. But who is Edward? Really?
Son James, unlike the rest of the family, is going from strength to strength in his relationship with Greg and manages to persuade us that anyone by the name of Rowlands does not necessarily have to lurch from one disaster to the next.
What about everyone else?
Annabelle’s ageing parents are a serious cause for concern; the tedious Jonathan keeps stirring up the doo-doo; Kevin the blackmailer gives us all a huge shock; and the only human to stay calm is Alf in The Crown whose tasty food and flowing champagne keep us all on an even keel.
And my favourite character? The delightful Basset Hound Allsort, who strikes me as more sensible than all the human Rowlands put together.
But sensible is not what this delightful trilogy is all about.
Seriously, get all three books
Truly “ripping yarns” to enjoy, cluck over, laugh about (and cry about).
Enduring Emotions: An Oxfordshire Tragedy
by Antonia Abbott
Published by Raven Crest Books
Paperback due out soon.