Black sheep meets good shepherd – can black and white become silver, or just a dangerous grey?
Alastair Black has revealed a secret to his wife in a last ditch attempt to save his marriage. A return to his childhood family home at Chathill Farm is his only respite, although he is far from welcomed back by brother George.
Kate, recently widowed and increasingly put upon by her daughter, sister, and mother, feels her life is over at fifty – until she meets Alastair. He’s everything she isn’t, but he’s a troubled soul with a dark past. When his famous mother leaves an unexpected inheritance, Kate is caught up in the unravelling of his life as Al comes to terms with who he really is.
Alistair Black, fifty, divorced and homeless since the house he and his ex-wife had shared has been sold, is rapidly sinking into a state of despair. His only option is to descend on his brother and sister-in-law at the their farmhouse, Chathill, where he grew up. Chathill is actually half his by right even though the brothers are not related by blood. Al and George have been estranged for the last fifteen years and Al’s edited explanation of why sealed the demise of his marriage. So, along with his two dogs, Butter and Marge, and Jo, his new girlfriend, in a camper van stuffed with all his worldly goods, he sets off for North Wales.
Kate Roberts has been widowed for a year and is feeling guilty, about lots of things, not only because she’s packing up her dead husband’s stuff for the charity shop. She’s been invited to Fran’s, Greg’s sister’s, and is looking forward to the break from being at the beck and call of her elderly mother, self-centred daughter and selfish sister. Kate has run round after her sister, Annemarie, for years picking up the pieces and looking after her kids, and has had enough. Kate needs to look after herself for a change. However, it’s not quite the peaceful break Kate was anticipating. The angry vibe emanating from George is palpable and unnerving. Fran and her daughter, Becca, are kept busy looking after their rescued animals, leaving Kate to deal with the domestic chores.
Kate and Al’s introduction is an unconventional one. Kate, deciding to freshen up after arriving at Greg and Fran’s chaotic and run down farm, makes her way to the bathroom and pushes open the door…
Once inside, she was confronted by a naked man. Starkers! Well, he would be, since it seemed he’d been in the shower cubicle. She was too old to be embarrassed by nudity, but it was still a shock. The little wooden sign swinging on the handle outside had clearly said “vacant”, and there was a distinct absence of any noisy, running water. He was glistening, though, and his hair was dripping. Kate kept her eyes on his, although it was difficult not to glance down – almost impossible in fact – but he was watching her every movement, so she felt not only trapped, but compelled to keep eye contact…….’Hi,’ he said, and extended a hand towards her, ‘I’m Al.’
I love that Jan Ruth’s novels are real life romances without being overly sentimental and cutesy. Al and Kate are older, interesting and complex, facing realistic situations and issues; dealing with grief, divorce, elderly parents and annoying siblings. I like Kate and especially Al, very much and felt drawn to them both. Kate is good-natured and kind-hearted, Al charismatic and attractive. But as tensions mount and secrets threaten relationships, the emotional fallout could be devastating for them all.
Clever twists in the well structured storyline, non-communication, challenging and uncertain relationships make this a compelling family drama. The setting is wonderful and the characters are credible, fully fleshed out and well portrayed. Chapters alternating from Kate and Al’s points of view move the story along smoothly.
My thanks to Jan Ruth for a copy of the book, which is reviewed in conjunction with Rosie Amber’s book review team. This does not affect my opinion or the content of this review.
About the author
Jan was born in Cheshire and moved to North Wales in 1998, although she has always maintained a strong connection with the area from a much earlier age. Her feel for the Welsh landscape is evident in all of her work.
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.
Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.
Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.
Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections. Jan is now pleased to announce that throughout 2015, she will be re-published with Accent Press.