Book review: Tread Softly, Alice byÂ Jessica Blair
A new century promises a new dawn for a young woman returning to her home in North Yorkshire from overseas in 1900.
But when Alice Ware makes a reckless decision one seductive, moonlit night, she turns the world of three people upside down and scuppers her hopes for happiness.
It’s three years since prolific author Jessica Blair was unmasked as war veteran Bill Spence, now aged 92, who became a full-time writer in 1977 and has penned more than 50 books under various pseudonyms.
Age has not wearied Bill’s talent for writing powerful and passionate stories which never fail to resonate with his army of devoted fans and won the author a nomination for the Romantic Novelist Association’s ‘Best Epic Romance’ award in 2014.
In this compelling new saga, set in the turbulent early years of the 20th century, Blair delivers an addictive mix of romance, drama, high emotion and some unexpected twists and turns, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
In July 1900, at the age of 18, Alice Ware is on the brink of adulthood. Pretty, charming and impetuous, she is back at home with her parents at Wooton Hall in North Yorkshire after a year in France and determined to seize any fresh opportunities and experiences that come her way.
And she doesn’t have to wait long. The arrival of nearby Deepdale Manor’s new owner, Mrs Emma Cheevey, a wealthy, elegant middle-aged woman with a hint of scandal about her, leads to visits from her two handsome and highly eligible soldier sons.
On first meeting, Alice is instantly drawn to Matthew, the younger brother, a reserved and thoughtful young man who only entered the Army to please his colonel father and is waiting to head out to the Boer War in South Africa.
But then older brother, the charismatic, worldly wise Captain Steven Cheevey, arrives home from South Africa, where he was part of the British Expeditionary Force at the Relief of Mafeking. He sees in Alice the ideal soldier’s wife and is determined not to let her escape him.
Alice must make up her mind which of the two brothers she loves and finally her choice is made and her future secure until an error of judgement throws her life into turmoil.
Unhappy and in despair, she seeks refuge in the one place where she knows she will find peace, perhaps forever. Can the man who really loves Alice persuade her to reconsider and dare to live again?
Tread Softly, Alice is a treat for all romantics, packed with warmth, wonderful characters, enthralling plotlines, a mesmerising landscape… and true love.
(Piatkus, hardback, £19.99)