This second novel (she is by no means as new to non-fiction) by Jenny Harper is described as a romance but, like many contemporary romances, it is not content to see the protagonists flirting, despite some huge obstacle, but discovering they can’t live without each other and finally falling into each other’s arms.
At its simplest, it does, in a way, but our heroine is not a pathetic, weak-willed lass with nothing to live for but love. Kate Courtenay is a mature career-minded woman who believes she is happily married and master of pretty much every aspect of her life. As a project engineer for a wind farm company, she is used to dealing with controversy and narrow-mindedness, but believes, or at least hopes, that accurate information, sensitively presented, should win people round.
When a wind farm is proposed for a hill above the village where she lives, however, things all become too personal. As her popular local celebrity husband points out, she has hardly been involved in the community at all. It is he who has done the school runs, the parent teacher visits and the shopping and any local influence she might have had is ruined by a mistake on the plans which are presented to the local community. As far as the project goes, it is threatened by ill-informed local opposition and professional protesters, while we also meet those who are in favour of renewable energy and those who are in favour of the financial spin-offs. The conflict between professional and personal is too much and Kate’s emotional outburst, when her son becomes involved with the protesters, earns her a suspension from the job she has worked so hard for.
As if all this weren’t enough, Kate’s apparently settled husband, Andrew, turns out to be having an affair with a much younger woman. There is a cruelly funny side to this, as Kate was the younger woman when they met, stealing Andrew away from his then wife and a son who is older than she is: but while you are thinking “Serves you right!” you are also seeing Kate realise, too late to do anything about it, what she did all those years ago, and trying to protect her son and her step-son.
Unusually vulnerable, she finds herself attracted to one of the protesters, a gardener, Ibsen Brown, who is also attracted to her. Through the new community garden, they manage to justify several meetings in which they begin to see each other’s viewpoints, but knowing it would be wrong to take things further, Ibsen applies for a job away from the area.
Kate learns to live without her husband and become domesticated by village life, as it is thrust on her while she is off work. As she calms down to become a ‘nicer person’ the author has to answer her own question, who will reap the benefits of the changed Kate, the husband of fifteen years who sees the errors of his ways, or the new man who can not be resisted?
So yes, we have a traditional romance, but neatly placed with the contemporary issues facing today’s career women â€“ and the world.