Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley?
In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she’s taken for granted are called into question.
Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s tragic death, Owen begins to dream of a second chance at love.
As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.
- Romance with a kick
A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah Ladd
Location: London and Surrey, England
Crosley : Her lady's maid
Thomas: her brother
Owen: Game Keeper
Edmund: Annabelle's uncle and owner of Fellsworth School
Synopsis: spoiler ahead...
Annabelle was unsure of her future with her brother. Their parents had both passed, and her brother's poor stewardship of their family's home and wealth had left him in debt. Thomas had decided she would marry Cecil Bartrell, a wealth, older, uncouth, cruel man, telling her that because of the shame from her last fiancé canceling their betrothal, Bartrell was the only man who would have her now. He threatened her, saying he could put her out, and that she was a guest in HIS house. Annabelle decided she would risk her future to live with an uncle she barely knew than to risk a wretched life with a cruel man she didn't love.
She had met a man a few days ago who had come to her rescue when her reticule was stolen. Owen was from Fellsworth and had accompanied his boss who was a guest at Annabelle's home. One evening he saw her on the property at night. After telling him she needed to leave immediately for her uncle's estate in Fellsworth, they made plans to meet at dawn and he would have a conveyance ready for her to travel. Packing up her things without informing anyone where she was going, she asked her lady's maid to come with her. Owen's protective nature kicked in, especially when she arrived at dawn and he could see from the sizeable bruise on her lovely face that someone had struck her. He felt obligated to accompany them to their destination, which, by the way, was near the estate where he was a game keeper, plus his daughter attended and lived at Fellsworth School.
Right from the start something seemed off about her lady's maid, Crosley, from opinions that didn't sound right, to her acceptance to accompany Annabelle only after Annabelle offered her some jewelry and a recommendation. She was clearly faithful only to herself.
Her uncle gladly took Annabelle and Crosley in when they arrived showing great sympathy Upon seeing her battered condition. The next day she was given a job (something she never had before) as a teacher at the school, and Crosley could work in the kitchen. Annabelle was apprehensive and unqualified, but appreciative because now she was free.
There ended up to be encounters between Annabelle and Owen at Fellsworth, several purely by chance, and once by design after her aunt saw the potential for a relationship between them. Annabelle had come to realize how kind he was, and she was growing fond of his daughter, who needed a little special attention.
The mystery around large and small game being poached on several estates in the area was the crux of the rest of the story. A number of people were involved, including a woman Owen saw coming from the school going into the woods, and several students he caught in the act of poaching. A lot of game was disappearing, and he intended to find all those involved.
Then, the unthinkable happens. Owen's boss, who was friends with Annabelle's brother Thomas, had invited Thomas, as well as the horrible Mr. Bartrell and a few others to his estate for a hunt. Somehow Thomas already had been informed where Annabelle was and what she had been up to since her "escape".
This turns into a series of events which should not be revealed as it would ruin it for anyone intending on reading this delightful audiobook.
Oh, yes, I did like it. The ending was a bit mushy