Can a book about an undertaker be of any interest? Can he be an interesting topic for a novel? Will you put down the book, after finishing it, and say what a great book despite the morbid job of the hero? I haven’t got a clue! Because the author of this debut novel did the lousiest job ever, trying to put a story together. The people in it are entirely flat, without substance. The hero could have been a gardener. It would not have changed a thing in the story. She has put it on the fast forward button as well, like on a remote control, to avoid making it interesting. But of course I appreciated this, so that I did not have to suffer more than 263 pages of her word pooping.
I don’t want to put you off reading my review, but I must say that this book was so terribly predictable that, as soon as Grace, one of the two girls in the triangle “drama”, started having thoughts about a rape she had been through, I guessed who the rapist was and then I had also guessed how the book would end. I don’t like to have guessed everything which will happen in the book, 200 pages before they happen! Reviewers speak of twists and turns, yes, the author does twist and turn, desperately grasping at straws, trying to make the book exciting, but the only exciting thing in this book is if the undertaker will be able to un-tie his pyjamas trouser’s string and find his wife’s vagina! Could possibly bring a cheap thrill to someone out there, but it only vexed me, since Wilfred had asked his wife for an annulment of their marriage. You don’t try to have sex with a woman you hate, when you want to be free to marry the woman you love, just because you can’t control your urges! Honestly, Wendy Jones, stick to your daytime job. It is a scandal that someone published this and let you write a sequel to this crap. I will not read the second book in what threatens to become a series.
Want to make up your own mind about the book? Well here is the entire storyline:
Wilfred Aubrey Price, is 27 years old in 1924 and never went to war, since training as an undertaker was an exempt profession. His father and he lives together, after his four-year apprenticeship far away from home, for master Ogmore Auden, who taught Wilfred everything about life and funerals. Wilfred does not leave any impression at all on the living, including myself. A rather dull and boring man, who is semi-content with being the undertaker in Narberth, a small town in Wales. He dreams of having a wallpaper and paint shop in his home parlour and learning to use more words in his speech. To accomplish the latter, he buys himself a used dictionary and start out learning all the words on A.
During a church picnic, happening before the book starts, he fancies the doctor’s daughter, Grace Amelia Reece, but it is a short-lived passion. As long as the picnic lasts. But all the same, she invites him for a picnic on their own and while they do not speak, Wilfred has a lot of thoughts. He is mighty impressed with the yellow dress she is wearing and can’t figure out how she got in to it. Instead of asking her how a woman gets in to a dress like that, he says “will you marry me?”. He is shocked at himself and even worse, more shocked when she says yes. He tries to break off the unwanted engagement, soon after the shock has settled, but she has already told her parents, so when he comes to talk to her, he is just railroaded by her parents. Unfortunately, I can’t stand people who are like Grace and Wilfred. Wet noodles. How can you like characters in a book, who will not speak their mind. Who will just do as they are told and walk around like zombies? It is one thing, to read about “Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley” not being able to speak outright how they feel about each other in “Pride & Prejudice”. Customs kept men and women so much apart, and social rules forbade open speech, that it can be understood, from the view-point of Jane Austen, that there would be a lot of misunderstandings. But I am sorry, people were not as innocent in 1924, and you just do not act at all like Wilfred and Grace, then or now. The story is not believable at all. From this first chapter, the book just goes downhill like a Harlequin romance. You just want to rip your hair out and burn the book to get over the pain of reading it.
Because Wilfred does not go home and ask his gravedigger father for advice. No, he avoids Grace and hopes she gets the hint. But she and her family spreads around the news of the engagement. At the same time, mr Edwards, the blacksmith in a village nearby, drops dead and Wilfred has to bury him. Arriving at the house to escort the wife and daughter to the funeral, he is smitten with Flora Edwards’ beauty. He can not take his eyes off her and while he behaves like the perfect undertaker throughout, he concocts a plan. He will go to deliver the bill a couple of weeks later and then ask her on a date, tea at a café.
Grace runs in to Wilfred one day, in town, after delivering honey, and asks him why he has not been around. That is when Wilfred somehow gets the courage to tell her the truth. He doesn’t love her and does not want to marry her so the engagement is over. He is so pleased with himself and moves on to the lady he does love. But her mother forbids Wilfred to go out with her daughter. Devastated he goes home but soon he receives a mysterious postcard which tells him to go to a deserted cottage by the coast. He finds Flora there and they spend the day in each others arms. No sex. No words at all. They keep on seeing each other and are happier than happy even though they never say a word to each other.
Then Grace decides to commit suicide since she has been raped. Her much beloved brother, the pride of her parents, have re-enlisted in the army and has received the rank of Sergeant. They are so proud of him. He leaves for his Army camp while Grace chickens out on the suicide and decides to face her father instead. She only goes down to her father’s office and says “I am pregnant”. Nothing else. He draws his own conclusions, rush out of the house and enters Wilfred’s. When Wilfred gets home, he is much bewildered. Why is the doctor there when the engagement has been broken off? Dr. Reece only have a few words for him. He orders Wilfred to be at the registrar’s office a couple of days later, at 9:52 and then storms off. Neither Grace or Wilfred gets to say a word. Wilfred was not born yesterday and realizes that he is being blamed for her pregnancy, the only reason why one is forced to marry in a registrar’s office with a couple of days notice. And Grace has no intention of telling who the father really is.
So Wilfred goes to the registrar’s office, in his funeral suit, looks at his bride with murder in his eyes, says his yes and that is the last time he speaks to her for weeks. They go home for a wedding lunch and suddenly she is so very big with child, according to the author. Imagine a doctor who never noticed that his daughter was pregnant?! That he nor his wife, never noticed the signs. And how about counting on your fingers, how pregnant you can really look after just a couple of weeks engagement???? Wilfred stays on his side of the bed, like a stiff plank, and starts starving himself. Grace actually gets a wake up call when she notices after three weeks, how he has aged and how thin he has become. Not that she REALLY CARES! He hates sleeping in her house and misses his father, his house and Flora.
Three weeks in to the marriage, he is all words! He goes bicycling with Flora, he is not himself anymore. Talkative, charming, flirting… They go out in the ocean, the tide being out, to look at a forest, usually underwater, kissing and not paying attention to the tide rushing in. To save themselves from drowning, Flora has to throw away her camera and they throw all clothes except their underclothes and run for it. Flora can not swim and goes under several times but Wilfred has decided to save her, so they finally make it to the beach and safety. They spend the night in the cottage, wrapped in each others arms, declaring their love for each other but Flora also finds out that he is married and that his wife’s baby is not his.
Flora goes home all depressed. She lost her fiancée Albert, in 1918, when his company was going over the top. She has been living like a dead since but now she has come alive, falling for Wilfred. But an affair is not her thing. Wilfred has decided to finally say something though. Even if it means that not a single person in Narberth wants to use him as an undertaker again. He demands an annulment from Grace and tells her he loves someone. He also asks who the father of the baby is. Madoc of course. Her brother. The hero. The man, whose bed and room, they share as a wedded couple. The next day, they go to face Dr. Reece. Grace doesn’t say anything, it is only Wilfred who is pushing for the annulment. A date is set to go to court. The night before, Grace undress though, doing everything to keep her treasure. She does not want to face up to life. She can’t care less if Wilfred is unhappy and loving someone else. She wants to pretend that all is fine. So she sticks her hand down his pyjamas and he immediately becomes a cave man, trying to get the pyjamas off. He has serious troubles, but finally gets them off and starts poking around between her legs. And then I guess it dawns on him, well I hope it dawned on him, that if he has sex with her, he can forget all about Flora. Forever! Because he stops and Grace gets so upset. She almost had him trapped. So they go off the next day to the judge and get the marriage annulled. He heads off on a picnic with Flora, to tell her that he is free to marry her. And Grace packs her bag to leave Narberth for good. Wilfred having given her half of his savings and her dad sends a great bunch of money with her as well. She is off on the train, her parents not wanting to see her off because of the scandal, and them not knowing the truth.
Is this what is called literature? Hardly! I can’t tell this apart from the Harlequin romances I read when I was 12, bought in the supermarket. It was a total waste of two afternoons and I could have spent the money on something nicer. How did I find it in the first place? I found the second part, on sale at the book depository, but did not want to buy that without having read the first book, first. I will never move on to the next. Time is too precious for me. And money.
Like I said above, people on Amazon has given the book five stars because of its twists and turns and because of its humour. I have humour, but nothing in this book was funny. It is a book about a wet noodle of a man and a spoiled, selfish girl. A girl who lets her brother rape her, even though there was no threat of him planning to kill her, if she did not comply. She knows she is pregnant when Wilfred proposes and ends the engagement, but she doesn’t care. She is fine with him being forced to marry her. Is their drama in this book? No. Things like this never happen in life. Sorry Wendy Jones, but the old ingredients of incest, rape and an unhappy marriage, does not spell success. In your case, it just reeks desperation. I think you need to continue your creative writing course for a while and maybe get another teacher, who will be honest and tell you the truth. You can’t write!